Vice's female suicide fashion shoot is 'cynical bid for clicks'

Jun 18, 2013

Hipster magazine publishes 'tasteless' spread recreating suicides of famous female authors

EDITOR'S NOTE: Since this story was published Vice has taken down their 'Last Words' article.

STYLE magazine Vice has produced a "breathtakingly tasteless" fashion shoot that recreates the suicides of famous female authors.

The spread in the latest edition of the magazine uses models to re-stage the deaths of Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Dorothy Parker, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, San Mao, historian Iris Chang and Beat poet Elise Cowen. Each photograph in the Last Words shoot is accompanied by the author's name, the date and cause of her death and details of the clothes she's wearing.

The Taiwanese author San Mao, who killed herself in 1991 by hanging herself with a pair of stockings, is pictured with her head in an improvised noose.

"Vice includes a fashion credit for the tights," observes Jenna Sauers in Jezebel. "Just in case you want to go buy the same ones, I guess?"

Sauers says it is "particularly distressing" that some of the women depicted in the spread died relatively recently. For example, Chang, who killed herself in November, 2004, is portrayed sitting in a car pointing a revolver at her mouth.

Poet Elise Cowen, who died after jumping out of a window, is shown "lying prostrate on the sidewalk". The model portraying novelist and poet Sylvia Plath is kneeling in front of a gas oven.

In an essay for Salon, journalist Michele Filgate wrote: "Art can and at times should be provocative – there's no doubt about that. Yet this isn't art. This is an editorial decision to get more pageviews."

Filgate says it isn't clear what Vice is trying to communicate with its spread except that "it is desperate for attention".

The Guardian points out that Vice's grasp on history may not be as firm as its grip on the latest fashion trends. Parker, who died of a heart attack at 73, didn't commit suicide.

Caitlin Moran, a columnist with The Times, tweeted: "In the interest of balancing Vice's 'female writers commit suicide' fashion shoot, I'd Iike to report I'm eating breakfast & am immortal."

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