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What the hell is wrong with i-D Magazine?

You’ve all seen American Apparel ads, haven’t you? The ones with the skimpy girls lolling about because they haven’t eaten in days and expended the last of their energy shaving their pits and pubes? The company owned by the guy with questionable morals and crappy attitudes about women (explanation [PDF])? Yeah, that’s the one. Anyway, the fashion industry adores them, apparently. Some outlets have taken the AA aesthetic to the next level. Take a look (click to read the text):

American Apparel Ad

Jaw not on the floor? Don’t see what’s so wrong with this image? Well, let me break it down for you.

This is an image from a popular contemporary cartoon called Drawn Together:

Foxxy as a Minstrel

It depicts the character Foxxy Love as a minstrel show mammy caricature (explanation). The episode features several parodies of black cartoon stereotypes, like so:

Drawn Together Stereotype Caricature

But where exactly did the creators of this show come up with this image? Perhaps you’re not familiar with this:

Merrie Melody 1

Or this:

Merrie Melody 2

Those are images from one of the banned Merrie Melodie cartoons from the 30′s. Notice the dark skin and big pink lips? Let’s take another look at that i-D Magazine photo:

American Apparel Ad closeup

She’s looking an awful lot like another racist image:

Aunt Jemima

So, my basic question is: What the Hell Fuck is Wrong with i-D Magazine? My second question is: What the hell is wrong with American Apparel that they didn’t object to this image (they are quite proud of their spread as they have a copy of it on their website). Third question: What the hell are we going to do about it?


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61 comments to What the hell is wrong with i-D Magazine?

  • Dianne

    Jaw not on the floor? Don’t see what’s so wrong with this image?

    My jaw is on the floor. But not just because of the image. The tagline is pretty obnoxious too. Hard to even know where to start analyzing it: racism first or sexism first? Of course, they’re intertwined in the image and text so maybe the answer is “both.” And it doesn’t help that the model looks totally miserable…not sure if that’s intentional or if she’s just supposed to look post-modern cool.

  • Holy crap!

    Are the owners of the magazine really that ignorant? Did they really not figure that something like that is preposterously racist?

    Seriously.

  • nojojojo

    I saw some debate about this on the New Yorkers LJ this weekend when the ad first came out. A lot of people thought it was “edgy” or a parody because the model (underneath all that glop) is actually black herself. I wanted to slap them — do they really not realize that the problem with blackface isn’t who’s wearing it, but what the image means and how it’s employed? The one who’s using the blackface is the company owner, who’s consciously exploiting a controversial racist stereotype in order to sell some damn t-shirts. He probably chose a black model in hopes that he could then point to her to deflect criticism from himself — and sadly, with some fools it’s actually working.

    I get that he’s trying to be controversial. I get that he gets a lot of attention with the tacky pseudo-Lolita-porn ads he uses elsewhere, and maybe he figured “Hey, why not get the black people mad at me along with the women? Any publicity is good publicity, amiright?” But there comes a point where this kind of exploitation is no longer “edgy” or hip; it’s tasteless and obscene. What’s next, Jewish girls in Nazi bondage gear, or emaciated to show their “concentration-camp chic”?

  • So many reasons to hate American Apparel…It’s sexist douchebag of a CEO, the exploitative ads…I’ll just add this to the list.

  • That model looks so unbelievably miserable I just want to tuck her in bed and feed her my mother’s chicken soup.

    Even without the makeup and the candy-wrapping headgear and the tagline, who can look at her and go, “Oh, yeah, I want to emulate *that*? I must go buy the clothes she’s wearing pronto!”

  • Jesus, that’s horrible. Yep, my jaw’s on the floor.

    That model looks like she wants to die.

  • this was obviously done to rile some feathers and sales. publicity is publicity whether if it’s good or bad. the more this ad and conversations about this ad spreads the more people are going to check out american apparel even if it’s to bash them. I’d ignore it. his intention won’t work if no one makes too big a deal about it.

    as for the model looking sad. well i’m almost sure they told her to look that way. i doubt she was forced to wear black face and that her expression is a plea for help.

    still kinda sad that this is out though.

  • Even if it weren’t racist (which it is), that girl looks … like a little girl. Maybe 15 at the most. Which is creepy to me.

