Artistic License, Offensive Words and Risque Photos

| February 22, 2008 | 2 Comments

Well, if that title doesn’t say it all, I don’t know what does.

Let’s get something established off the bat: I consider myself a fairly liberal person – few things offend me. Few things make me blush. And I rarely see something and wonder how that ended up in a magazine or on television or wherever. I believe in an open and honest relationship with kids and don’t shy away from difficult topics. But I also don’t invite uber-sexuality into my home either. I don’t subscribe to magazines that are inappropriate for my children to flip through and I don’t frequent late night pay per view (in fact, I never order pay per view anything – waste of money IMHO).

One of the magazines that arrives weekly in my little black mailbox is New York Magazine. My husband and I both read it. I typically check out the restaurant reviews and “In Season” column first, and then flip through the interesting articles. I have clippings of “In Season,” in a file in my office. I’ve learned about so many interesting foods from there that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

So, after several years of subscribing, I have a reasonable expectation that the magazine won’t run anything that my young children shouldn’t see. I expect to be able to read a reasonably interesting food section.

Enter the now infamous Lindsey Lohan cover shoot that was modeled after Marilyn Monroe’s last cover shoot.

The magazine arrived not covered in plastic. Aside from a notation that she was nude, there was no warning that this might not be appropriate for all readers . . . It was just there. I assumed the shoot would be tasteful — nude, but not naked. To me, nude is the Demi Moore Vanity Fair cover – everything exposed, but covered. Naked is what you find in Playboy. And while the Playboy photos are tasteful, they are not appropriate for, say, a two year old.  That’s why I subscribe to New York Magazine and not Playboy.

It would be an understatement to say I was shocked when I saw the Lindsey Lohan photos – her breasts are bared and little else is left to the imagination. And it goes on for pages. This isn’t an instructional on breast self-exams. Nor is it a spread in an adult magazine. These are gratuitous naked shots in an otherwise general interest magazine.

Before I get railed on with cries of this being artistic – that may have worked for Hugh Hefner for decades, but it doesn’t work here. My kids should be able to see me flip through this magazine without hiding pages . . . And before I hear about being comfortable with the female body, I agree that the body is a beautiful thing, not something shameful. But I am hardpressed to find an excuse that makes this anything more than soft porn.

You want artistic license? Artistic license is Sean Combs being about to speak the actual words on television from the play-turned-TV movie, A Raisin in the Sun. Those words include the N-word – you all know the one – but that is part of the play. It is an insight into a time gone. This LL shoot isn’t.

So, while people go ballistic about Jane Fonda actually saying the so-called C-word on the Today Show, which is part of the name of a segment of The Vagina Monologues that she’s appearing in and while the cast of A Raisin in the Sun had to fight tooth and nail to keep one of the N-word instances to remain at a critic point in the play,  people should take a step back and think a little about this.

Artistic integrity and artistic license is something reserved for true art works – the original Marilyn Monroe shoot, plays, proper names – not an imitation of the original.

Bringing this back around, I am not offended by the offensive words on shows and in plays as mentioned above – they are in context and should my kids be watching with me, they are something that can be a conversation starter for what’s appropriate and what’s not. But risque photos from a less-than-admirable starlet are nothing more than an attention-grabbing, mouth gaping editorial risk. New York Magazine pushed the envelope with this one . . . and they pushed it too far.

What do you think about Lindsey, Jane and Sean? What’s offensive and what isn’t?

Photos from

Category: Thoughts

About the Author ()

Sarah Walker Caron is a freelance writer, editor and recipe developer. Her work has appeared in countless online and print publications including iVillage, BELLA NYC Magazine, Yum for Kids magazine and more. She lives in Connecticut with her two kids, two beagles and husband.

Comments (2)

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  1. Tonia says:

    Sarah – Great post. Marilyn’s last photos were nude; Lindsay’s are naked. Her reputation makes the photos seem even more trashy. I wouldn’t call myself a Marilyn Monroe fan, but I do think she was truly beautiful & can’t believe anyone would think LL compares.

  2. I agree with you totally, nothing like this should be in an otherwise family safe magazine all of a sudden!! I think people should complain because I don’t think anyone does and magazine continue to do things like this and it becomes “the norm”.

    And as for LL, not a hope she’s half of Marilyn Monroe!

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