Sunday, March 30, 2008

oh, lebron

why is it that whenever a black male athlete is on the cover of a nationally distributed and well-respected magazine, he looks like a wild beast of some sort that someone just unleashed onto an unsuspecting public -- yet when his white counterpart is featured on the cover, he looks like a strong, handsome (sexy, even!) conquering hero, with his foot on his helmet and his shirt off and him looking out past you, into the horizon and everything, like he can see the next game he's going to win?

come on, now. i can't be the only one that sees this distinction and wonders about it.

what's especially heinous is that this is the first black man on the cover of VOGUE magazine. all of the black male models we know and love, black models that were ruling the runways in paris and milan and gracing everyone else's magazine cover, these people waited until 2008 to feature a black man on the cover? then again, that shouldn't be surprising when you consider that they didn't put a black woman on the cover until 1977. (and yes, it was beverley johnson.)

lebron james (also called "King James" by the way -- i like that) says he was putting on his game face for this shot -- but why would he need that look for a VOGUE magazine cover? shouldn't he save his game face for the actual game?

he certainly hasn't pulled out this game face for the commercials he's done. we've all seen "the lebrons" in the sun, haven't we: lebron, dressed in an all-white suit and carefully shaped spherical afro looking for all the world like an elegant dandy, pulling off a spectacular swan-dive in slow motion into a large swimming pool and smiling at the camera beatifically as he seems to lounge underwater, all the while surrounded by various and sundry characters at poolside who turn out to be lebron himself, a la eddie murphy/the nutty professor.

not surprisingly, it's my favorite one: lebron as comedian and character actor is so unexpected, and what with all the assumptions/stereotypes about black people not knowing how to swim/being afraid of the water, a poolside oneupsmanship/showdown against his many selves was effing brilliant. what's next, i wondered? will "the lebrons" go skiing?

oh, you haven't seen my favorite lebron commercial, you say? well, here it is.

what's in this commercial is a far cry from what i see on the cover of VOGUE for the month of april: a King Kong for the 21st century, with giselle as fay wray.

i suppose one could say that i'm being overly sensitive or touchy, that it's just a magazine cover, that it doesn't matter. but actually, it does. in a media-saturated world where such images are carefully thought out and planned by people who are supposedly intelligent and educated and worldly, any visual inference that portrays black men as dangerous, angry, violent animals is not a good thing and it really shouldn't be celebrated as such. subconsciously, people are absorbing those images as truth and they treat black men accordingly.

you don't even want me to get into the images that are floating around out there about black women. you really don't.

the racism inside all of this is so obvious, it feels idiotic to explain it. it's like my friend ralph, driving up on a white skateboarder in the middle of the street at 120th and 5th and yelling at him to get out of the road. the kicker was that marcus garvey park was right there, mere inches away, but he'd rather skate in the street. (seriously, that really happened...)

interestingly, there are a lot of people who disagree with me on this. and one of them is lebron. hey, it's the april issue, it's out there. at this point, what else can he be but magnanimous?

boy. they'd better hope i never get famous.

No comments: