Cover of The New York Times Magazine’s Culture Issue Leaves A Bad Taste

New York Times
The New York Times

Busy weekend, I didn’t get to read Sunday’s New York Times until today. The headlines were dated but there is no better place to get a hefty weekly dose of news about art and culture. However, the cover of The New York Times Magazine stopped me cold. There in neo-classical, alabaster, pearlescent glory is the image of Lena Dunham, representing “The Culture Issue.” Help me please! This inane myopic attempt succeeded only in portraying culture as so much white bread – bland and unappealing. That cover image also begs the question – can you really equate Dunham with culture? She seems more of pop tart to me. When I saw that cover I wanted to scream to someone at the Times, “Seriously?”

How does anyone who actually understands the breath and depth of culture think that an image that is the visual antithesis of the cultural vibrancy today, would possibly resonate. I thought we’d gotten past the white bread focus on culture. Today we’re consuming the rustic, unbleached flour, brown, black, spicy, seeded, hearty, unsliced, tasty, tear-off-a-hunk-with-your-hands stuff – the cultural equivalent of an organic bread basket.

Inside “The Culture Issue” was better – more colorful, relevant and diverse – as culture should be. Dunham’s cover challenged the content instead of complementing it – like using Wonderbread to illustrate artisanal baking.

5 thoughts on “Cover of The New York Times Magazine’s Culture Issue Leaves A Bad Taste

  1. I don’t know much about Lena Dunham but saw a personal essay in The New Yorker by her recently. It was all about her childhood neuroses and hypochondria, and I kept wondering why we should care and what kind of connections propelled her to where she is. I guess the mainstream media are under her spell because youth culture is now what drives profits. Still, there are plenty of young voices out there that are more original and compelling, so let’s hear them.

  2. I’ve got to weight in on the pleasingly plump and inspiring Ms. Dunham. She may not always do it right but she is a risk taker. I collect doll houses and ever since her first film, Tiny Furniture, I was hooked on her inventiveness.

    The 2-somethings in my life won’t watch GIRLS with me: the reality of precarious peer and poor partner choices (that I remember well) is perhaps too painful. (It’s easier to view when softened by the few decades of perspective.)

    Plus, Lena Dunham wore a bikini for an entire GIRLS episode, rolls of fat happily spilling over the bright green fabric. Pretty courageous when most of us can’t face the three way mirror in a dressing room. Not the anorexic ten-year-old Hollywood shape, she defies so many damaging images that hurt women.

    Lena can’t do anything wrong in my book!

    1. I agree that Ms. Dunham defies the diet of anorexic girls we are constantly fed and I appreciate that. But her willingness to put herself on display does not define culture, courage certainly, but for me, not culture.

      1. OK, I have to agree with you there — so what would define culture today? I hope not Reality Television. In some ways, there are more outlets for culture due to the web, etc. but in others maybe true culture is getting lost?

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