Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

Depressing And Naked

Thursday, 5 April 2012

  Yes yes, half of you are here just because the post has “naked” in the title. You probably have no idea who I am, never played poker, never watched BBC Four, never read beyond page 15 of The Observer. Well, good news: there’ll be some nakedness in a minute. Bad news: most of it’s covered up. Not so much as a nipple. Good news: I’ve heard that if you keep looking around this new internet thing, you’ll find some people who’ve got NOTHING ON AT ALL.

  Anyway. The cover of this month’s Vanity Fair magazine has filled me with depression. Here it is:

Vanity Fair

  I mean, really? Really? In 2012? Four actresses in Vanity Fair HAVE to be naked under bedsheets? I feel like I’ve been seeing this picture in Vanity Fair for the last twenty years.

  Why are they naked in bed together? It’s not sexy. It couldn’t be sexy; Vanity Fair has to be stocked in newsagents (or their American equivalent) across that entire conservative country. You couldn’t have this picture with any suggestion that the women have been caught unawares in the middle of (or on the verge of, or relaxing after) some massive great lesbian romp. If it looked like that, it might be rather magnificent. But not a chance; too controversial. It has to be utterly chaste. I suppose the one on the far right is doing a bit of a sexy face, but Julianna Margulies looks like she’s thinking about a grocery list. And that one from Downton Abbey, in the front, has the physical pose and rueful expression of someone who’s just tripped over the bath mat.

  If not sexy, then why naked? Because they’re just women, I guess. Whatever their achievements in the acting world or anywhere else, they’re just bodies. Just totty. Just things to be looked at. No point having them all dressed in clothes and doing something interesting like this one of Robert Pattinson -


  or even this one of the Hollywood boys hanging out:



  Nah: for the ladies, it’s kit off and grinning. That’ll do.

  What depresses me most is that Julianna Margulies’s character in The Good Wife (the TV show she’s being “celebrated” for here) is so interesting. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a show before where the leading woman is such a dominant protagonist but the theme isn’t specifically female (so a thriller or courtroom drama series rather than, you know, Sex And The City). This is a legal drama where she’s half of a couple but the husband doesn’t even appear in every episode. There’s an ensemble cast but Margulies is massively in the foreground, dominating the screen time, and is a genuinely real and original character: brave but prim, careerist but maternal, juggling her own issues of marital fidelity against professional concerns about murder, fraud or company corruption.

  That series is going in such a good direction, in terms of women’s roles on television - you can see how this could run for twenty years, and Margulies would be as strong in it at 65 as she is at 45 - but this cover drags it all back down again, back into the world where they just look pretty, get their kit off, and are mopped quietly away as the wrinkles kick in.

  Why did none of these women stand up at the photoshoot and say, “Do you know what - no thanks. I don’t really want to do it naked. Can’t see the point. Boring idea. Hackneyed. Think of something more interesting. Or do this but without me, because my career’s going fine and that’s the reason you’re putting me on the cover, and I don’t need to be poking my leg coquettishly round an eiderdown to try and get attention.”

  I know, I know: they look nice and everything.
  But it just made me sad.

Facebook Google Digg Reddit Yahoo! StembleUpon Newsbine LiveJournal BlinkList

Add Comment


Nicodemus at 4:33 pm on April 5th, 2012

To be fair Julianna Margulies always looks like she’s contemplating the grocery list or at least the frozen vegetables.

Simon Barnes at 4:39 pm on April 5th, 2012

I disagree about Julianna, she’s looking seriously hot - far more than could be justified for a shopping list - and Claire is at least attempting to look vampish though after her recent showing in “Homeland” it comes off as more unhinged. Otherwise I agree the whle thing seems deeply pointless.

Ian at 4:39 pm on April 5th, 2012

I completely agree, this is so 1970s. I enjoy looking at beautiful women as much as the next man, but I would actually feel more comfortable looking at them with some decent clothes on, this makes me feel pervy…

Saul Richardson at 5:04 pm on April 5th, 2012

Surprised Samantha Brick didn’t find her way onto the front cover to be fair.

