The Cutline

Tina Brown defends photoshopping Princess Di onto Newsweek cover

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One of the reasons Tina Brown and Barry Diller acquired Newsweek and its substantial debt earlier this year was desire of Brown--former editor of Vanity Fair and the New Yorker--to be part of what she calls "the conversation." This week, she not only took part in the conversation; she became a good bit of it.

Brown photoshopped the late Princess Diana onto the July 4 cover of Newsweek next to Kate Middleton, and the accompanying cover story by Brown imagines what the people's princess, who would've turned 50 on July 1, would have been like had she lived. Inside, there's another photo illustration of a resurrected Diana clutching an iPhone.

In other words, pure fan fiction.

Brown, who authored the 2007 biography "The Diana Chronicles," writes:

After Diana's death, nine years after the car crash in the Paris tunnel, I attended a ball at Althorp, her ancestral home in the English county of Northamptonshire. The party was hosted, improbably, by Mikhail Gorbachev (with Tatler magazine) to raise money for his late wife's foundation. The crowd partying in the tent that night was Diana's crowd—the London über-swirl of fashion and society and media. Had she been there, Diana would have lit up the gathering with her radiant blondeness.

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What would she have been like? Still great-looking: that's a given. Her mother, Frances Shand Kydd, with her cornflower-blue eyes and striding sexuality, was a handsome woman to the very end. Fashionwise, Diana would have gone the J.Crew and Galliano route à la Michelle Obama, always knowing how to mix the casual with the glam. There is no doubt she would have kept her chin taut with strategic Botox shots and her bare arms buff from the gym. Remarriage? At least two, I suspect, on both sides of the Atlantic.

And of William's courtship of Kate?

How would Diana have handled her son's steadfast affection for a woman other than herself? The rising public adoration of Kate would have afforded Diana some tricky moments. Pleased, yes. But, like Frances Shand Kydd—who, days before Diana's wedding, suddenly burst out, "I have good long legs, like my daughter"—Diana would have had to adjust to a broadening of the limelight. Her edge over Kate, of course, was her own epic of princessly suffering, which would always make Diana's story more interesting.

Later, Brown suggests Diana would have "ostentatiously made Carole Middleton, Kate's dynamic mother, her new BFF."

Newsweek even created a fake Facebook page and Twitter account in the magazine for the late Princess of Wales. Among her 107,623 Facebook friends: Camilla Parker Bowles ("Prince Charles likes this"). Sample status update: "Sitting with Beckhams front row at Burberry. Love the shoes!"

The reaction to Brown's stunt, as you might expect, has been loud and overwhelmingly negative.

"How creepy is Princess Diana's ghost on the cover of Newsweek?" the Atlantic Wire's Adam Clark Estes asked in a blog post.

"Answer: Very!" Jezebel's Dodai Stewart replied.

Media critics aside, Brown is getting killed in the comments section, too.

What a great steaming pile of cack this so-called article was.

This is completely offensive and inappropriate. Newsweek needs to learn to respect the dead, not exploit them. Newsweek truly needs to learn about ethics and morals.

Tina Brown wasn't a true "friend" to Diana. More like a gossiping, self-serving leech. This absurd article by Brown is almost as bad as the Newsweek cover! Tasteless, self-serving, fantasy by Tina Brown.

Newsweek now competes with the National Enquirer...who would have thought? You have sunk to a new level, and it is not a good one. I feel ashamed to even admit that I once read your magazine.

Christ's soupy beard, it must be a slow week for news.

This whole piece is sick and wrong. I wish I could say I was shocked that Newsweek would publish something like this, but I'm not. Newsweek doesn't exist anymore. ... This twisted speculation about who Diana would be at 50 is incredibly insulting. And having a fake Facebook page where she is posting to her son? My god, it is just tasteless and shameful. I didn't think Newsweek could sink lower after actually putting the irrelevant Olsen twins on the cover, but they have. I'm canceling my subscription to what used to be one of my "must read" magazines. If I want this sort of trash, I'll go buy the National Enquirer. If I want what Newsweek used to be, I'll subscribe to Time.

Morbid, distasteful, and beyond tacky. Newsweek is truly an embarrassment and Ms. Brown is a has-been. Fork=done.

Brown's response to the criticism?

"We wanted to bring the memory of Diana alive in a vivid image that transcends time," she said in a statement given to The Cutline, "and reflected my piece."

Worth noting that Brown wasn't the only one to bring Di back from the dead for the sake of literature--and sales. In a book--reviewed by the New York Times on Sunday--Monica Ali had Diana faking her own death and living in the Midwest.

On MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Brown added: "I wanted to make her a time traveler."

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