King James or King Kong?

Vogue magazine stirred up a bit of controversy last week when the cover to their most recent issue was unveiled. It features a snarling LeBron James (the first man ever to be featured on the cover of Vogue) dribbling a basketball while clutching supermodel Gisele Bundchen.

For many people, the cover conjured up images of King Kong – dredging up the deplorable comparison of young black athletes to primates.

What do you think? Is this a case of much ado about nothing? Or do the complaints have merit? Should Vogue have excercised better judgement in selecting its cover? Or might the media buzz surrounding the controversy mean “mission accomplished?”

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15 thoughts on “King James or King Kong?

  1. i say ask lebron. he apparently has no problem with it. and if that’s the case, there shouldn’t be an issue with it.

  2. I don’t know dude. That’s kind of like asking Jenna Jameson’s opinion on whether porn exploits women. Or asking the minstrels if their performances were degrading to blacks.

    I know those are both extreme examples, but the principles are similar.

    If the Vogue photographer intentionally cast LeBron as a King Kong type in that photo, and the editors then selected that photo for the cover, hoping it would sell magazines, shouldn’t we as a society be asking ourselves if this is something we’re going to be OK with?

  3. THIS IS SO RIDICULOUS!!! i would probably not have thought anything of the cover. then, if i had made the connection to King Kong, i would have thought, “hmm, Lebron is a big scary menace like King Kong…on the court.” i would not have thought, “oh, i see what they’re getting at. he’s a monkey minded black dude. he’s an idiot. he’s a lower human.” etc etc.
    i think it’s funny that we’re so obsessed with “moving beyond” racism and sterotyping that we cannot actually do it.
    now, thanks to this “controversy”, i look at lebron and think monkey. never did before. never would have. but now i do. and i’m sure i’m not the only one who was innocent until the thought was introduced.

  4. Last night I pointed out the cover to my wife while we were standing in line at the store. I said something to the effect of “that cover has caused quite a bit of controversy,” and let her try to figure out why on her own. She couldn’t.

    Then I told her how some people interpreted it and what images it conjured up and she said “Oh, I can definitely see that.”

    It’s interesting how people can see the same thing from two different vantage points and see it so completely differently. Jim and my wife might have never seen the cover that way if someone hadn’t told them. I didn’t either.

    However, someone who has heard people of their same color called “apes” “monkeys”, etc., or been called those names in a derogatory manner themselves in the past is no doubt going to have a heightened sensitivity to it. They will see those connections in an image like this while some of us won’t.

    It’s interesting. I don’t feel that those who are genuinely offended are wrong. But neither do I feel that those who don’t see any reason to be offended are wrong either, necessarily.

    All that said. “Mission accomplished.” We’re talking about Vogue.

  5. If you look for connections you will usually find them.

    I found Lebron’s expression to be one of power more than animal violence. He seems to be expressing his strength and control (the ball in one hand the woman in the other).

    I can see how to him the connection is funny. He doesn’t feel demeaned, he feels powerful.

    And since I’ve often seen the manly roar or growl in men’s sports pictures (any race) I can’t say the King Kong reference was a conscious direction for the photographer. He probably took hundreds of photographs and this one had the most visual impact.

    Now whether that impact has something to do with unconscious stereotypes between men and women (powerful/demure) and black and white…I think it probably does. We have an emotional reaction to the differences in the two models.

    Now what that reaction is probably has more to do with what is inside us then what is actually in the picture. Are we focused on the race? the sex? the difference in strength or attitude?

  6. yeah, if anything it’s a studly young black dude grabbing onto a hot white lady that might cause some controversy.

    than again, the hot white lady is married to black dude and this is 2008, not 1908 🙂

  7. oops. nevermind the married to a black dude…forgot it was giselle and thought it was heidi klum. i guess that’s a good thing, i’m obvilious to celebs! haha

  8. Oh my gosh. The first man ever to be on the cover of Vogue is black and people mange to find a problem with it. I think it’s a rad picture. Albeit, it does look a lot like that king kong pic.

  9. YO! I’m black…The cover is FRESH and very artistic
    GO LEBRON! THE FIRST MAN ON THE COVER OF VOGUE!!
    KA-POW!!!!

  10. For the people who say that we are focusing too much on racism to the point that we won’t get past it, i say this, a fire will only burn if you keep feeding it wood. For the people who dont understand why this is a racist shot, you have to understand that whenever a country chooses to target a group of people, whenever a countries decides to treat a group of people in a less equal fashion than the rest, the first thing that must be done is making the group of people look less than human. The nazi’s did it with the jews, and america did it to the nazi’s. It’s psychological and subliminal propaganda, that is fed to the public in order to degrade the said group of people to the point of less than human. Therefore, it makes it easier for one outside of the targeted group to accept injustices that are done to the said group. Now, at a photo shoot 100’s of pictures are taken, what was so special about this picture that made it the best fit for the first man to be featured on vogue? What was the aim of this picture, what is the picture trying to say? The only idea that one gets is that of king kong, the ball is even in the perfect position to represent the ceptor. Also, for the person who said you think lebron is scary menace on the court like king kong, why would you think that lebron is a menace on the court. A menace is something that threatens to cause evil or harm or injury, so why would you apply this word to lebron while looking at the picture? Even when one tries to not be prejudiced or racist and takes the picture as just that a picture, one still applies words that have the same negative connotation as the image that is formed when people who percieve the picture to be racist in the first place have. This is just the start of a long conversation that needs to take place in a public forum about race and the media.

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