Maurice Stewart at 5:14 pm on April 5th, 2012

They probably sold it to them with some guff about “Joining the historic lineage of great actresses by recreating a classic pose”. Same way they managed to cajole a generation of pregnant celebrities into appearing naked on the cover. Well, as you say, not really naked, just that weird oxymoronical conservative nakedness. 

I, like you wonder why they didn’t just say no, especially Margulies. However after watching that depressing Sexism in Football documentary last night I’m starting to think maybe there are many other areas of our enlightened world where women are afraid to speak out for fear of their career nosediving.

Wendy at 5:33 pm on April 5th, 2012

Made me feel a little sad too…....what’s worse is I’m not quite sure who two of them are!

SAM at 5:33 pm on April 5th, 2012

Not in any way surprising. How they look is more important than what they say… and I assume there is no discussion of the “power” they wield in Hollywood as their power diminishes in exact relation to the increase in their grey hairs (or their waistline)... not like the men.

It is just sad, and even sadder that so many people will wonder what’s wrong with it ...

Ken Johnston at 5:43 pm on April 5th, 2012

I think what worries me is why they, the ladies, agreed to do it. It is so blandly inadequate that they, or, at least, one of them, could have said. ‘What? You must be joking. It’s 2012 and I’ve got better things to do with my time. Goodbye.’

Jules at 7:02 pm on April 5th, 2012

What Simon said. As much as I’m enjoying looking at Julianna Margulies I’d enjoy it just as much, if not more, if she was wearing a power suit or something. Bring back the Annie Liebovtiz covers (please don’t tell me this was done by Annie?).

Grace at 7:24 pm on April 5th, 2012

If you want strong female characters leading a show which is not about ‘being a woman’ try Damages. Glenn Close and Rose Byrne are magnificent.

Caro at 7:34 pm on April 5th, 2012

Love her in everything, Especially Good Wife, she should defo have said no, she’s won about 50 Grammys for it ffs! Don’t know who the others are…....

Peter Ellis at 7:42 pm on April 5th, 2012

How terribly sweet of you to think there was ever a photoshoot for them to object to!

Take Julianna Margulies - join up her arm on the left hand side of the image and see if it makes any anatomical sense.  It’s about half the right length, and the wrist is the wrong width for the upper arm.  At that angle, if the exposed leg connects to her body, she’s got a dislocated hip.

In the middle, take a look at Claire Danes’ left collar bone - stops dead at the oh-so-convenient necklace (and they’re all wearing one). Her left arm is intersecting Sofia Vergara’s right arm. Similarly, look at how Vergara’s neck muscles stop dead at that necklace.

That photo was never taken, those four are unlikely ever to have been at the same photoshoot, and I’ll be amazed if that’s even their bodies.

Christine at 7:46 pm on April 5th, 2012

Apart from this cover which is bad enough I’ve just had the misfortune to view the American Apparel photoshoots. Young girls with their legs spread, with their bums in the air etc. Really it’s nothing more than soft porn and made my stomach churn.

Peter Ellis at 8:05 pm on April 5th, 2012

(Oh, and there’s no chance Pattinson was ever allowed near a live crocodile either - got to protect the talent. In any case a croc that size weighs about 5 stone, while he’s standing there like he’s got a feather duster round his neck)

bill beedie at 9:58 pm on April 5th, 2012

I agree entirely with your sentiment, Victoria, but the whole thing begs the question “Why did all four agree to do it?” Is the answer in the title of the magazine? Vanity? If so, I agree, sad!

Franky Daulman at 10:04 pm on April 5th, 2012

A “guy” comment,
I can’t agree more…
The “celebrity age” has been allowed to become insanely more important than talent, and all because of exploitative marketing “we” buy..
It saddens me too that proven actresses I respect and admire feel “market forces” so compellingly to have been “naked” to promote themselves…
But unless the “trend” changes girls, there’s a “hunk of the day” with a NAFF “get me” smile, “naked” under bedding awaiting you…
We all have hormones that insist…
But we all have choice - even guys…
And we’re blessed with imagination about the “unseen”...
Luv n reward the “talent”, NOT the “image”, or marketing of “celebrity”..

