I really didn’t want to write about the Lena Dunham issue of Vogue. Why not? Oh, probably because there’s nothing to say. I read the article! And, as with many celebrity profiles, I learned nothing new and really can’t even well up enough interest in the piece to dive back in and look for an innocuous quote to prove how serviceable but boring the piece is. The only thing anyone cares about with Vogue profiles, anyway, are the photos. And, well, I didn’t want to write about these Annie Liebovitz photos of Lena Dunham because, honestly? I spend enough time writing about the way Lena Dunham looks as it is, and it’s usually because I find the focus on her body to be obsessive and, frankly, gross. So while I have no problem writing about Dunham, I also have no interest in critiquing her appearance in a heavily stylized fashion magazine. But then Jezebel got involved. And now I’m writing about Lena Dunham and how she looks in Vogue. So, you know, fuck you for this, Jezebel. Fuck you.
What’s the big deal, exactly? Well, Jezebel is offering $10,000 to anyone who will send them the unretouched photos from Lena Dunham’s Vogue shoot. The, um, feminist website claims that they want these photos because “Dunham is a woman who trumpets body positivity, who’s unabashedly feminist, who has said that her naked body is ‘a realistic expression of what it’s like to be alive’ and ‘if you are not into me, that’s your problem.’ Her body is real. She is real. And for as lovely as the Vogue pictures are, they’re probably not terribly real.”
Which, wait. What?! Vogue—a magazine that Jezebel acknowledges is notorious for photoshopping everyone from Adele to Gwyneth Paltrow (proving that photoshop doesn’t care about body types, just about a certain arbitrary look)—might have also photoshopped Dunham?! How surprising. Jezebel claims that this isn’t an attempt to put unflattering images of Dunham up on the site, and that this isn’t even about Dunham at all. Rather this bounty is being offered because “this is about Vogue, and what Vogue decides to do with a specific woman who has very publicly stated that she’s fine just the way she is, and the world needs to get on board with that. Just how resistant is Vogue to that idea? Unaltered images will tell.” And editor Dodai Stewart points out in the comment section that Jezebel has always been big on presenting unretouched images, even way back in the site’s infancy when Jezebel first gained attention for showing before- and after-shots of Faith Hill on the cover of Redbook.
But, you know, that Faith Hill post came at a time when not everyone knew the degree to which photoshop was used on actresses and models. Thanks in no small part to Jezebel, people are pretty aware now that virtually no image presented to the public (particularly in magazines like Vogue) goes unaltered. And the fact that Jezebel pretends that this isn’t about Dunham (who, as willing as she is to present her own body as is on her show, must have been pretty aware of how Vogue operates because, you know, Dunham isn’t a moron), is absurd.
So why is Jezebel doing this? I don’t know. Why do any of us in New York media write obsessively about Lena Dunham? Because she’s just that interesting? I mean, sure! Dunham and the show Girls have started many valuable conversations on topics ranging from body positivity to the rise of the female antihero to the lack of racial diversity in television, but also, as everyone who writes for the Internet knows, Dunham is also a little something we like to call pageview gold. Which, gross, right? Openly talking about the economics of a website is gross! But you know what’s even grosser? Pretending that it’s valid to offer $10,000 for unretouched photos of Lena Dunham, when all you really care about is creating enough online controversy to generate tens of thousands of pageviews and a whole bunch of responses from other websites, like, I don’t know, this one. So, fuck you Jezebel. Fuck you for making me write about the Lena Dunham issue of Vogue.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen