FanDuel - WFBC

March 27, 2008

Critics Go Ape Over LeBron James Magazine Cover: A picture of NBA star LeBron James and the model Gisele on the cover of April's Vogue is attracting controversy over their pose. The shot taken by renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz has been compared by some detractors to King Kong holding Fay Wray. ESPN.Com columnist Jemele Hill called it "memorable for all the wrong reasons." The photo is remarkably similar to "Destroy This Mad Brute," a famous World War I recruitment poster.

posted by rcade to basketball at 10:16 AM - 103 comments

So did LeBron know the photo he was posing for was so similar to the King Kong photos? If so, then that's fairly interesting. If not, someone should have let him in on it beforehand. You can say people are too sensitive to racial stereotypes, but it remains a fact. It probably could have been done in another, tasteful, less controversial way, but that wouldn't have created the buzz the magazine wanted. Controversy, even negative, equals good publicity in the eyes of media whores.

posted by dyams at 10:35 AM on March 27

My initial reaction when I saw the picture was that it seemed to be a "King Kong" depiction. I cannot believe that the staff at Vogue was so oblivious to what is blantantly obvious. Maybe it was purposeful... done intentionally to generate this kind of buzz. However, this can potentially spark very negative buzz and create a firestorm, as was the case with Golfweek and their "Noose" edition.

posted by cuulrider at 10:45 AM on March 27

As a society, we are never going to get past racial prejudice if certain people are always going to see racial prejudice in everything. The obvious difference in the photos is that Gisele is clearly enjoying herself, and I'd wager that LeBron knew or was told about the "King Kong" similarities. I'm sure if LeBron had thought it was a big deal he wouldn't have done it. As is often the case with racial issues, this is much ado about nothing, which is unfortunate because it is harmful to the real cases of racism which still exist in our society. (Your mileage may vary, of course.)

posted by TheQatarian at 11:18 AM on March 27

The cover appears to harmless to me. Giselle is smiling; she isn't horrified by LeBron. I don't see what all the fuss is about. Dyams indicated any type of buzz is good publicity. Could it be also that other groups are jumping in to promote their own agendas? I assume LeBron and his staff approved the photo. Much ado about nothing in my opinion.

posted by danjel at 11:19 AM on March 27

Tiger wasn't pissed about the inadvertent "lynching" remarks, and Lebron says he was just showing emotion. Why people have to stir this controversy up escapes me. If the world was filled with intelligent young men like Tiger and Lebron, regardless of skin color, it would be a much better place. My kids would never relate that cover to a WW1 reference, it's the adults that seem to rehash this shit everytime. So, it's not blatantly obvious.

posted by BoKnows at 11:22 AM on March 27

A question for the people who don't see the King Kong similarity: What do you think is the meaning of LeBron James looking angry on that cover? I can see why some people are offended. It seems like a blatant attempt to provoke.

posted by rcade at 11:49 AM on March 27

Another situation blown out of proportion. I have seen plenty of pictures of athletes of all colors showing their intense side as well as a big ol smile and showing the fine clothing... Michael Irving, Tom Brady and Deon Sanders come to mind... I guess nobody thought of the way Brett Faure has looked in many pictures (rough and needing a shave). That gets referred to as a country boy... Come on people, we have to let things go and quit looking for a reason to keep innocent things blowing up... We will never move forward on the real issues... I'm sure LeBron viewed the cover and ok'ed it prior to it being used... They can look at the picks instantly now...

posted by bruce2ww at 11:51 AM on March 27

So, is the message that Vogue was trying to make: a. Its your duty as an American to kill German Apes b. LeBron James is actually German or c. That the media is so hypersensitive to race and/or looking for controversy in everything that they would take a photo by Annie Liebovitz (pretty sure her work is that of a Nazi sympathyser) and somehow make it out to be racist?

posted by Chargdres at 11:53 AM on March 27

I think the message is, "We're so daring and provocative that we played with the gorillla/white woman stereotype using one of the world's most famous black athletes as Kong, knowing it would push people's buttons."

posted by rcade at 11:59 AM on March 27

As is often the case with racial issues, this is much ado about nothing, which is unfortunate because it is harmful to the real cases of racism which still exist in our society. TQ, just exactly how does this "ado about nothing" not relate to the "real" cases of racism in society? How deep does racist thinking go? How deeply imbedded is it within our institutions (e.g., popular media)? How is this racist thought perpetuated by stereotypical imagery? I'll turn to a quote from Pratibha Parmar from "Black Feminism: The politics of articulation" (cited by bell hooks in Black Looks: race & representation) "Images play a crucial role in defining and controlling the political and social power to which both individuals and marginalized groups have access. The deeply ideological nature of imagery determines not only how other people think about us but how we think about ourselves." The "problem", if you will, is not only in the negative stereotyped imagery of this (or any other similar example) put out by "racist white folk", it's that it's compounded "by black folks creating and marketing similar stereotypical images" (hooks, p. 4 ... referring to things like LeBron "not caring" or Tiger not feeling threatened, etc.). The question that follows is then this: how do those who dare to desire differently (i.e., for a more egalitarian world void of racist politics) move past these conventional ways of seeing blackness? The fact that TW or LJ don't seem to care doesn't really trickle down to the felt effects of racism in everyday lives. To close, it's not "rehashing" tired or old "shit" ... it's a politics of contemporary race relations that is far from over ... and that's not 'cause we (the accused liberal do-gooder crowd) are just too unwilling to let go of something that no longer has political salience. Just watch the coverage of the Democratic convention and tell me that "race" isn't still at the very front of political thought in the US (cf. reasons either for or against voting for Obama). The diatribe endeth here ... or can be followed further here

posted by Spitztengle at 12:04 PM on March 27

Realize, however, if a white television announcer was to refer to LeBron as a "monkey" or a "big ape" they'd be fired immediately. What makes some of these borderline racial-type issues tough to overlook is that nobody is really sure what is acceptable and what is not. If LeBron should come out and say he's cool with the photo and it's similarities to the older ones, then that's it? His feeling about it speaks for the entire race? And just because Tiger Woods and Charles Barkley don't disapprove, they are the voices of all black people? How did they get that title? Because one can hit a little ball and the other could rebound a larger ball and put it in a round cylinder? The whole thing reflects the old pictures identically, and the stereotypical treatment of the subject matter is unnecessary and only meant to sell copies. Although I'm sure LeBron will come out and downplay the entire thing (which I'm not necessarily disagreeing with), people have to remember he's still a very young guy who often seems to act or speak without seeming to think about the overall ramifications of his actions or how they'll be perceived.