  • I’ve hated AA advertising for a long time, and I avoid their stuff at all costs. I think it’s time to start asking my favourite tshirt places to stop carrying AA and move over to Bella products or some other alternatives. You know the folks at AA would be extremely pleased with this.

    This is very sad (in a WTF is wrong with people way), and definitely makes me angry. The mammy/blackface/minstrel/coon images are still powerful and easily misused by those wanting to be “edgy”.

    Bamboozled” really speaks to that.

  • Even without the makeup and the candy-wrapping headgear and the tagline, who can look at her and go, “Oh, yeah, I want to emulate *that*? I must go buy the clothes she’s wearing pronto!”

    Especially considering the things on her head are leggings. I know some people enjoy the do-rag look, but who the hell is walking out of the house with leggings on their head? Who would want to? Who even thinks “Wow, these leggings are awesome. I wonder what they’d look like… on my head!”

  • R. Mildred

    Didn’t AA also got into a bit of trouble a few years back because it was revealed that the guy who runs the place is a creepy sexual harrasser who routinely masturbates during the job interviews which he conducts without pants? Or is that A&F I’m thinking of?

    I wanted to slap them — do they really not realize that the problem with blackface isn’t who’s wearing it, but what the image means and how it’s employed?

    Well it’s actually worse if the person who’s blacked up is a black person themselves isn’t it? because that’s how the whole thing started – black people doing minstrel shows because that was the only way black people could get onto the stage and into theatre wasn’t it?

    I mean, because there’s not that many opportunities for black models in the fashion industry anyway thanks to everything being “post-racist” nowadays so that for one of those opportunities to involve minstrelsy crap is just…

    Wow, you can just dig at the outrage for ages and not hit bottom, it’s incredible…

  • Wow. That blows my mind. And not in the happy hippy way. I just watched Bamboozled a couple weeks ago, so I can just picture the conversations going on at American Apparel about the satiric element of their haute couture. Fuckers.

  • Anonymous

    “I’d ignore it. his intention won’t work if no one makes too big a deal about it.”

    ABW, is that one of the tactics used to deflect discussions about racism?

  • Carpenter

    The AA founder is a notorious ass face. However, he pays and gives benefits better than lots of other clothing companies. Whats the best coarse of action when a comapany has OK labor practices in a sweatshop industry but dehumanizing advertising?

  • rlwilliams

    I only wanted to say that I just found your blog and I love it. Keep it coming!

  • Anonymous

    Also, this might be pretty naive of me, but I don’t get the punchline. “Sweeter than candy, better than cake.” What, exactly, is that insinuating?

  • Ico

    I wrote a letter to American Apparel a while back telling them I refused to purchase any of their products so long as they continued to put out sexist and degrading advertisements.

    Looks like I can add racist to the list, too. How disgusting.

  • Ninja

    Nothing (ads, products, anything) from American Apparel surprises me. Pitiful.

  • Her expression creeps me out more than her apparent age. Is she comatose or just really pissed off and trying to hide it for the money?

  • Chase

    It’s really crazy what people are willing to do for money. What if we had our own gardens, which supplied the sustenance we need to survive?

    What if the only transportation we needed was a family pony that is mostly used to help plow our gardens?

    What if we were so comfortable with ourselves, that we really didn’t need money to buy things that makes us feel like someone else; would we exploit ourselves on the level that this “model” has done?…I think not.

  • You ever tried subsistence farming, Chase? (Hint: it’s a lot easier said than done.)

  • Also, ponies are not like machines that can be turned on and turned off and ignored when you’re not using them. They need to be fed, they need excercise, they need veterinarians – they’re *not* cheap and they can’t work nonstop.

  • It’s just plain ugly, too.

    Leggings on her HEAD? Okay, I’ve heard it all now.

  • Anonymous

    Has anyone else noticed that her left (our right) breast is larger than the other..?

  • nojojojo

    Anonymous (since you’re all the same person given your IP address),

    Stay on topic, please. You’re starting to look like an especially dull troll.

    ABW’s Guest Blogger

  • Chase

    Bellatrys, I don’t think I could mention doing this if I had not tried it.

