On her blog for Vogue Italia, editor in chief Franca Sozzani touched upon a subject that's been whirling around my head for some time: the increasing vulgarity displayed by a large number of fashion magazines. Via NYMag, she writes:
Why is it that the fashion magazines, the ones doing the most research, fall into out of line, worrisome, and at times vulgar traps? We have seen nudes of men and women for a while without purpose if not shocking the audience...
If what's beautiful depends on your opinion, what's ugly just repulses you.
You know exactly what she's talking about. Look at any issue of Purple Magazine, purporting to be a fashion/art publication but really just publishing non-arousing pornography shot by 'better' photographers. It's a trend I've found increasingly disturbing and representative of our culture at large. We will do anything to get attention these days, and usually that means being self-parodying and ridiculous for the sole purpose of standing out and capturing an audience. It might be a far stretch, but I see parallels to reality TV and what that does to our culture. We are willing to debase ourselves to the lowest common denominator just for a passing moment of fame. Even worse, as a society we happily consume that garbage. Like a diet of potato chips and soda, it's an unhealthy combination that distorts our taste and the appreciation of refinement.
When I lived in France, there weren't any reality TV shows on air. Instead, prime-time entertainment consisted of French philosophers engaged in a round table discussion about literature or art. It elevated the public discourse. In America, people gorge themselves on Teen Mom, Jersey Shore, and Real Housewives, all of which, in varying degrees, showcase the worst elements of our society. I think it's repugnant that Snooki is a New York Times Best-Selling author when people of real talent go unnoticed because they're above making a mockery of themselves.
Inasmuch as fashion is a barometer for what goes on in culture, there is a similar tendency towards whatever is shocking. People at large are so jaded by vulgarity that designers, stylists, and photographers have to think of new, more perverse ways to capture people's attention. Is there any better example than the revolting circus Lady Gaga's stylist, Nicola Formichetti, sent down the runway at Thierry Mugler with tattooed goblins? Or French Vogue's December issue featuring the double whammy of a pre-pubescent girl styled in adult makeup and clothes and a later feature of a geriatric love scene?
I am saddened by the lack of taste and glamour in today's society. Fashion was always for me about aspiration and the pursuit of beauty. These days it's little more than an adopted Kardashian sister: desperate for attention, morally void, and over-exposed.
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