posted by dyams at 12:19 PM on March 27

If I were LeBron I would be offended - at other blacks crying foul! My first reaction to the cover was that LeBron was clowning for the camera. Sure the photog probably encouraged it, but so what? I watched a segment on the news and a black woman said it evoked memories of King Kong. How the hell are whites supposed to forget about race when this black chick is comparing LeBron to King Kong? Some whitey makes that remark and he gets crucified. It IS the same old story - blacks looking to make an issue out of every possible situation. The story went on to show other photos that some people felt were "better" and how Vogue could have chosen any of those. How dare the editors of Vogue choose which photo should be the cover shot without consulting the bitter, pissed off people with the chip on the shoulder.

posted by whitedog65 at 12:29 PM on March 27

Tiger wasn't pissed about the inadvertent "lynching" remarks, and Lebron says he was just showing emotion. Why people have to stir this controversy up escapes me. If the world was filled with intelligent young men like Tiger and Lebron, regardless of skin color, it would be a much better place. For one, I think this is far more significant than the Kelly Tilghman comments about Tiger Woods. Her statement was an off-the-cuff remark that came out wrong, and while I believe her (and Tiger) that she didn't mean it as a racial slur, some people took it that way. This cover is intentional and much more blatant in its similiarities (to the extent that it could not possibly be coincidental) to the King Kong images that there is certainly at least a racial undertone if it's not outright. Furthermore, the statement that "LeBron didn't have a problem with it," is not a reasonable justification for running a picture that is going to come off as racist to a number of viewers. While I agree that there are often things said (and I would point to the Tilghman/Woods issue) that get blown up into bigger racial issues than they actually are and reinforce the racial divide in our society, being reckless with racially-charged stereotypes doesn't help matters either. On preview: I agree with spitztengle and dyams, too.

posted by bender at 12:31 PM on March 27

The answer is "c" Quick story: The other night, my daughter(6 Years old) and I had to make a trip to the emergency room. While waiting, another little girl about the same age, approached my daughter to tell her how much she liked her hair. My daughter is white, the other girl is black. They quickly became friends and talked the whole 4+ hours we were there. Everything from siblings to school to toys. A little boy of Latino descent joined them, and I was able to watch and listen to their conversations all night. They all talked about their different hair and different skin color, but none of that mattered to them, they played and laughed and talked as if they were related. The other parents and I shared a few smiles during this incredible display of innocence. My point is that I feel the racial divide is passed down from generation to generation. I will do my part to buck that trend, I hope all of you will too. OK, back to sports. Or should we go back to SI: The Vault and dissect all those covers too?

posted by BoKnows at 12:33 PM on March 27

The message I get from the picture: "Twas Beauty that Killed the Beast" or "The Eighth Wonder of the World" or "I dreamed that I was going to be in a picture with a leading man that was tall, dark and handsome" Maybe LeBron is grimacing in the photo from the gun pressed in his back.

posted by THX-1138 at 12:41 PM on March 27

I was focused on Gisele not LeBron. The so-called controversary surrounding a spread in a fashion magazine is just another lame diversion from the real issues of today.

posted by thatch at 12:58 PM on March 27

Tempest, is that you in the Teapot?

posted by tommytrump at 01:00 PM on March 27

I'm struggling with this one. I've read, reread and rethought the notions I have on harbored racism within America. What brings me to my knees time and time again is the fact that this "racist" picture is able to provide a platform for this discourse - this seemingly waste of time, nonsense. How is it that a picture of arguably the best ball player in the world and arguably the best model in the world posing for a throwback (entirely obsolete, GERMAN propaganda) bringing this much alarm? Did I get enough emphasis on the German - thus not African oriented, there? Truly, if someone could enlighten me, perhaps even detail how this picture is a mockery of Black, or an undermining of White, or whatever the hell negative it's supposed to be, I would truly appreciate it. If the answer is comparing African to Ape, I will honestly boycott SpoFi forever. What if it were Dirk on that picture? In that sense perhaps someone could start playing the anti-german hate card or something. But damn, if I was the Darth Vader, or Genghis Kahn, or Megatron or King Kong of my sport, I would feel bad ass. I mean, how - amongst all the stupid, inane, and irrational thoughts out there, does Race even play a factor. "So he's Black, huh?" "Yeah, he's Black" "Oh!!!! That's why it's racist" Silly? Yeah it is, but that's the logic (or lack thereof) here. For real, isn't parody and mockery the best form of flattery? When did our culture lose its sense of humor? When did it stop being cool to be King - whether you're a James or a Kong? When did a piece of 1915 propaganda trash ever - EVER, become anything more than a piece of 1915 propaganda trash? The message that picture wants us to receive is this: LeBron James is King. Plain and simple. He kicks ass and takes names. Rapes and pillages - and does it looking good. Any questions? Put it this way - if I were in that picture with Rosie O'Donnell instead of Giselle, I would care only what the article said about ME. What I wouldn't give a half shit about is how the picture is going to be interpreted by all these pseudo intellects out there "deciphering" the "real" message, only to turn around and use it as their stage to get across their own counterproductive agendas. For those of you so called progressives out there: Stop doing cannonballs in the shallow end - it's becoming nauseating to watch the same dry, drab, and dull story run its pathetic course. Don't even get me started on that TW issue.

posted by Tyandtwenty at 01:04 PM on March 27

I think the problem people have when trying to see this as an issue at all is because it does deal with LeBron James. Whether it be him, Tiger, Barkley, Jordan, etc. it's not a real accurate portrayal of how average blacks may react. LeBron has money, power, and is a star. It's easier for "simple" issues like this to roll right off his back. When a young black girl though, for example, is being called a big ape, King Kong, etc. on the playground by a group of white boys, is it still a big overreaction? You can't ask for Don Imus' head on a platter, then turn around, speak for the entire world, and claim this is an overreation. You can't expect a multi-millionaire golfer to have the same reaction to a lynching comment that a lower-economic class black man who is continually exposed to racism does. No, this cover isn't going to stop the world from revolving, but don't be so naive as to think a great deal of thought didn't go into the talk this cover would cause. The magazine and it's editors wanted to push the envelope a bit, and they succeeded.