    I live on a pineapple/coconut farm in Thailand. I am a friend with the landowner who has allowed me to work a portion of the land to grow what I wish. We trade with each other as well as with other people in the village to obtain what we NEED.

    It is only when our WANT desires engulf our NEED that we find ourselves compromising our sense of self. Ask any prostitute why they got into the business and many will list their NEEDS. But, ask them why they have been in the business for years and you will find that list are a list of WANTS.

    This young lady, who modeled for this revolting photo, I’m sure, would not give you a list of NEEDS.

  • Damn, that’s pretty blatant.

  • Victor

    Chase, It’s easy to jump to conclusions about the woman in the photo considering none of us are aware of her circumstances. I would suggest caution in passing sole responsibility of the state of this advertisement at the foot of the model.

    Also I would like to say that your needs may not be her needs and to attempt to impose what you feel other people should “need” or “want” is a bit overbearing. Almost to the point of arrogance since you’re assuming that your needs are what everyone else’s should be judged by. And the insinuation that this model should be compared to a prostitute is in my opinion deplorable. Ask yourself this would you be saying the same thing about Kathy Ireland or Cindy Crawford?

    VJS

  • This ad is both shocking and sad. It feeds into so many stereotyped images that I find myself shaking my head and blinking in confusion and exasperation. It is amazing that anyone would try to sell something this way — and more so that it must be working or they wouldn’t continue to do it.

  • Chase

    Unfortunately, for the sake of conversation, Victor, I don’t know “Kathy Ireland or Cindy Crawford.” However, due to the topic, I will deduce they are “models” as well.

    Strangely, I feel I should apologize for using the analogy of the prostitute in reference to this “model.” Logically, this analogy parallels much of what we all do. We are all pimped by corporations in some sense and many of us tend to stay in the business, even though we have enough to get out and start a new life. Have you ever thought of that, Victor?

    Your comments are certainly correct in a lot of ways. But, I see it like this: If you are lost in the mountains and you come to a river in which you needed to cross in order to make it back to, say civilization, for lack of a better term. The only way to cross this river is by canoe. You either have to gain the knowledge to build the canoe through experimentation or maybe you have the knowledge and you jump right on it to get it done.

    Then again, say you are lucky enough to find a canoe on the riverbank. The only thing is a small leak in the canoe. The only way to patch this leak is two options: 1) a piece of skin from your thigh, or 2) find something in the woods that will take three days to set and work. Which option would you choose?

    Okay, you finally make to the other side of the river. Would you carry the canoe through the woods just in case you need it again? Keeping in mind all the work and sacrifice you put into it. Or, do you rely on the experience and knowledge you gained to build or repair the canoe that got you to this side of the river?

    Whatever the choice is, it’s your “sole responsibility” as to the level you allow yourself to be used. Do you believe knowledge is lighter than a canoe? Is gathering tree sap less painful than a patch of skin from your thigh?

    The way I see it, Victor, and certainly my opinion is only that, those leggings and the excessive red lips represents the canoe. And, the paint used to cover her skin represents the skin from the thigh. Together…makes this photo extremely heavy and very painful.

  • Oh no they did not! Reminds me of that ad Intel put out with the sprinters… don’t ad companies have editors or someone whose job it is to say “This is a really, really, really bad idea.”?

  • Victor

    Chase, I see your point, a rather creative way to get to she needs to be accountable for her actions if that is what you are eluding to. If you read my first post I said:

    “I would suggest caution in passing sole responsibility of the state of this advertisement at the foot of the model.”

    I never said that she should not be accountable for what
    choices she made. However, I was replying to your post where it seemed that the company that elected to have this ad campaign in the first place didn’t even make into your post. She did not take a picture of herself and publish herself in this advertisement. Really what I’m speaking to is the corporate sponsorship of racism. What that means is that several folks not only thought up this advertisement but signed off and funded it so that we could see it in it’s current state.

    I will agree that this picture is in extremely poor taste. All I’m trying to illustrate is that in this culture, for one reason or another, one is quick to cast blame. All I’m saying is we don’t know her circumstances we don’t live in her life. She very well could have made a horrible decision or maybe she is trying to feed her family? The point is it’s a slippery slope once we begin judging people we don’t know.

