Public transit systems have traditionally been home to plenty of unsavory sights, from public displays of affection to public displays of urination, but now commuters on the London Underground will be spared at least one disturbance with the banning of a piece of album art.
The banned poster is the album cover image for an upcoming collaboration between Lou Reed and Metallica, titled 'Lulu,' and its presence has drawn ire for a variety of reasons, including its suggestion of violence against women. It depicts an armless mannequin with a face that is, according to offended critic Lucy Jones, "as human as possible." The word 'Lulu,' Jones continues, "is scrawled across her in coagulated blood by the perpetrator’s finger, we presume." Commentators are split on whether we ought to be be appalled at the violent implications or admit, as one commenter on Jones' article has done, that "Mannequins can't suffer anything."
Regardless, the feminist argument was not the actual reason for the posters' removal. A Transport for London (TfL) spokesperson explained that the poster "looked too much like graffiti."
It should not come as too much of a surprise that a Reed/Metallica album would raise some eyebrows. Metallica has a history of transgressive album art, notably 1996's Load, fronted by shock-photographer Andre Serrano's 'Semen and Blood III.'
The combination of Metallica's madness and Lou Reed's provocation, whose album 'Metal Machine Music' introduced the public to two discs of guitar feedback, makes the logo of 'Lulu' seem about right.
According to NME, the music on "'Lulu' was inspired by German expressionist writer Frank Wedekind's plays 'Earth Spirit' and 'Pandora's Box' which tell a story of a young abused dancer's life and relationships. Since their publication in the early 1900s, the plays have been the inspiration for a silent film, an opera, and countless other creative endeavors." A 30 second clip of the song 'The View' is available online, one line of which reads: "I want you on the floor and in a coffin, your soul shaking." The album toys with the proximity and tension between death and sex, which may shed some light on why 'Lulu' herself is making so many people uncomfortable.
Is the LfT protecting its people from unwillingly staring at a limbless, bloody torso doll on their way home from work? Or is this removal, as Reed labeled it, "frivolous censorship?" What do you think?