posted by dyams at 01:25 PM on March 27

This picture is "racist" because you people are makeing it so. This isnt racist. ITS A FUCKIN FASHION MAGAZINE PICTURE. Its not like they took this picture and no one told Lebron. He knew what it was and was fine with it. Once again, the media must make mountains out of mole hills. GROW UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! All this racism is brought about by anyone over 40 who still holds the racist views of the past. If all the old heads would either get over it or die we wouldnt have these issues. The younger generations are ready to get over it. When will all of you??

posted by Debo270 at 01:25 PM on March 27

That's a hot pic!! LeBron was in it too? I actually didn't even notice.

posted by BornIcon at 01:55 PM on March 27

Thank you BI! Thank you.

posted by Debo270 at 01:56 PM on March 27

The world has become way too fucking PC. That being said, there appears to be more controversy over things that aren't intended to be construed as racism. It is as if some purposefully look for shit to throw at the fan just to keep their personal agenda in the collective faces of the public. Magazines covers have one purpose only....to sell the magazine. It is highly doubtful that Vogue would risk offending its readers by publishing a cover with a racially derogatory message. I think it is time to stop oiling the squeaky wheel every time someone cries foul. My comments are my opinion, they are not being made as fact. I'm sick of these stories. I'm sure the editor at Vogue has a big fucking smile on his or her face due to all the publicity they are getting from this cover. Every major news outlet and newspaper will carry this story. They will stay neutral and interview people from both sides of the stated controversy with the sole purpose of garnering precious fucking ratings and selling papers.

posted by danjel at 01:58 PM on March 27

Does it say more about the people who see a picture of a black guy and automatically think "ape" than it does about the picture itself? Because on first look at the picture, my actual first thought was "Damn, LeBron sure is lucky to get to hold Gisele by the waist like that." I think you can see the Virgin in the oil slick if you look hard enough. Doesn't make it real.

posted by THX-1138 at 01:58 PM on March 27

As an African-American co-worker once explained to me, "When someone else gets their toes stepped on, you don't get to tell them how much it hurt. That goes double for when they get hit in the head. And when their racial identity is attacked, you should forget about giving them advice on how they ought to feel about it. That's for them to decide. Your job is to listen to what they have to say about it." Or words to that effect. It has been a few years, but it was an eye-opener for me as a 25 year old white guy whose job was working with low-income, primarily African-American kids. Anyway, in this case, I'd be amazed if the photographer and the editor didn't know the subtext. There were certainly hundreds of shots to choose from. They picked out this one. They knew what they were doing. I wonder what LeBron would have said if they had shown him the poster and the picture side-by-side and asked him to endorse their choice.

posted by Uncle Toby at 02:01 PM on March 27

I wonder what LeBron would have said if they had shown him the poster and the picture side-by-side and asked him to endorse their choice. Don't forget that the WW1 poster is referring to Germans, not black people. There is NO reason that poster should be taken as racism either. It was war-time PROPAGANDA!

posted by BoKnows at 02:07 PM on March 27

Just a thought but instead of people blowing their gaskets about this so-called "controversy" but maybe Tom Brady should be the one concerned to have his girl, Gisele all up one LeBron with that big ass smile on her lovely face. Now that's what I call a double-double.

posted by BornIcon at 02:15 PM on March 27

Rapes and pillages - and does it looking good. Any questions? Good job, Tyandtwenty, now there's gonna be some pissed off vikings. Round and round we go.

posted by BoKnows at 02:20 PM on March 27

I don't see it and I didn't see it in any of the other photos from the shoot. What do you think is the meaning of LeBron James looking angry on that cover? I didn't see the anger as well. I thought it was just intensity. You know, as happens in sport? Besides, if you see King Kong in this photo why is everyone trumping the fact that it's "racist" but nobody is saying that it's "sexist" in its portrayal of the female model as a helpless victim? Oh right, it's a FASHION MAGAZINE.

posted by mkn at 02:24 PM on March 27

Goddamned Germans are a bunch of gorillas. And basketball players are always angry. And supermodels like having their picture took. I know it's true. I saw it on the internet.

posted by THX-1138 at 02:36 PM on March 27

Don't forget that the WW1 poster is referring to Germans Negatively portraying them as apes. Everytime we have a racism/ sexism thread, it gets drowned out by "The world's so PC" and "What about [tangentially-related ethnic group]? They're not offended."

posted by yerfatma at 02:39 PM on March 27

Well, I'm offended that I'm not the one holding Gisele ever so tightly. Damn ballplayers and their well-toned and/or muscular bodies!

posted by BornIcon at 02:58 PM on March 27

-- "Good job, Tyandtwenty, now there's gonna be some pissed off vikings. Round and round we go."-- You're right, Bo. It's as easy as that. Although.......the Scandinavians seem to be more interested in beating the world in hockey these days than Viking bravado and racism. Glad to see that people off of these coasts have their priorities straight.

posted by Tyandtwenty at 02:58 PM on March 27

I just don't see it. I was well aware of the cover but did not even consider a racist angle until I saw this post. I'm not trying to claim that racism is no longer an issue but without more this cover just doesn't bother me. In fact, given that LeBron is only the THIRD MAN (of any Race) EVER to grace the cover of Vogue, I would go so far as to say that this is a positive step in race relations. Not only that but he is posing with a white woman who is clearly enjoying herself. Thirty or forty years ago, the fact that a Black man and a white woman were posing together would have been an issue in and of itself. To me, his appearance on the Vogue cover represents progress, not racism. As far as the LeBron's "anger", I just saw the intensity of an athlete. Isn't it typical for Basketball players to scream like that when they dunk? I just thought it was his game face. Here's a quote from Jemelle Hill's column: And while it didn't appear in a magazine, the Terrell Owens-Nicolette Sheridan intimate-encounter tease for "Monday Night Football" gave viewers a sexualized image of a black man. She sees the glass as half empty. I see it as half full. I think it represents racial progress when a Black man can flirt with a white woman on National TV. If Nicolette Sheridan flirted with a white man, Hill would probably bemoan the fact that they would never let a half naked white woman flirt with a Black man on national TV. I'm all for dealing with Racial issues but this doesn't seem to be one of them. And, unfortunately, like the boy who cried wolf, if people complain about racism when it isn't an issue, they lose credibility when there is actual racism that needs to be dealt with.