    Who said I had to cross the river with a canoe? :)

    VJS

  • i’m surprised i-D haven’t apologised yet. this is an embarrassing look for the british fashion magazine.

  • Tone

    I think it’s fabulous. She very pretty girl. Ya’ll are thinking and looking in to it way too much.

  • Tone,

    Or, alternately, you’re neither thinking nor looking into it enough. Ever thought of that?

  • Lmary

    Agreed whoever came up with this should be fed to hungry wolves then have their body burned for such thoughtless stupidity.

  • Keke

    I actually went to the ID mag site after hearing about this a month back. It scares me that alot of people vehemently denied it was about race. Oh no, it was really about “edgy and artistic expression.” Oh and I love the line someone wrote about “how gorgeous the model looked” and how the model was actually a black woman so it didn’t matter anyway. Are you kidding me??? What the hell?? I am trying to figure out how people can say that it’s “not about race” in this day and age and how anyone can justify that crap.

    I didn’t know what to say. I can’t believe that people can deny such blatant racism and sexism. Am I living in 1955? When did it become okay for the media to dust off all the old stereotypes and call them “edgy” and “post-modern.” Maybe it’s just me. But, I feel like we’re moving backwards. I mean, how can anyone look at that and think it is a step forward in race relations?

  • littlem

    “When did it become okay for the media to dust off all the old stereotypes and call them “edgy” and “post-modern”?”

    When Shrub was elected. Tenor of leadership gives people a sense of the extent to which it’s OK to voice what they otherwise might feel but might not say or act upon.

    Nooses in Jena and at Columbia University? Police brutality in California and Florida schools, and now with CODEPINK? Plus, the worse economic conditions get, the more racist and sexist the jostling for resources becomes (you notice the “reverse racism” argument usually comes out when someone feels a PoC or a woman took “their” position?).

    These aren’t accidents; they’re observable behavior patterns.

  • abw

    Shocking, but not surprising. Considering the fact that the garment industry pays mostly women of color between $0.25-$1.25 /peanuts to work in sweatshop factories-it stands to reason that the said folk may slack in the positive image deparment when it comes to POC. Or not be able to get AD companies to see this.Still stay on your observations because I have gotten to where I expect so little on the part of the world in its isms that I tend to slack off in thinking about this stuff every now and again.

  • Warrior Soul

    Here is the problem…you can argue sexisim, and racist. But in 21st Century, 2007 A Black WOMAN agreed to pose in this ad. Not different than Condi Rice the head Mammie in Charge fronting for a bunch of racist incompetent white boys in the white house!

  • Those images are truly disturbing I am a black woman and looking at these pictures I am lost for words that is all I can say.

  • myst3kpyro

    I think that is the most depressing ad I’ve ever, ever seen.
    It might have been less soul-crushing if the model was…
    Actually, I can’t think of anything to save that idea.

  • mike

    Hi,

    I have just watched CSA by Spike Lee and it really disturbed me. It also opened my eyes and reminded me how much racism still is very much a part of our culture (I’m a white male). Its important for all of us to make a concious effort to see each other as one family living on this planet together. Its the only way we are going to make it.

  • Jo

    I have to say, from a British perspective, that I have never seen any of the images from the 1930s cartoons and advertising and they are not part of our cultural consciousness/stereotyping.

    The nearest thing that the i-D image matches to is some kind of modern wannabee edgy approximation of the traditional African headwrap (gele or aso-oke). I don’t get the headline and I don’t particularly like the image (the model looks surly and/or miserable), but I really don’t feel the connection to blackface or the examples you give.

    I love this blog and as a British woc (although not black) I love reading the different perspectives, but I do think it’s wrong to try to draw straight lines from the US race experience to everywhere else.

    I’ve just had a good Google on Aunt Jemima to reacquaint myself with the issues at hand. And it’s quite clear that if the image was conceived with these kind of US images/portrayal of black women in mind, then it’s obviously, totally out of line. But as a Brit, who’s quite culturally literate, has rarely, if ever, seen these images, then I’m not happy to assume that the art designer involved has.

    Perhaps what we can agree on is that i-D is pretentious, wannabee cool rubbish. I’m just not sure that I can make the direction connection that you’re making though. It’s just not British!

