09 July 2013

Naked Athletes Used to Try to Sell 2nd Rate Sports Magazine

Although I am pretty hostile to using nude celebs to, for instance, push animal rights moralism, I am not generally censorious about nudity. That said, I have to ask what, precisely, "The Body Issue" from ESPN The Magazine this year (and, indeed, any other) is meant to accomplish. This is not Robert Mapplethorpe. Yet a lot of the discussion around this issue tends each year to revolve around the sexualizing of female athletes. What is odd is the totally airbrushed quality of the images renders them more or less totally de-sexualized and that regardless of pose or exposure. But this is not a celebration of bodies. There is neither a mole nor a blemish in sight. The airbrushing has, especially on the women, nearly eliminated any hint of muscle tone. Assessment: wholly uninteresting.

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Blogger James Dunne said...

I do think it is meant to be a celebration of the body, even if it misses the mark in some cases. Consider the ESPN magazine readership - largely straight, white, suburban, upper/middle-class males - and any such celebration is going to be somewhat provocative. For example, the image you've lifted of Kenneth Faried - who happens to be both black and the league's most outspoken LGBT rights advocate - appears on the cover. It's hard to believe that choice to use him as a cover model was made simply to act as a subscription-mover. Last years shoots of Abby Wambach (arguably the greatest American soccer player in history - male or female) and Carmelita Jeter, which I think did capture both women's strength and grace in a beautiful way.

The amount of air-brushing, as well as the amount of time showing the woman athlete's getting make-up done in the promotion videos are distressing, I agree. Still, it's a more positive and realistic message than women in ill-fitting swimsuits, which was the state of "body" photography in sports before ESPN began this series.

10 July, 2013 10:42  

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