posted by cjets at 03:04 PM on March 27

I haven't seen enough of Leibovitz's work to know if she consistently portrays pop culture in her photos. I suppose if she does you could assume this was an intentional "remake" of a King Kong movie poster or WWI propaganda. From there you can connect the dots and say that Vogue and/or Leibovitz are comparing Lebron and thus all black people to apes. But I have a hard time believing this was intentionally done to demean black people or intimate that blacks are apes. I tend to think that some are inferring too much. But I'm just a slacker white guy that doesn't know much. Actually, I am more concerned with the suggestion that Lebron is satanic. Did anyone notice the O and the G look like horns coming out of his head. Red horns.

posted by curlyelk at 03:08 PM on March 27

HOLY MOTHER OF A GERMAN APE!! curlyelk, you're right! Does this mean LeBron is Belichick?

posted by THX-1138 at 03:14 PM on March 27

He obviously has kinetic powers as well, that basketball is just hovering between his hand and the ground! Let's see if he weighs the same as a duck or a piece of wood. (Because ducks and wood both float, they weigh the same, duh.)

posted by BoKnows at 03:29 PM on March 27

BURN HIM!!!

posted by THX-1138 at 03:39 PM on March 27

I think this is being blown completely out of wack. - LJ okd the picture - Gisele okd the picture So why is it anybodys business except those 2 if the picture is on the cover. I guess some people are bored, why does there always have to be some long drawn explanation. It looks like to me they were having fun and making money. HEY, I would seriously like to get lil_brown_bat's opinion on this. lbb has some great comments and I think this would be a great subject for a comment. I'm serious!

posted by sportnut at 03:54 PM on March 27

Also, it's a long-standing tradition that people in the fashion industry have no idea whatsoever what's going on outside the fashion industry. Even if anyone involved with the shot had seen King Kong, the odds of anyone involved actually understanding the greater implications of a very big black guy dominating a skinny model in a sheer dress are slight. Lebron is still very young, Gisele will stand still in front of anything if you'll take her picture (that's her job, after all, and she's very good at it), and the Devil-Wears-Prada crowd that make the stylistic decisions at the magazines just don't relate to the rest of the world that way. It's not malice or racism. It's just that they can't comprehend that the rest of the world doesn't look at things the way they do. Everything is a costume, a look to catch the eye and then be tossed aside when the next look comes along. ("It's King Kong, darling! How delicious!") If you think about it, you're thinking about it too much.

posted by chicobangs at 04:14 PM on March 27

BURN HIM!!! She turned me into a newt! A newt? I-I-I- got better! Gotta love Monty Python quotes.

posted by hawkguy at 04:40 PM on March 27

THX, what's the wingspan of a sparrow?

posted by BoKnows at 04:56 PM on March 27

You mean the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

posted by tahoemoj at 05:06 PM on March 27

Ahhh, I must watch movie again. I have the DVD with the Pink Frilly Borders. And I am not doing it proud.

posted by BoKnows at 05:11 PM on March 27

You mean the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow? An African swallow or a European swallow?

posted by cjets at 05:24 PM on March 27

I don't know the velocity and I don't care, you wiper of other people's bottoms. Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time.

posted by THX-1138 at 05:54 PM on March 27

Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries!

posted by cjets at 06:05 PM on March 27

Green, no Blue! Ahhhhhhhhhh!

posted by BoKnows at 06:06 PM on March 27

Damn but I love threads that devolve to movie quotes. Wish I could find the Red Dawn thread!

posted by hawkguy at 06:14 PM on March 27

Oh, yeah, and this: "'e's got ta be the king. 'E 'asn't got shit all over 'im."

posted by hawkguy at 06:16 PM on March 27

"Bring out your dead." DONG! "Bring out your dead."

posted by BoKnows at 06:35 PM on March 27

And I once again offer up the following paraphrase as apropo: 'Twas movie quotes killed the thread. (did you see what I did there?)

posted by THX-1138 at 07:15 PM on March 27

I don't have a good movie quote. When I saw the cover (on another site commenting about the "pose") I just figured LeBron was doing his "Yeah! Bring it on motherf**ker! I will kick your ass! AND I get the beautiful girl!" I didn't see the resemblance to "King Kong" till it was pointed out. But that is just my opinion, man.

posted by steelergirl at 08:22 PM on March 27

I really don't see the problem with the picture. After all, can't LeBron dunk OVER the Empire State Building?

posted by Howard_T at 08:28 PM on March 27

'Twas movie quotes killed the thread. Genius, THX. One might even say Otherworldly

posted by cjets at 08:41 PM on March 27

"Teacup, meet storm. Storm, meet teacup... No, storm... Don't get inside the teacup. No means no!" I think a cold hearty glass of "Shut The Fuck Up" needs to be given to people manufacturing imaginary controversy when there's so much real controversy in the world. Am I alone in finding the fact the ape has a hat with "Militarism" on it ironic?

posted by Drood at 08:45 PM on March 27

Everytime we have a racism/ sexism thread, it gets drowned out by "The world's so PC" and "What about [tangentially-related ethnic group]? They're not offended." I don't get why people are so threatened by this line of inquiry they have to shout it down. There's no way the kong/woman motif was unintentional -- we're talking Annie Leibovitz here -- and Vogue Magazine has provoked the response it wanted to provoke. Pretending they didn't mean anything by it, and the pose was simply LeBron showing intensity, is hard to believe given the similarity to the WW I poster.

posted by rcade at 08:49 PM on March 27

"Teacup, meet storm. Storm, meet teacup... No, storm... Don't get inside the teacup. No means no!" Say Drood, is that anything like a tempest in a teapot?