  • Jo

    I have to say, from a British perspective, that I have never seen any of the images from the 1930s cartoons and advertising and they are not part of our cultural consciousness/stereotyping.

    The nearest thing that the i-D image matches to is some kind of modern wannabee edgy approximation of the traditional African headwrap (gele or aso-oke). I don’t get the headline and I don’t particularly like the image (the model looks surly and/or miserable), but I really don’t feel the connection to blackface or the examples you give.

    I love this blog and as a British woc (although not black) I love reading the different perspectives, but I do think it’s wrong to try to draw straight lines from the US race experience to everywhere else.

    I’ve just had a good Google on Aunt Jemima to reacquaint myself with the issues at hand. And it’s quite clear that if the image was conceived with these kind of US images/portrayal of black women in mind, then it’s obviously, totally out of line. But as a Brit, who’s quite culturally literate, has rarely, if ever, seen these images, then I’m not happy to assume that the art designer involved has.

    Perhaps what we can agree on is that i-D is pretentious, wannabee cool rubbish. I’m just not sure that I can make the direct connection that you’re making though. It’s just not British!

  • I have to say, from a British perspective, that I have never seen any of the images from the 1930s cartoons and advertising and they are not part of our cultural consciousness/stereotyping.

    O rly ???

  • gene

    Call me paranoid… but doesn’t the character “Nibbler” from the television cartoon futurama look an awful lot like the cartoons above?

    (And isn’t the name “Nibbler” just a little too similar to another interesting N-word?)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nibbler_(Futurama)

  • merryfairy123

    what a terrible add

  • voice of reason from a black artist

    to all of the folks who are boo-hooing and bashing on this image: i think your all a bunch of lackluster, dim witted, nescient fucking idiots for not realizing what an amazing piece of art this photo is. it’s beautiful. the history behind blackface is what’s ugly and the fact that you can’t get beyond that makes me sick, but that’s a large part in what makes this photo such an incredible piece of art along with the fact that the model is actually black… these things are what makes it that much more of a thought provoking piece. the completely blank look on her face? could it be anything else? perfect! the more i read through everyone’s uneducated comments, the more i realize how uncultured all of you actually are, and it amazes me even more how you’re spouting off all this self-righteous drivel while you’re up on the soap-box beating the culture bible and patting yourselves on the back for being so cultured. wtf?!?

    this photo is art. who gives a damn if it was comissioned by some piece of shit douchebag who runs a clothing company. sure, bash on that dirtball all you want, but not on the photo. enjoy your shitty un-challenging rockwells and go censor the rest of fucking america why don’t you? i’m so sick of this pc-nazi bullshit. the fact that you consider this image racist is LAUGHABLE (that’s right LAUGHABLE in caps). you’re worse than the damn republicans. fuck, you probably are the republicans. you should all be ashamed of yourselves. edgy? this photo is tame compared to most of the shit happening out there right now. do the artistic world a favor and don’t ever show up at a museum or a gallery opening… ever. please stick to your watercolor class and bob ross videos.
    thank you.

  • It’s funny, I’ve often observed that those claiming to be the ‘voice of reason” while showing themselves to be potty-mouthed idiots are often exactly the opposite. Go fig. I’m also highly in doubt that this person is black – not because I don’t feel black people couldn’t hold the opinion he does, just that, along with his fake reason and potty-mouth, it seems like he’s trying to add weight to his rant by first stating that he’s black. Like somehow that’s going to give him more cred.

    Sorry, dude, you get no cred.

    It’s hard to take you seriously when you display so little culture and education yourself. If you had actually wanted to have a serious conversation about the artistic merits of that picture, we could have. But you would have had to go about it in a different way. Not to call you on your tone or anything, but conversations that start out with “you’re all goddamned uncultured idiots” can’t really go anywhere but downhill.

    That said, you’re completely off your nut. Thanks for playing.

  • nojojojo

    Calling most of the thread “idiots”… 2 cents. (We’ve heard it before too much, sorry.)

    Repeatedly using “all of you” in a thread full of people with differing opinions… 11 cents.

