Everyone knows Hollywood has an ageism, sexism, and racism problem. One look at this year’s Oscar nominees makes that fact obvious. In answer to that pervasive exclusion, the cover of Vanity Fair’s Hollywood Issue celebrates a tableau of stunning actresses — including (gasp!) women of color and women over 50.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the spread features four actresses near 70 — Diane Keaton, Charlotte Rampling, and Helen Mirren, all 70, and Jane Fonda, who is 78. No one should be surprised that Jennifer Lawrence nabbed the cover, but she is joined by diverse company: Fonda, Cate Blanchett, and Viola Davis.
Davis’ appearance on the cover marks the first time in 17 years a black woman has appeared on the front, and the only time a black woman over 30 has, the Guardian noted.
A wide array of beautiful, talented, and even more diverse actresses are posed in the foldout, representing the best of Tinseltown, the magazine recounted: Saoirse Ronan, Brie Larson, Alicia Vikander, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Rachel Weisz, and Lupita Nyong’o.
All are dressed in sophisticated frocks of either matte black or shiny black, none of them outshining the other, and all of them showing off arms and legs, but little else. Diane Keaton even negotiated to wear her own clothes.
“Vanity Fair went more for reality and talent than Hollywood fantasy. Good timing,” wrote the Reporter.
But there is a lot going on behind the scenes of the Vanity Fair cover, beyond the stunning photography by Annie Leibovitz, the trendy clothes, the beautiful portraits. Look closer and there’s a greater story about the movie industry’s love of the young and light-skinned.
All four of the women on the cover have recently dared to speak out about problems in Hollywood, Vox noted. Blanchett said that “lazy thinking” is keeping women far getting too far, Davis has complained about the lack of roles of people of color, Fonda has discussed equal representation in film, and Lawrence has been a very vocal advocate of equal pay.
They are Tinseltown’s “biggest and most visible” critics, right there on Vanity Fair’s cover. And that’s not a place many non-Caucasians have found themselves. Vanity Fair has gotten some guff in the past for its lack of diversity, and last year, the spread featured one actor of color (David Oyelowo) and the Guatemalan/Cuban actor Oscar Isaac in the foldout. The white actors — Channing Tatum, Amy Adams, and Reese Witherspoon — got the cover, the Huffington Post recalled.
This year’s cover, on the surface, does something daring: It’s more diverse than the four major acting categories at the Oscars and acknowledges Hollywood’s tendency to favor young actresses over the veterans, pay women less, and whitewash their films. But by choosing these women in particular for their cover and foldout, Vanity Fair (maybe inadvertently) cast a glaring spotlight on these problems because many of their careers aren’t exactly stellar, the Guardian noted.
Davis’ big success has come on TV, with How to Get Away with Murder, proving film is behind television in the diversity game. Since her 2012 Oscar win for 12 Years a Slave, Nyong’o hasn’t appeared in a movie. Mbatha-Raw has a small spot in Concussion and a criticized role in Jupiter Ascending. Fonda has only had a cameo in one film recently and is more known for her work on TV. Keaton was in one, fairly underwhelming, movie last year. Ronan, Lawrence, and Vinkander — who’ve had massive success and plenty of roles — only emphasize Hollywood’s love of young white girls.
“Vanity Fair has made a bold attempt to highlight a diverse range of actors,” wrote Benjamin Lee. “But the fact remains that no woman of color is being given the opportunities that her white peers are handed, at least not on the big screen. And there’s no amount of crisply shot and finely Photoshopped designer dresses that can hide that.”
This issue of Vanity Fair, with its girl power cover, will be available digitally on February 4 and on stands February 8.
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