posted by tommytrump at 08:57 PM on March 27

I still don't understand why the chosen comparison is that WW1 poster. Not to make a case that it WAS intentional, but every King Kong movie poster bears a resemblance to each other. we're talking Annie Leibovitz here What's that mean, rcade? I am not into photography, but after looking into her portfolio on wiki and google, all I see is sex. Some controversial yes, but I don't see racism at all. Let's say the Vogue cover is based on any one of those KK posters, why would you associate AL with intentional bigotry? Wouldn't the final decision be up to the editor of Vogue?

posted by BoKnows at 09:17 PM on March 27

There's no way the kong/woman motif was unintentional -- we're talking Annie Leibovitz here -- and Vogue Magazine has provoked the response it wanted to provoke. Pretending they didn't mean anything by it, and the pose was simply LeBron showing intensity, is hard to believe given the similarity to the WW I poster. Rcade, you seem to be comparing the photo to both the WWI poster and King Kong. Does this mean that the King Kong poster is a rip-off of the WWI poster? If Leibovitz is aping (forgive the pun) KK and/or the WWI poster, then doesn't it follow that KK is aping the WWI poster? And if KK is not a rip of the WWI poster, then can't you allow for the possibility that Leibovitz took this photo without reference to King Kong or the WWI poster? Knowing what I know about Leibovitz, the last thing I think she would do is take a racist photo. This is very tricky territory here but I think this all has to do with the viewer's perspective. Some people saw this photo and made the connection between "angry black man" and KK or the WWI poster. Others, such as myself, saw the Vogue cover and thought "Gee, how does Tom Brady like dem apples?" This division in perception does not appear to be split along racial lines.

posted by cjets at 09:35 PM on March 27

What's that mean, rcade? It means she's too good for the implications of the shot to be an accident. Compare the pictures again. There are several striking similarities to the WW I poster -- the positions of LeBron and Gisele, the way LeBron's holding his mouth, the color of his clothes, the color of Gisele's dress, the placement of her feet inside his and his arm around her waist, the basketball in the club hand, his hunched-over posture. "Destroy This Mad Brute" isn't just a kong image -- it's believed to be the direct inspiration for the movie "King Kong." Knowing what I know about Leibovitz, the last thing I think she would do is take a racist photo. I don't believe the similarity to the poster is unintentional. If that's true, it follows that she knowingly recreated a gorilla/woman poster with LeBron James in the role of the gorilla. That's pretty provocative, and makes me want to know whether LeBron and his handlers knew what she was going for.

posted by rcade at 09:43 PM on March 27

You're absolutely correct about the comparative details you described. it's believed to be the direct inspiration for the movie "King Kong." It's believed to be an inspiration, not necessarily a "direct" inspiration. This is another possible inspiration: King Kong was influenced by the "Lost World" literary genre, in particular Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World (1912) and Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Land That Time Forgot (1918), which depicted remote and isolated jungles teeming with dinosaur life. Furthermore, the Doyle novel was filmed in 1925, with special effects by Kong 's Willis O'Brien and most of the same crew. From wiki. I have still not read anything that associated any of the WW1 posters to racism, as that is what is being implied by the topic.

posted by BoKnows at 10:11 PM on March 27

OK, I'll try to be serious here. What I would like to know then, is to what end? To slyly get some racist photos published in a fashion magazine. Why? To get publicity? Wouldn't any photo get publicity? Are the people at Vogue really that stupid (if this was their plan) to ignite some sort of racial backlash that they would have to perform damage control on? Or are they really that stupid that they give the okey dokey blindly to all manner of photographs without checking what their content might imply. At a fashion magazine? Where they publish pictures? I sure would like to be in the meeting where the positive spin was put on this. I just 'aint buying that it's racially motivated. But stupider things have happened, I guess.

posted by THX-1138 at 11:08 PM on March 27

TommyTrump: Could be...;)

posted by Drood at 12:33 AM on March 28

OK...I had to come out of retirement for this???? Exactly the reason I left SpoFi... LeBron was trying to look fierce as a competitor (and ripped) and Giselle looking sweet and svelte, qualities of good bodies and attitudes- which is what the title and article suggests. LeBron and Giselle are fine with it, excuse me for my ignorance but where is the controversy? Annie Lebovitz, the photograher is reknowned and respected. But if everyone wants controversy you will get it. Are some people really that stupid? Never mind I already know the answer, which is why I am out again. GO GIANTS!!!

posted by urall cloolis at 01:28 AM on March 28

OK...I had to come out of retirement for this???? "And just when I think I'm out....they pull me back in!!!

posted by BornIcon at 06:09 AM on March 28

What I would like to know then, is to what end? The same end as Leibovitz's nude pregnant Demi Moore cover and other famous covers. As an aside, I didn't realize that the nude Lennon/clothed Ono shot was taken hours before his death. Does that tragedy ever get less depressing?

posted by rcade at 06:19 AM on March 28

Are the people at Vogue really that stupid (if this was their plan) to ignite some sort of racial backlash that they would have to perform damage control on? No, they're smart enough to know that all the cover would really evoke is conjecture in both directions. It's not something that's so blatant that there will be pickets and demonstrations. It is, however, just on-the-line enough to be semi-controversial, as this thread proves. It's actually brilliant, and I'm with you, rcade. Annie Leibovitz is probably the most famous pop-culture photographer still going, and she knows exactly what she's doing. She, and the people at Vogue, know the difference between causing a buzz and having a all-out racial incident. They wanted people to merely be talking about the cover. Mission accomplished. From the story: But magazine analyst Samir Husni believes the photo was deliberately provocative, adding that it “screams King Kong.” Considering Vogue’s influential history, he said, covers are not something that the magazine does in a rush. “So when you have a cover that reminds people of King Kong and brings those stereotypes to the front, black man wanting white woman, it’s not innocent,” he said. O’Connell, the Vogue spokesman, declined further comment. In a column at ESPN.com, Jemele Hill called the cover “memorable for all the wrong reasons.” But she said in an interview that the image is not unusual — white athletes are generally portrayed smiling or laughing, while black sports figures are given a “beastly sort of vibe.”

