Vice is no stranger to controversy -- in fact, the brand prides itself on courting that very beast. In its recently released Summer Fiction Issue, the magazine ran a fashion shoot devoted to legendary female writers... wait for it... who committed suicide.
The striking images feature re-stagings of famous suicides: Virginia Woolf's, Sylvia Plath's and five others. Models pose provocatively in front of open ovens, wading into water, guns cocked and pointed at their mouths. The photo captions list each depicted author's name, age, place of birth, place of death and manner of suicide. As the New York Observer points out, "no mention, however, is made of the work that made these women famous." Commenters were, as one might imagine, offended by the images. One comment, for example:
Suicide is not funny or sexy or to be made light of. Ever. Ever. This is sickening and in unbelievably poor taste. Shame on everyone who participated in this disgusting ad, or whatever the f*ck this is supposed to promote.
Vice issued a retraction online after pulling the images from their website, insisting that authors' lives were supposed to be the shoot's main focus, not the designer clothing by the likes of Issa and Jenni Kayne:
The fashion spreads in VICE Magazine are always unconventional and approached with an art editorial point-of-view rather than a typical fashion photo-editorial one. Our main goal is to create artful images, with the fashion message following, rather than leading.
"Last Words" was created in this tradition and focused on the demise of a set of writers whose lives we very much wish weren’t cut tragically short, especially at their own hands. We will no longer display "Last Words" on our website and apologize to anyone who was hurt or offended.
Now the retraction itself has sparked debate among critics. Vice's mea culpa reads more like an apology that the reader was offended, not an apology for creating the offensive content in the first place.
We shouldn't be all too surprised, as the magazine is notorious for its outlandish ideas -- and for standing behind them. Click over to Jezebel to view more of the shocking spread or check it out in the print magazine.
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