That Vice Suicide Shoot

A much better rendition of Sylvia Plath, via listal

Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

Ok, yes, I know, it's Vice. This is the magazine which has tried so desperately hard to be "edgy" that it has been known to hold a fashion shoot at a protest. This magazine's previous attempts at supporting women writers have been to publish some godawful, sub-Bret Easton Ellis personal essay dross, usually in its “Stuff” section, where our trust-funded heroine describes (in first-person, present tense) some night(s) of debauchery that come off sounding like a cross between The Eagles Hotel California and an episode of Gossip Girl and always seem to end with someone sucking off a middle-aged businessman for coke. Sometimes on a yacht. The most depressing thing about these "essays" is the fact that a great deal of these women are not actually bad writers, per se, they just seem to have become convinced that this is the most interesting (and therefore lucrative) direction they can take with their writing. Magazines like Vice encourage this idea.

It is worth mentioning, however, that Vice is not ALL bad, or at least wasn't up until they published the titular issue. A friend informed me that they occassionally publish some excellent pieces of investigative journalism and some very good journalists have written for them.

So that's what made their photo spread in their 2013 Fiction special issue (with an emphasis on women in fiction, no less) so very, very disappointing.

Apparently, there is some decent writing by women as part of the issue (I'm unwilling to dignify them with the page views necessary to find out) but their sexy suicide shoot pretty much undoes any goodwill they may have built up. We're not publishing the pictures for obvious reasons, but if you really, really want to look of them (and they are gross and upsetting, be warned) then you can do here.

Let's examine all the terrible things about this individually.

The fact that a feature on great women writers involves a photo shoot of models on its own is pretty shitty. Ever seen a feature on James Joyce that focused on his dapper suits and super-chic glasses? No? Thought not. But obviously, all those Virginia Woolf fans are totes into her elegant hats and not her groundbreaking modernist fiction.

Next, we see that all the writers featured either killed themselves, or tried to. Nice work, Vice, perpetuating the stereotype of creative females as doomed and tragic, more interesting for their tortured personal lives than their actual talent. Apart from this, it’s always struck me as unfair that suicide should be the most memorable thing about anyone, since it is pretty much by definition the lowest emotional point that anyone can reach. Nobody, talented or otherwise, deserves to be remembered more for the manner of their death than their life. The fact that they chose to title the spread "Last Words" only serves to reinforce this idea that it's not these women's lives or work or achievements that matter - just their deaths, making this feature not only horrible, but also grossly irresponsible.

Thirdly, it’s a fucking fashion shoot. It's not only a shoot of models made up to look like dead authors, it's also a way to sell clothes. They couldn't even be arsed trying to make it look like an interesting artistic study. THEY ACTUALLY GIVE YOU THE BRAND NAME OF THE STOCKINGS ONE MODEL IS PRETENDING TO HANG HERSELF WITH. This is profoundly grotesque in every way imaginable. The only way it could possibly be worse would be if they actually got the models to off themselves and then did a side-by-side "Who wore it best" comparison for readers to vote on.

I honestly have no idea what possessed Vice to publish this absolutely despicable piece of shit. The best(worst) part is that, while they have now thankfully removed it, they did so while offering only the lamest of apologies to "those who were hurt or offended", which, by my reckoning, is basically anyone capable of feeling empathy with another human being.

- CD