posted by dyams at 07:23 AM on March 28

Truly, if someone could enlighten me, perhaps even detail how this picture is a mockery of Black, or an undermining of White, or whatever the hell negative it's supposed to be, I would truly appreciate it. Hey look - another angry young black man! Angry and aggressive as always. Why don't these guys smile more? Honestly, with watching all the Democratic race stuff, I don't think America has the first clue on how to deal with its racist past. I think rcade has this one relatively right - it's clearly intended to resemble King Kong (perhaps, Lebron being King James is potentially another contributing factor). Whether or not that's offensive to you is your bag.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 08:42 AM on March 28

it's clearly intended to resemble King Kong I think it may represent the WW1 poster, but the King Kong concept happened 20 years later.

posted by BoKnows at 09:11 AM on March 28

Black Fives has an excellent deconstruction of, and response to, the cover. With illustrations.

posted by chicobangs at 09:46 AM on March 28

I took a second pass at this issue for a site I run that shows up in Google News, hoping to help the media figure out what Leibovitz was referencing. I've been driven mad by the lack of attention given to this aspect of the controversy.

posted by rcade at 09:55 AM on March 28

OK...I had to come out of retirement for this???? I was wondering, is there some sort of pension plan I need to get started on? Because I'm getting sort of antsy to start playing more golf and hiking my pants above my navel. And I agree about Leibovitz, rcade. Demi Moore is H-O-T. So is Gisele. Is that the same end you were talking about?

posted by THX-1138 at 10:36 AM on March 28

I've been driven mad by the lack of attention given to this aspect of the controversy. It bothers you that more people aren't up in arms about the cover? Maybe you want to see controversy where other people don't. I for one have never seen the WWI poster until all this stuff started. And as I stated above, the "King Kong" pose never crossed my mind until it was pointed out. Maybe I am naive or out of the cultural loop, but I think anyone can see controversy, racism, discrimination, etc. in anything if they look hard enough. (not refering to you personally, rcade) Lebron has remarked that he doesn't see the big deal and if anyone should take umbrage at "being posed as a gorilla" it is he.

posted by steelergirl at 10:49 AM on March 28

No, it bothers me that the world's having a predictable argument over political correctness when we could be having a more interesting one over Leibovitz's stunt and whether James knew what she was doing. As we know here in SportsFilter, James has been a product of the big media hype machine since high school (if not before). He's as much a giant in marketing as he is on the court. I want to know if he was a party to this racially inflammatory art, because that would be the most interesting thing he's done to his own image.

posted by rcade at 10:55 AM on March 28

As we know here in SportsFilter, James has been a product of the big media hype machine since high school... That is true. Maybe he was made aware of the pose after the fact and just chose to take the "I don't see what the big deal is.." because he was thinking (or his handlers told him) of his image. Has there been any comment from the black community for him to take a stand on this issue? I am not aware of it if there is.

posted by steelergirl at 11:25 AM on March 28

That's what I'm not sure of, how LeBron was actually given the details of this photo shoot, and if he actually had time to think about it. I said it earlier, LeBron is still really, really young. As mentioned above, he's been on the fast-track to fame and fortune since he entered high school. I have to wonder if he truly possesses the ability to view how he actually impacts the world around him, and how impressions may be different with others who will never enjoy (if that's the right word) the special treatment he is afforded due to his wealth and stature. Sometimes knowledge such as that is aquired throughout a person's twenties and thirties. Yes, he can give his quotes about how he's OK with what went down, but we will probably never know if what else is discussed with him, with his people, and whether or not he receives any negative feedback that makes him think differently down the road. Right now I see him as a easy pawn for Annie Leibovitz and the cut-throat fashion industry. She's dealt with this type of thing for decades. I can imagine her manipulating him, with all her experience, without him even realizing it was happening. And again, this photo was just enough within the gray-area that people all over, not just on this site, are probably split right down the middle with regards to their opinions.

posted by dyams at 11:46 AM on March 28

I've been driven mad by the lack of attention given to this aspect of the controversy. Let's just say you're right, rcade, and AL/Vogue did do this to drum up controversy. What's the better outcome? 1. Everyone gets up in arms about this and there is yet another reason for racial strife and division in this country; or 2. Most people either don't care or don't know what the fuss is all about and they ignore it. This would seem to be the far better outcome. On Preview: This isn't just about how LeBron reacts to the "controversy." This is also about how the nation is reacting to it (or not). In a poll on BlackVoices.com (I linked to it earlier in the thread) 60% of the respondents said that the cover did not reinforce racial stereotypes.

posted by cjets at 11:51 AM on March 28

So, cjets, does that make it a non-issue? Over to you, Mortone!

posted by THX-1138 at 11:58 AM on March 28

Most people either don't care or don't know what the fuss is all about and they ignore it. Yeah, but I bet you can't name one example where a potential race-related controversy was avoided because it never made the news.

posted by rcade at 12:07 PM on March 28

I want to know if he was a party to this racially inflammatory art, because that would be the most interesting thing he's done to his own image. I'd say no. I doubt Liebowitz showed him the WWI poster that was inspiring the photo shoot. Even so, he seems to be a part of the group of celebrities where money is more important than social issues and such. As such, now that he is on the cover of Vogue, he can't let folks believe he has a racial conscious or anything.

posted by bperk at 12:09 PM on March 28

Yes, I believe it to be a non-issue. And more importantly, the majority of the the African American community (at least online) believes it to be a non-issue. Here's another take from Martin Johnson at Theroot.com. Johnson doesn't even mention the issue until nearly the end of the piece. Here's what he says: James has also taken it on the chin for his appearance on the cover of the April Vogue with Gisele Bundchen [the u takes an umlaut]. He looks to be letting out a primal scream, which reminds some critics of King Kong. Leaving aside the fact that having one of the world's most beautiful women wrapped around you is probably a good reason to scream in joy, I think that the image police are ignoring a full glance at the photograph; both James and Bundchen are in caricature (she looks drunk). The photo of the pair on page 294 of the same issue portrays each in a better light (and it's used on the Vogue website) but doesn't convey action. To whatever degree the photograph is truly negative (a very minor degree in my mind and that's only because I think he's about to dribble the basketball off of his foot), James is so overexposed that there's an abundance of positive images to counter it. When there are real racial issues like the devastation in New Orleans that still hasn't been dealt with or the fact that Blacks and Latinos received the majority of subprime loans, even when whites earning less got better loans, yes, this really is a non-issue. On preview: Yeah, but I bet you can't name one example where a potential race-related controversy was avoided because it never made the news. I think you're right. But I can choose to fan the flames or treat it as a non issue. I choose the latter.

