Vanity Fair's White Issue

Hollywood's Future Is More Dynamic Than This

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Doug Melville
Doug Melville
Vanity Fair's annual Hollywood Issue has always been on the cutting edge of what's next or what's hot in Tinsel Town. The 2010 edition, boldly titled "A New Decade, A New Hollywood," hits newsstands Feb. 9. But there is already an uproar brewing about the issue's cover. Outlets such as USA Today , E! Online, Huffington Post, and others are taking the magazine to task for a cover that features only white women. This is the second time this year that Vanity Fair finds itself in hot water for its very narrow -- and white -- view of reality.

I hate to tell Vanity Fair this, but nothing about the cover is in line with current trends, or at all an accurate portrayal of the next decade of talent, or even Hollywood's current makeup. Not one mixed person, tan person or Asian person? No one from Bollywood? No one from Latin America? I thought the cover reflected more of an "Old Hollywood" throwback issue. In the 15 years of the Hollywood Issue, never has there been one that has been so one dimensional, or covered such a narrow scope.

During this past decade, Hollywood has actually trended toward more inclusion. The results: record box office numbers. That is a trend that I would expect to continue into the next decade. Diversity is good for audiences and good for business. Even on TV, the formula has worked very well for shows such as "The View" and "Extra," and become part of the programming formula for networks such as TBS.

Which is why this cover is so confusing. Nothing about it screams Hollywood's next decade.

Unfortunately in America, people carry very negative connotations when it comes to discussing or exploring race. Magazine covers have digitally altered black people to help tell the story. They make them appear darker when they commit a crime, or make them look lighter when they're selling make-up and even insert them falsely into photos to make everything look politically correct.

In other countries, experimenting with diversity has helped build buzz for magazine brands. In 2008, Vogue Italia launched its first annual Black Issue, which featured all black models in the pages of the magazine. The mag sold out, and even needed to be reprinted to keep up with the demand. In 2009, the Black Issue even had a special segment on Barbie, as Mattel wanted to get involved.

The argument that Ebony, Jet and BET have hot lists with only African Americans on the cover doesn't fly with me as a substitute for having no one recognized by Vanity Fair. Niche magazines that focus on cultural inclusion were started because of situations such as this.

If building buzz is the determining factor to a successful 2010, then Vanity Fair is leading the pack early. For the last issue, it put Tiger Woods on the cover, looking barbaric, shirtless and out of character. Maybe it was their ode to Black History Month, or maybe after his martial transgressions there was no better time to decided to cash-in and publish four-year-old photos from a 2006 shoot.

If Vanity Fair would have positioned this as the "White Issue," maybe it could have become a collector's item. But for now, there is nothing "new" or "Hollywood" about it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Douglas L. Melville is currently the president of Red Carpet Runway and a strategic adviser for various entertainment brands and personalities.

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