Sunday, August 29, 2010

Modern Icons Chapter 4: September Vogue

Every year I perform a ritual: receiving and absorbing the enormous pillow that is the September issue of Vogue Magazine. This year's book is more than 700 pages. Every page contains an image of the perfect woman, as imagined by the straight women and gay men of Manhattan Island.  Each picture is a triumph of our collective imagination, soaring above bothersome reality. The women in these photographs lend their bodies to a highly artificial expression of an ideal. They are not human, any more than was the colossal Athena Nike who stood inside the Parthenon.  

The goddess above is an apt introduction. She exists in an instant of supreme connivance; every particle of her is bended into a curving, purple flight to heaven. This photograph was staged by an army of artists, who ran off camera the instant before the shutter clicked. They ran back the next instant, to catch the fragile moment before it disintegrated. You cannot look like this. No one does. Even the model does not look like this. The dubious advertising angle is this: if you buy something, you might get a tiny piece of her grandeur.

In this escapist encyclopedia, restraint is the only taboo. Our ideal female should fly so far from reality that she ceases to breathe. Ultimately, what is sold is this unencumbered spirit girl. Clothes, shoes, handbags are tokens. Women don't want to dress like her, ultimately, but to BE her. For this reason, some designers attempt to sell clothes by presenting teenage girls naked. The circle of promised fulfillment makes me dizzy! "You can have your 19-year-old body again, underneath our clothes, which we won't bother to show you because they don't matter."

Not only can you spend your days naked, you can sit safely with lion cubs in your lap and an expensive handbag. 

The sheer precision of this composition awes me. The allignment of the model, her dress and the swirling arrows is so difficult as to be nearly impossible. A moon landing may enjoy a wider margin of error than this photograph.  

Girls, if you can muster the courage to put on this outfit [above], there's a big payoff. Wherever you go, everyone else in the room will become invisible. If the President arrives at the party, followed by an alien spaceship, no one will remember. All they will talk about afterward will be YOU.

Women in skirts rule all others. Period. 

I don't know where to begin here, so I won't.

The Beautiful People. You want to sit in that vacant chair. Admit it.

While being ravished by her Prince Charming, our girl bravely checks with the photographer: "Does my hair look good?"

I suspect September Vogue is on the way out, at least in paper form. The management has put some excellent content on the internet in recent years, but so far it's still far inferior to their printed pages. Meanwhile, the distribution of the magazine has deteriorated. The current issue used to appear in the checkout line of every medium-sized grocery store, but no more.  Now I must walk to a fairly large magazine section before I find a copy. I will miss it, if it goes.