The matter of who graces the latest cover of magazines like Vanity Fair is hardly life-altering or earth-shattering. That said, the magazine certainly boasts news-making gravitas. Remember last year, when Bruce Jenner made the cover debuting as Caitlyn? It’s certainly still trying to influence the public sphere in terms of fashion, politics, culture, and Hollywood.
If Vanity Fair is a case study of the intersection between what’s important and what’s interesting, this month’s cover featuring Amy Schumer demonstrates neither.
In the past year, Vanity Fair has issued a veritable range of celebrity covers, ranging from Caitlyn Jenner to Fox News’ Megyn Kelly to this month’s, comedian Amy Schumer. While I’m somewhere between rolling my eyes at the choice of Jenner and applauding Kelly, I feel downright loathsome at the thought of seeing Schumer within view while in my grocer’s checkout line for the next month.
Grant it, Schumer is in vogue among my generation. She has a sense of humor many people enjoy, her Comedy Central show “Inside Amy Schumer” is popular, and so was the movie in which she wrote and starred, “Trainwreck.” Personally I don’t care for comedy in her style, but that’s not why I think she’s a bad choice for Vanity Fair.
Amy Schumer: Not So Awesome
First, Schumer is a self-identified slut, as that linked 2009 screenshot shows. Remember last year’s sexually suggestive yet bizarre GQ Star Wars mashup? She presented a special a few days ago on Comedy Central: “Rachel Feinstein: Only Whores Wear Purple.” And in one of the photos from the Vanity Fair shoot, Schumer is wearing nothing but a T-shirt, and her nether regions are “on fire.” This is one of photos from the Vanity Fair issue. Keepin’ it classy, eh?
Yet when a fan and young comedian posted a photo of her with a joke about her known ideals, she responded with stinging criticism, unable to laugh at the joke at her expense.
Second, Schumer is not that funny or original. Several comedians have accused her of stealing their jokes, which she denies, and others think many of her jokes are racist. Of course, the bar is a bit lower for a comedian—I mean, can’t we all just take a joke?—and to an extent I get that, but does it mean she should be lauded as a role model?
Critics and Fans
Still, she has a fanbase, especially in the press. USA Today: Schumer has “figured out the formula for being famous and funny”; Huffington Post: Schumer’s “red-hot”; and Cosmopolitan are all raving about her Vanity Fair cover shoot. When her show “Inside Amy Schumer” returned for a third season last year, it did with about a million viewers. That was its smallest opening yet, but clearly she has fans.
While Schumer is undoubtedly funny and talented, a lot of her work seems like the same old bullshit being sold to us in glossy feminist packaging. It seems like people are quick to turn a blind eye to Schumer’s more troublesome work because she’s one of the ‘good’ ones. But how good can a comedian be when they’re using their platform to punch down? Of course, everyone is flawed and no one is perfect, but not making racist jokes is pretty basic. And the same goes for perpetuating harmful stereotypes about women.
Not Least, Amy Schumer Is No Role Model
While standards for comedians may differ, and rightfully so, from the usual Hollywood pack of inspirational and talented, surely we haven’t yet reached a place where anything goes, where we applaud anyone for…anything? Schumer lacks purpose and direction, and her priorities fail to represent those a role model should embrace and exemplify.
As Schumer told Vanity Fair regarding her shoot. “I begged Annie to photograph me with no underwear on in just a T-shirt. I explained to her how important it was to me and she finally agreed. I felt powerful and beautiful. She understood once we shot it. Or maybe she ran to the bathroom to throw up. It was one of the most meaningful moments of my life.”
It’s likely Schumer was speaking tongue in cheek, but if not, being photographed naked (with your private parts Photoshopped later to look like they are on fire) is hardly a noteworthy or aspirational event. Showing off your cooch for the world to see isn’t brave, it’s trampy. It doesn’t model boldness and bravery, but instead seems desperate and vapid.
In her comedy routines, film, and photo shoots, Schumer has fully embraced a form of feminism that is neither convincing, powerful, interesting, nor empowering. Somehow Hollywood and magazines like Vanity Fair have devolved into thinking that being edgy, crude, tasteless, trampy and narcissistic are valuable traits that women, especially younger women, should admire. That’s patently absurd and will have negative consequences for women in future generations who aspire to be funny and famous.