Link: American Apparel Offers XL Sleaze

14 Sep

No, I have not be terribly diligent about Delicious.  But I did bookmark a few fantastic posts which I’ll share with you now!

Autumn for The Beheld: Too Close For Comfort: Plus-Size Satire

The Beheld is a semi-recent blog discovery for me, and I’m loving it.  This post fingers exactly what bothered me about Nancy Upton’s submissions to the American Apparel “Next BIG Thing” contest.

Here’s what happened: American Apparel decided to start offering “plus sizes” (which, like so many things, aren’t really plus sizes), and then started a contest for fat models that employed really shitty language, like calling fat ladies “bootylicious” (though I’m sure “bootylicious” only applies to women with hips – not actual superfat women like me).  Jezebel gives a pretty good description of the whole contest.

And so Nancy Upton, upset about the contest, took pictures of herself stuffing her fat face with food and stuff as a statement of protest.  And she won.

Here’s what Autumn says:

In short: Upton’s collection resembles what American Apparel might very well do in a plus-size photo shoot if left to their own devices. I’ve no doubt that if Upton had submitted the exact same photos but had sincere, not subversive, intent, her photos would be featured in their advertisements. When I first saw the shots, I recognized the nod to performance art but since it was presumably aimed toward getting a contract with American Apparel, I didn’t consider the notion that it was satire. (Thanks to reader Anna, who pointed me toward Jezebel’s interview with Upton and better informed me on the matter than when I mentioned it in my roundup last week.)

These provocative photos beg questions larger than I’m qualified to tackle: How much does the creator’s intent matter in art? If you have to know the background in order to spot the subversion, can it be effective? If the goal is to raise awareness of an issue and the only people who get the joke are already informed, have you succeeded in your goal?

Though now that it’s become apparent that, though she won the contest, American Apparel has decided not to give her the job, I feel that the issue is a little more complicated… and there’s also some poetic justice here.  Upton succeeded in coming out a hero, and making American Apparel look like an asshole.  I mean, you couldn’t really expect the company to choose her as a representative after how critical she’d been, but the fact that they didn’t even though she won fair and square?  That offers some startling validity to the performance piece, and makes the whole thing work.


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