Tim at 10:21 pm on April 5th, 2012

No no, I’m here because you tweeted telling me to.  Self-fulfilling?
Actually, we’re all naked, aren’t we?

The Tim at 11:04 am on April 6th, 2012

No chance of your posing naked under the bedsheets then - quite right too!
(They’d have to be specially made anyway.)

Anji at 4:00 pm on April 6th, 2012

Peter Ellis - if you weren’t kidding (I truly hope you were) of course there was a photoshoot, it’s on the Vanity Fair website. You can’t even see Julianna’s right arm, it’s under the sheets. That arm belongs to Claire Danes…

Victoria, I completely agree. They’re all beautiful (especially Julianna, wow), but being naked and under the sheets is such a shame. If not power suits, any type of clothing would have been fine. Why not couture? There’s no doubt sex sells, but if only women’s sexuality could also be about power.

fingéro at 6:28 pm on April 6th, 2012

This would all be fine if next month they have Clooney, Damon, Craig and Pattinson all tucked up together in a four poster (with the croc draped across the middle of the bed)
Is anyone good with photoshop?

Bob Roberts at 9:42 pm on April 6th, 2012

I must admit that even in the dentist’s waiting room, where reading material is of a poor quality, have I ever picked up a copy of Vanity Fair or looked at the cover? I wonder to whom it is supposed to appeal, as you point out in these days of ‘net porn’ this image is so soft it is unlikely to lead a gentleman’s pencil and are the lady readers moved to moistness, I doubt it. Will anyone, apart from Mrs. Dentist, admit to buying a copy? Would the World manage to limp along without this publication? I imagine it might.

Carol at 10:06 pm on April 6th, 2012

It would have been more interesting and funnier if Miriam Margoyles was naked under the bedsheet. I reckon she would have been up for it, even if it was to stir things up a bit.

Cora at 2:06 am on April 7th, 2012

Have you seen Jean Kilbourne’s work with her “Killing Me Softly” series? Advertising of passive women and active men starts in childhood!

Alicia Howarth at 6:58 am on April 7th, 2012

The nakedness is depressing. I know of all these actresses and can usually easily recongnise them, but had to read the front cover taglines to realise who they are. The airbrushing and composite work here is awful. Someone has gone to geat lengths to make these 4 appear like they are in bed together, despite it clearly not ‘working’ as an overall concept. They have also gone airbrushing mad rendering them Tussaud’s waxworks rather than 4 women of flesh and blood. One of the many reasons I don’t buy VF.

Sarah at 11:59 am on April 7th, 2012

Victoria, I have heard of you, I think you’re great and I agree 100% with everything you’ve said. Its Dullsville, Arizona. Don’t even get me started on Music videos shown at 8.30 in the morning

Breathless at 1:00 pm on April 7th, 2012

This is sad. And like you say, it’s been done to death. If I’m tired of seeing it why are these ladies not tired of being seen like this?

The Tim at 2:08 pm on April 7th, 2012

Anji: What do you mean ‘If only women’s sexuality could also be about power.’?

I hope you’re not suggesting females should use their sexuality to gain power - explain yourself!

mordantfox at 8:55 pm on April 7th, 2012

Only one leg between the four of ‘em, and a very poor specimen at that. Bring on Page 3 for some proper totty, please!

Jeremy Broun at 9:29 am on April 8th, 2012

Well, isn’t it a bit like university degrees, there are so many around they just become devalued!  I’d far rather have you on the front cover of my ‘Playing Your Hand at Carpentry’ magazine or better still watch you (as I did last night) pitching your wits against Hislop and co. whilst at the same time fancying you like mad which is really why I added my comment.  I didn’t actually read the full blog and the only comment that caught my eye was ‘its so 70’s’ which hit a raw nerve with me as I am an innovator in my creative field and Britain is still living in the 19th Century in my field of passion! My point being we tend to be selective in our opinions! Retro is big business in Britain!
Sorry this is probably completely off the point, but if you are reading this Victoria, a big hug!