    Dredging up antiquated obscure ways of saying “idiots” in an amusing bid to make yourself sound rly smaht, without realizing that you’ve effectively just said “idiotic fucking idiots” and it just makes you sound like a moron… 50 cents.

    Getting a warning from guest moderator Nora in your first post? PRICELESS.

    “black artist”,

    You’ve got some interesting points here about the value of the photo as art in and of itself. If you’d actually bothered to share some of your artistic insight with the non-artists here instead of railing semi-coherently at everyone, you would have actually contributed something useful to the discussion and I would have respected you a lot more. Disagreement is never a problem here, but disagreeing in such a childish and abusive way… well. It’s almost LAUGHABLE.

    So I won’t disemvowel you… yet. I think that once you count backwards from 100 and go write some moody poetry to vent your frustration or something, you might have something to say that’s worth hearing. But leave the condescension and abusiveness at home, OK? Oh, and check “The Rules” tab up at the top of the page. It’ll help.

  • nojojojo

    ABW: Hey!! What are you doing up this early? =P

  • Alec

    Thanks to this post, Dov Charney just got the EXACT response he wanted from 54 more people.

  • MeMees

    This work is thought provoking.
    Anyone who does this could be doing it in an attempt to get people to think about racism and where it comes from, as well as to keep it alive and popular by being made pretty. Racism is ugly, it not the pretty picture of everyone getting along and overcoming it. Racism is not Martin Luther Kind and Malcom X, its minstrel and mammy and poverty. Its this image , actually. Its somewhat unreal and real at the same time. It is offensive, and it is extraordinary in the fact that Its embarrassing , its shaming and its human, all at the same time.
    We have to accept there is a part of our culture who thinks its pretty. We have to accept it still hold currency. Much like the N-word, its not going away but continues to re-invent itself in new ways ( very rarely revealing itself for what it is). Do I think it has something to do with corporate culture and $$$, of course.
    It only seems hopeless until we find a way to deal with it…..however that way may be.

  • MeMees

    It sux because right now they have an excellent cover with an androgynous celebrity I would kill to get but now I dont know if I should support them with my money.

  • We have to accept there is a part of our culture who thinks its pretty. We have to accept it still hold currency.

    Why should we accept it? You said so yourself “racism is ugly”.

    I don’t know about you, but I don’t like ugly.

  • Rashad

    I actually did not find the ad very offensive, at all in fact. I am a black male, and I thought that the photo was actually quite compelling. The model looks gorgeous, it is just satire based on the minstrelsy of the late 1800s-early 1900s. I loved the ad, and i have it hanging on my wall. I think that “you people” are taking this too seriously, really. I am comfortable to make racial statements and jokes around my friends, lighten up. (no pun intended)

  • Bicki

    I find that yes she is beautiful. Visuals are very effective. My caution is that Visuals can be passive aggressive and will send a message. What that message is depends on the person. Due to the fact that there even CAN be a degrading message behind this- means it is something that should not be used. We can have black images that are real ,beautiful and current without adding the levels that are in this particular “art”. I think it is a problem to have this visual out there, as to say it is ok in passive aggressive way.

  • [...] What the hell is wrong with i-D Magazine? You’ve all seen American Apparel ads, haven’t you? The ones with the skimpy girls lolling about because […] [...]

  • [...] What the hell is wrong with i-D Magazine? Some outlets have taken the AA aesthetic to the next level. Take a look (click to read the text): Jaw not on the floor? Don?t see what?s so wrong with this image? Well, let me break it down for you. This is an image from a popular contemporary cartoon called Drawn Together: It depicts the character Foxxy Love as a minstrel show mammy caricature (explanation). The episode features several parodies of black cartoon stereotypes, like so: But where exactly did the creators of this show come up with this image? Perhaps you?re not familiar with this: Or this: Those are images from one of the banned Merrie Melodie cartoons from the 30?s. Notice the dark skin and big pink lips? Let?s take another look at that i-D Magazine photo: She?s looking an awful lot like another racist image: So, my basic question is: What the Hell is Wrong with i-D Magazine? My second question is: What the hell is wrong with American Apparel that they didn?t object to this image (they are quite proud of their spread as they have a copy of it on their website). Third question: What the hell are we going to do about it? http://theangryblackwoman.wordpress….h-id-magazine/ [...]