I’m usually a fan of the cover illustrations for The New Yorker. When you’re scanning hundreds of magazines at Borders, the typical close-up photographic portraits and nondescript graphics blend together like grazing zebras. It’s a welcome relief when your eyes land on a colorful, witty illustration that slyly satirizes a recent event or general idea. There’s something both charmingly sophisticated and coffee shop cool about using cover art the way The New Yorker does.
So I was disappointed when I came upon the news (via The Millions) that the magazine had bumped a beautiful and touching rendering of New Orleans:
Instead, they used a trendy, unoriginal joke about Dick Cheney’s hunting mishap:
According to the artist, Bill Joyce, the magazine had approached him, a Louisiana native who still lives there, to do both a cover illustration and a story about New Orleans post-Katrina. The editors then decided to go with the Cheney story, not only replacing Joyce’s cover but also completely dropping his story as well.[ADBLOCKHERE]This is disappointing for two reasons. First, by the time this issue hit the stands, the hunting story had already been written about, blogged about, and talked about everywhere, from network news to late-night talk shows to online editorials. The New Yorker, jumping on the political bandwagon a little late, hopefully has a new perspective worthy of coverage and yes, last-minute decisions like this are made all the time in the publishing world. But did they have to drop the New Orleans story altogether even if it wasn’t the cover?
Secondly, while this isn’t a terrible cover (out of context, it’s actually kind of funny), it does feel dated and, worse, uncreative. How come a highly esteemed publication such as The New Yorker can only think to make yet another Brokeback Mountain reference/joke? There’s already been about, oh, three million Brokeback jokes made in the media, from late-night monologues to dozens of homemade parodies. Plus, as this blog explains, the magazine already did a Cheney-and-Bush-as-gay-lovers cover a few months ago. Expired, over-saturated topic plus expired, over-saturated cover equals an oversight on the part of the editors.
Conversely, Joyce’s colorful cover manages to be both haunting and hopeful, conveying pride in the face of disaster. Even though media bigwigs like Anderson Cooper and Oprah have done Katrina follow-up stories, a behind-the-scenes look from a resident would have been an interesting, enlightening piece about not just the recovery process itself, but how it’s being perceived by those still living there. It seems especially relevant now as they head into their first Mardi Gras post-hurricane.
As Joyce himself says, “I really had hoped that compassion would win out over clever. Mr. Cheney’s friend is thankfully alive. Meanwhile, we’re still finding bodies in New Orleans.”Powered by Sidelines