Sally Morgan at 2:32 pm on April 8th, 2012

No, I didnt know who you were. I checked out the link from Eye magazines tweet because I was interested in reading a woman’s perspective on using “nakedness” in advertising. After reading your comment here about the Vanity Fair cover, I will have to say I agree with you. I am not against women being sexy OR nude, and it makes me sad too!

Anne Wareham at 5:53 pm on April 9th, 2012

Wouldn’t it have been great if one of them had been flashing underarm hair?

JazBenz at 8:06 pm on April 9th, 2012

Oh Victoria, I <3 you. No worries things WILL get better =)

Marie at 9:38 pm on April 9th, 2012

A few years ago, Rachel McAdams walked out of a Vanity Fair cover shoot when she discovered she was expected to pose nude. I can’t remember who replaced her. Which is double plus good.

bing grips at 9:43 pm on April 9th, 2012

Very well said Victoria, may this be the butterfly that flaps its wings but sadly I very much doubt it. (I came here for the writing by the way, we’re not all like that you know…)

mick at 10:37 pm on April 11th, 2012

it’s an odd fact about this sort of photo that it wouldn’t work at all without the jewellery.

King John II at 11:20 pm on April 12th, 2012

Sadly, I suspect all is not what it seems. Surely, VC can be content with being ’ filthy rich ’ from her various career exploits, rather than having a jealous turn in respect of four youngsters who have agreed to peel off for a photo shoot. Sorry, but I see no other explanation Vicky.

Laura at 8:26 pm on April 13th, 2012

Got here from Ashley Judd but I did just see you on Would I Lie To You and thought you were awesome…. Probably not the most definitive work you’ve ever done, but I’m still glad to see I was right about the awesomeness. This is a great piece. Totally agree - contrasting magazine shoots of men and women really highlights the different ways they are treated by the media, the completely out of control focus on women’s appearance above any other accomplishments. It makes me sad as well.

Feliks Kwiatkowski at 6:50 pm on April 15th, 2012

Nothing to do with your blog post whatsoever! I have just been listening to you on Radio 4, which served to confirm my pre-existing opinion that you are magnificent.

Alan at 11:53 pm on April 16th, 2012

My Lord, that Robert Pattinson cover! In 2012! Really? How is that sexy? He’s not dirty or sweating; it looks like he’s just come out of shoot.

Why must men be constantly portrayed in this action hero style. Because no matter their achievements in acting or anything else they are just there to fulfill some macho fantasy cliche.

No point having him doing something more gentle or nurturing? Or using his brain perhaps - yeah, men have brains too! But he’s just a ‘guy’ I guess, so stick him outdoors in a crisp shirt and wrap a crocodile round his shoulders.

And what have they done with Drogba and Ronaldo? Kit off and grinning. Photoshopped to within an inch of their lives and without even the courage to suggest they’ve been caught unawares in a homosexual clinch.

For shame!

Amanda B at 9:47 am on April 18th, 2012

Nicely put Victoria. Not original and not striking -doesn’t make you stop and go WOW! I guess these pictures must sell though - the only way things will change is if we don’t buy the crap they print! That goes for all publications -magazines and ‘news’papers.

Robert at 3:25 pm on June 5th, 2012

I agree.

But you should do a shoot with Mistress Sidonia - your like twins. Thought it was you until heard her voice…, unless your that good an actress..

Tom Riley at 5:09 pm on March 13th, 2013

Completely agree with you. Poor Michelle Dockery looks like she’s turned up for a snooker lesson and forgotten her clothes.
I think hsrd cash is the depressing answer.

Victoria Coren

News: September 2017

September 7th is a big day!

Click here to read more »

Switch Theme

Click here to change colour scheme

RSS Feed

Subscribe to the RSS feed here