posted by cjets at 12:22 PM on March 28

So, cjets, does that make it a non-issue? THX, all I can say is: Always look on the bright side of life.

posted by cjets at 12:25 PM on March 28

Realize, however, if a white television announcer was to refer to LeBron as a "monkey" or a "big ape" they'd be fired immediately. But if they called him King Kong after blocking a shot I'm not sure there would be much of a fuss. I think Kong has transcended apedom... or maybe not based on the reaction this shot is getting.

posted by tron7 at 12:26 PM on March 28

he seems to be a part of the group of celebrities where money is more important than social issues and such Excellent point. That's what I believe this whole thing boils down to, and what allowed Leibovitz (and Vogue) to get this shoot done. Being a young millionaire allows a person to be blind to things that may potentially be distasteful to others. And the 60 percent statistic quoted above doesn't really prove much. With the margin of error contained in any survey, what you're really looking at is close to a 50/50 split of opinions. If Vogue researched and discussed the shoot beforehand, that's probably just what they had hoped for. When there are real racial issues like the devastation in New Orleans that still hasn't been dealt with or the fact that Blacks and Latinos received the majority of subprime loans, even when whites earning less got better loans, yes, this really is a non-issue. But isn't that where someone with the clout of LeBron James needs to recognize the position of influence he's in regarding any topic within the black community and may be better served thinking twice about how the things he does are perceived? Right now it appears, as bperk said, that he's a celebrity out to make all the money he can doing whatever it takes. While I agree this issue isn't the biggest to come down the tracks, it still can be viewed as reinforcing stereotypes of a black man. If some don't see it as that, fine. But don't be surprised others think there's more to it than meets the eye. Racially sensitive issues will never go away, and there's no real harm in discussing them. Acting like an ostrich with it's head in the sand doesn't eliminate problems either.

posted by dyams at 12:26 PM on March 28

cjets, I'm with you. 'Twas misplaced outrage killed the thread. (I am so getting banned)

posted by THX-1138 at 12:40 PM on March 28

With the margin of error contained in any survey, what you're really looking at is close to a 50/50 split of opinions. Or 70/30 against it reinforcing racial stereotypes. The Margin of error goes both ways. Acting like an ostrich with it's head in the sand doesn't eliminate problems either. Really? I disagree with you and I'm an ostrich with its head in the sand? Maybe I just don't see it as racist. And maybe the fact that LeBron is on the cover of Vogue with Giselle can be viewed as a positive thing as well. The cover's resemblance to a 75 year old movie poster or a 90 year old piece of propaganda does not justify the hand wringing being done on this post. On preview: THX you just need to say this(courtesy of MP): Your highness, when I said that you are like a stream of bat's piss, I only mean that you shine out like a shaft of gold when all around it is dark.

posted by cjets at 12:51 PM on March 28

Really? I disagree with you and I'm an ostrich with its head in the sand? Did I say you by name? I was talking about the issue of race in particular as it relates to everyone: Me, you, society. Because people want to point out possibilities doesn't mean they're trying to rile up an issue. It's about discussion and looking at things from all possible angles. Refusing to even consider the fact something like this may have racial undertones, especially since race issues have been with us for centuries, seems simplistic. Racism exists and will continue to exist, like it or not, right or wrong.

posted by dyams at 01:13 PM on March 28

Did I say you by name? You did not. But your comment did come in the paragraph in which you were responding to my comment. Nevertheless, my mistake. And otherwise, we'll have to agree to disagree. I prefer to focus on important racial issues, not a Vogue cover that may or may not be racist but is also groundbreaking in a positive sense.

posted by cjets at 01:30 PM on March 28

Who says we are split down the middle? I think I have read many more threads that think this is something to do about nothing than the opposite. And another thing, why are many of the contributors talking about LJ like he some kind of little kid that is being taken advantage of by his "HANDLERS". LJ has been more places and seen more things in the last 4 years than most of use will experience in a life time. I hardly think he is the kid that allot want to make him out to be. He seems to be a very smart young man, give him a break. He is not going to realize in the future that this was done in poor taste because it wasn't. I think his nick name of KING JAMES is an indicator of how he is perseved with his public. He had some fun doing this with a beautiful girl and made some money. And frankly all those people that want to make a big deal out of this, it is none of your business or concern and you should get a life.I bet LJ didn't lose one seconds sleep over the issue and for that matter never will.

posted by sportnut at 01:53 PM on March 28

Why are we all assuming that the Vogue photograph was infact inspired by the WWI propaganda? Certainly they are similar, but would any of you have noticed it if someone else had not put the two images together? How do you all know that there aren't hundreds of other images with similar compositions, and how do we know that Leibovitz did not come up with this one entirely on her own? It is not as if either Bundchen or LeBron are in any particularly akward or peculiar positions, nothing either is doing is particularly eye catching that it has to have been inspired by something else. Additionally, the article which the cover photo advertises is about (what else) physically fit bodies, and the positions both are in show off their physiques, LeBron's in an athletic sense and Bundchen's in a lean, feminine sense. Certainly, just about anything can be read into the image, but it seems to me that people are reading way too much into it. As for the argument that Liebovitz must have known about the WWI poster, there is a great likelihood that hundreds of photos in different positions were taken at the shoot, and that an editor, perhaps less apt to notice such a similarity (by the way, without someone else creating the juxtaposition, did any of you independently make the connection?) was the person who actually picked the photo. Without Liebovitz and the people at Vogue making a specific statement as to exactly what the intent/influence was, there is no way for us to assign the true intent. If anything could help, it is to look at her own previous work and personality. While controversy is not something she has neccesarily shyed away from, my leaning is still against anything intentionally race-baiting.

posted by Chargdres at 01:55 PM on March 28

Why are we all assuming that the Vogue photograph was infact inspired by the WWI propaganda? Because it says so in the FPP. Therefore=Truth. I honestly would not have put 2 and 2 together on this if it had not been pointed out to me. But like so many other things in life, things have to be pointed out to me. Anyway, enough of this Nancy-Boy talk about Vogue. Let's go argue about 6 year old bare-knuckled brawlers.

