Monday, March 31, 2008

King James or King Kong?



We're a week late on the controversy over NBA phenomenon LeBron James being the first black man on the cover of Vogue with a supermodel Gisele Bundchen, but it' worth posting.

Is this legit or another example of racial paranoia? Perhaps a little bit of both.

Here's the thing. Many will highlight that fifty years ago this cover would have never happened in America. True enough. The question, however, remains, is this our vision of racial progress?

We have the first black man on the cover of Vogue and he's literally roaring at you like a Gorilla while clutching a white woman in his arms. My problem isn't with the interracial coupling, which some on both sides won't admit is what they're really bothered by.

However, one cannot deny that LeBron's photo is more beastial than other male athletes who've appeared before him on Vogue's cover. His savagery contrasted with her white femininity on its usual pedestal goes to directly to King Kong (2005).

I found its basic premise was a flick about a giant black guy in love or lust with a porcelain white woman. The scene where Kong is wrapped in chains on stage in New York City made up my mind. Jack Black's character says, "He was a king in his own land but here he is a captive." What demographic besides black men does that line fit historically?

From Black Voices:

In the cover shot, King James is posing with supermodel Gisele Bundchen clutching her waist and giving a scowl to the camera, baring his teeth. Some folks aren't happy about the cover, including ESPN.com columnist Jemele Hill who said the cover looks too stereotypical.

From ESPN.com, columnist Jemele Hill:

Vogue's quest to highlight the differences between superstar athletes and supermodels only successfully reinforces the animalistic stereotypes frequently associated with black athletes.

A black athlete being reduced to a savage is, sadly, nothing new. But this cover gave you the double-bonus of having LeBron and Gisele strike poses that others in the blogosphere have noted draw a striking resemblance to the racially charged image of King Kong enveloping his very fair-skinned lady love interest.


LeBron is just the third male ever to appear on Vogue's cover, but it's hard to believe Vogue would have made Brett Favre, Steve Nash or even David Beckham strike his best beast pose. And even if Vogue had, it wouldn't carry the same racial undertones as having a fear-inducing black man paired with a dainty damsel.


Too often, black athletes are presented as angry, overly aggressive and overly sexual. Or sometimes, they're just plain emasculated.

1 comment:

Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

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