Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way let’s get down to it. Lebron James is the first black man to ever grace the cover of Vogue magazine. He shared the cover with tom Brady’s walking MVP trophy, supermodel Gisele Bundchen. (I just objectified her didn’t I?) King James is only the third male to appear on the cover ever. Under most circumstances black folk would say “Way to go Lebron.”
In fact many did. That was until this article was posted on ESPN.com http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=hill/080320&sportCat=nba The article was written by Jemele Hill who is a black woman that I think should get more face time on ESPN because she is obviously a lot more talented than some of the men who work of the network. (Skip Bayless and Jim Rome comes to mind.) The premise of Hill’s article was set up with these three paragraphs:
“LeBron’s image clearly means a lot to him, maybe even as much as pursuing a championship. And that’s why I can’t understand why he would allow Vogue to feature him with supermodel Gisele Bundchen in such a distasteful manner.
In case you haven’t seen the cover, LeBron has Gisele in one hand and a basketball in the other. LeBron is dressed in basketball gear, with his muscles flexing, tattoos showing and bared teeth. Gisele, on the other hand, is wearing a gorgeous slim-fitting dress, and smiling.
She looks like she’s on her way to something fashionable and exciting. He looks like he’s on his way to a pickup game for serial killers.”
Serial Killers? Tattoos make you a serial killer? Hill missed the point of the cover by a damn mile with this article. She all but stated that the picture conjures images that have plagued men of my ilk every sense we arrived in the Diaspora (I love that word.) Think of it as Birth of a Nation Version 8.0. The thuggery, the tattoos, the muscles, and the white women are or are not what Middle America thinks of when they see a black athlete.
During the course of the day I have my pro-black and afro-centric moments, but this is just reaching. Of all of the images I’ve seen of black athletes in the past 10 years this may be one of the more benign. Hill on the other hand saw this image of the hyper-sexual black male that stalks urban jungle, and rural areas around the planet. Spreading his seed as irresponsibly as possible to any woman he sees, especially white ones!
Just like my afro-centric moments I have just as many “BWTF?” (Translation Bo, what in the fuck?) moments too. Reading this article and then listening to the various discussions caused by said article causes one of those aforementioned “BWTF?” moments. I read the article twice for posterity then I thought to myself, “Has Jemele Hill been possessed by Uncle Ruckus or Stanley Crouch?
In the past I’ve read a lot more into things than they actually may be (Hell, I still think the Wolverine and Spiderman are analogies for the average man trudging the face of the Earth but then again I think too much from time to time.) So I’m not going to knock Jemele Hill for her opinion on this cover. My main problem is that I think Hill missed the very conspicuous point of the cover article.
The magazine specifically says on the cover:
Secrets of the Best Bodies. Gisele & Lebron + The
World’s Top Models and Athletes.”
Hmm… me thinks Ms. Hill overlooked a few things. First of all, this is the “Shape Issue” meaning that it is a tribute two specific groups of people’s bodies: Models and Athletes.
Last time I check models like Gisele got big bucks for showing off their bodies. This is often done in one of those “gorgeous, slim-fitting dresses” that Hill mentioned. Lebron on the other hand is an athlete. A basketball player to be exact. So what do basketball players usually wear? Sleeve-less shirts and shorts that just like Gisele’s dress just happens to show off Lebron’s body.
So my question is a simple one: Is this cover projecting Lebron as a muscle-bound, big-lipped, sex machine who is out to vanquish the pretty white girl or is he just flexing to show off his shape in “The Shape” issue? Please let me know what you think.
I’ll leave you with a two final questions: If this were a picture of David Beckham or Tom Brady doing the same thing to Beyonce or Gabrielle Union would that same picture be seen as just another example of white-male hegemony and imperialism? (I.e. the world is mine and I shall have every thing in it.) Or is it just two beautiful people posing for a picture that is relevant to the article that it accompanies?
Please let me know. I want a real discussion with this one.
Y’all have a good weekend. Now talk amongst yourselves © Barbara Richardson.