posted by THX-1138 at 02:35 PM on March 28

Why are we all assuming that the Vogue photograph was infact inspired by the WWI propaganda? Because it says so in the FPP. Therefore=Truth. I thought the WWI photograph was very interesting. It's as similar as can be to the Vogue photograph. I'm glad rcade posted it. As for the assertion the photograph may have racial undertones, that's being written about and stories are being run all over the country. It's not just this site, or the FPP. And it's not really a matter of "Truth." It's about having a discussion, and the only ones that seem to be getting upset are the ones saying it's not an issue. Fine, it's not an issue to you. I think it's an issue only because it's an interesting issue and topic. Enough with the "Get a life" crap. If all this makes anyone too uncomfortable, go on to the next topic. And the fact Vogue has only managed to have a couple people of color on it's cover in the magazine's history just makes me wish they would have gone in a different direction with the shoot. Have him standing there in a smartly-tailored suit, not making some stupid face. If the magazine had any history of equal treatment with regards to it's cover, maybe this wouldn't even be noticed. And the magazine was founded in 1914. This thread has gone on quite a while, but here's Jemele Hill's column about it.

posted by dyams at 03:40 PM on March 28

dyams, it occurs to me that you have been spending more than the normal share of one's attentions on my comments. Are you aware that I was being a smart ass? As for the assertion that the photograph has racial undertones, from my point of view, the only ones getting upset are the ones who are making the racist claims. Apparently, from the comments I have read from representatives of the black community who have given voice to their opinions, this is a non-issue. As a point of fact, LJ himself does not have a problem with the photos. And the disrespect I see is coming from the people who don't give LeBron the credit to know the significance of the photograph he was in. Could that be a racist point of view, perhaps? And what "Get a Life" crap are you referring to? When did I say that? Or did anyone say that? Convenient that you can say it's an issue, but if anyone says it's not, they're opinion is not to be regarded as seriously as yours. Discussions are best when there are opposing views.

posted by THX-1138 at 04:22 PM on March 28

And what "Get a Life" crap are you referring to? When did I say that? Or did anyone say that? And frankly all those people that want to make a big deal out of this, it is none of your business or concern and you should get a life posted by sportnut at 1:53 PM CST on March 28 And the next line I typed read, If all this makes anyone too uncomfortable, go on to the next topic. By "anyone" I meant anyone, not just THX.

posted by dyams at 06:07 PM on March 28

Sorry dyams. I stand corrected, even though I am always right. (a joke) I am glad that you are here. You're comments do make me think. Now let's ditch this pansy thread and go buy shoes.

posted by THX-1138 at 06:57 PM on March 28

No problemo!

posted by dyams at 08:53 PM on March 28

dyams, is it possible you're making Annie Liebowitz out to be some sort of Svengali without much proof? I've admired her work for years, and as a result, have read a fair amount of autobiographical material on her, and cannot recall hearing that she's manipulative, or conniving, or that she does or says too much that may affect her models' comfort zone. Of course, maybe I'm just not well-read enough on the subject, and don't know enough about her. But what if she just asked LeBron and Gisele, Hey guys, you wanna do a kind of a goofy King Kong thing, and they both said Yeah, sure, sounds like fun, and they did it? I don't know that there was a deeper, darker motivation here on the part of Liebowitz, James, Bundchen, or even the magazine.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 07:13 AM on March 29

I'm not sure if Leibovitz was the entire brains behind the photo shoot, or that she decided what the cover should be. Having a niece that works in the high-fashion industry in New York, though, I know how critical a decision it is about what goes on the cover of a magazine as highly-respected as Vogue. Every aspect of it is critiqued from every possible angle based on the buzz it will create and how it will draw people in. Leibovitz has been doing controversial photographs for years, including the nude, pregnant Demi Moore cover, and the photos of Yoko Ono and a nude John Lennon. Demi Moore has come out and said the photo shoot she did while pregant was never really meant to be on the magazine cover, but for her own personal collection. It wasn't until until after the personal photo shoot she says her and Leibovitz were talking on the phone, kind of joking about the idea of it being on the cover, when the decision was made. In that case I believe it was done with intentions of creating a buzz, and it worked. I honestly don't think she (Leibovitz) even considers things such as race, etc. when it comes to photos, just how it comes across artistically. My belief, though, is that the image of beasty, black man and beautiful, blonde girl was discussed, disected, and scrutinized by the editorial staff at the magazine. The only thing that really keeps me thinking about the stereotypical image LeBron portrays is Vogue's history of not having people of color on their cover, hardly at all, throughout their long existence. But I keep coming back to the realization that people who are the movers and shakers of the fashion industry are wired quite a bit differently than me.

posted by dyams at 09:15 AM on March 29

Donnie Deutsch said on this MSNBC clip that "the fact we're having this discussion means that it's great art." Just for an alternative view, I thought I'd post these "art commandments" to see if the answer would be the same. On another note, the fact that "we" are having this discussion here on SpoFi has really reminded me of why I love this site. rcade, I considered posting this a day earlier, but was assuming it would only be met with the typical "what does this have to do with sport?" kinds of commentaries. I've been enlightened and informed about this issue via the traffic on this post ... and I thank you all for such a lively engagement.

posted by Spitztengle at 10:51 AM on March 29

I've been enlightened and informed about this issue via the traffic on this post ... and I thank you all for such a lively engagement. That's a good attitude to have here, and it's one I always try (but sometimes fail) to maintain. I generally don't see anything wrong with discussing issues such as this, because they exist whether we choose to openly talk about them or not.

posted by dyams at 11:56 AM on March 29

I don't know that there was a deeper, darker motivation here on the part of Liebowitz, James, Bundchen, or even the magazine.-TBH Everything is a conspiracy, TBH. Trust no one!

posted by steelergirl at 01:40 PM on March 29

*Please note that I didn't take this opportunity to say something stupid and F things up* dyams, you should have been there. I bought the most gorgeous pair of Anne Klein pointy toed parfait pumps. They'll look absolutely smashing with my Coach handbag. And I think LeBron looked positively German in that photo with dear Gisele. (it is my nature to proffer stupidity. sorry)

posted by THX-1138 at 02:58 PM on March 29

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