LeBron James = King Kong?
I saw the cover of the “shape” issue of Vogue magazine, which features model Gisele Bündchen and LeBron James as examples for the story “Secrets of the Best Bodies.”
Initially confused after seeing the cover, I had to read an article by Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock to grasp how one could consider the cover racist.
As Whitlock wrote, the cover came under scrutiny for presenting James “like King Kong clutching Fay Wray” while invoking an “idea of a dangerous black man.”
Maybe I was blinded by my adoration of Gisele’s pretty dress and LeBron’s hot tatts, but at first glance, I didn’t notice the King Kong-distressed damsel pose the duo assertedly formed.
It’s likely the reason LeBron ended up allegedly posing like an overpowering, frightening, so-called gorilla is because Vogue wanted to show the differences between his body type and Gisele’s – he is obviously more robust and more menacing as a powerful basketball player than she is as a waif model.
And it could have easily been her brawny boyfriend Tom Brady on the cover, holding her up in the same way, and with the same faux-fierce look on his face . but no one likes him.
LeBron is talented and popular; it’s just a coincidence that he’s dark-skinned.
It’s doubtful LeBron was asked to pose in such a way with negative implications, and that Vogue had such intentions, especially if LeBron went with it (and he did with gusto, from the looks of it).
Then again, unintentional as it may have been, it still seems something else is at play.
Dr. Jane Lehr, an ethnic studies assistant professor at Cal Poly, said many ethnic studies scholars study how black men are portrayed in sports and athletic representations.
“Both photographic representations and sport – including participation, prestige, rules, images, commentary, news, et cetera – are shaped by the complex history and contemporary practices of race in the United States,” she said.
Lehr referenced the 2007 article “The Construction of Black Masculinity: White Supremacy Now and Then” by Abby L. Ferber, associate professor of sociology and director of women’s studies at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
“Abby Ferber suggests, via an analysis of the NBA and NFL, that black male bodies are represented as ‘inherently aggressive, hypersexual and violent’ and as needing to be ‘tamed and controlled’ within images of, and commentary and news about sport, whereas white players succeed because they are ‘smart,’ ” she said.
Such representations of black men, in addition to admiration and worship of them as athletes, actually reinforces the notions of white supremacy and white male superiority, she added; thus, “within this context, it does make sense to ask critical questions about the Vogue magazine cover.”
Whitlock, of course, is no stranger to identifying and attacking supposed instances of racism. For instance, in his column entitled “The haters can’t handle the truth,” he condemns current criticism of American basketball as racist.
As we consider the offense the magazine cover may cause, does it matter that Whitlock is black?
Given the range of people voicing an outcry, race per se doesn’t matter so much as the history and experiences that contribute to people’s mindsets and worldviews, leading them to see racism and other forms of oppression where others don’t.
While those involved in creating the magazine cover may have been a little too creative, others instead have unfortunately managed to find cruelty and hate because of what they know, what they have discerned of the past and what their experiences have been.
Some people even find the cover to be sexist. Maybe it’s the same situation there.
I may be na’ve, but if you ask me, it just looks like LeBron and Gisele are having fun gaining fame and money – which has nothing to do with race. Or gender.
However, it’s important to take note of the effects pieces of art or commentary may have on anyone, no matter what contributes to individual perceptions. Emotions and thoughts are what they are despite the intentions behind their instigators.
Sara Wright is a Mustang Daily reporter and a journalism senior.