Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Cover

I wasn't sure whether I'd weigh in on The New Yorker cover controversy, because on the one hand, the cover is a misfire, on the other hand, it's a magazine cover. It matters because it's The New Yorker and it doesn't matter because it's The New Yorker. People will square off along party lines and have responses like:
1) How could they! (Please blanket in moral outrage)
2) What were they thinking? (Please shake head in disbelief)
3) Ha ha ha.

I haven't read all that much about it, bu one thing I did read was a consideration of the success and failure of print satire by Phillip Kennicott in The Washington Post.

I liked the kicker:
"Which is to say that even as we pride ourselves on our media sophistication, as debunkers and decoders of the visual, we fret about the power of the printed image to circulate beyond the comforting control of television's continuous interpretation and contextualization. In the age of YouTube -- where for the most part we can still laugh at each other and ourselves -- we are increasingly becoming print-humor iconoclasts, terrified that someone might be worshiping images in the wrong way."

So, we embrace the fleeting power of visual satire, but fear the ongoing confrontation of print. After all every time you yourself look at something printed, you might think about what you see a little differently. I know my thoughts have shifted many times over the course of these few days of blown up talk about the cover. But, one thing that hasn't changed in my thinking is my sense that the decision to run this cover was made with smugness. Unconscious though it may be, those guys (and maybe a woman or two) sitting way up in their air conditioned offices of Conde Nast on 42nd street are used to being the smartest guys in the room. It's an itsy bitsy tiny half step over the line from smart to smug, from biting to entitled, and, unfortunately, those guys up there didn't just take that tiny step, they did a long jump right over the line and high-fived when they landed.

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