The Lookout

Magazine defends putting Michelle Williams in ‘redface’

Dylan Stableford, Yahoo News
The Lookout

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Michelle Williams (AnOther Magazine)

A British fashion magazine under fire from critics for putting Oscar-nominated actress Michelle Williams in "redface" in its current issue is defending the decision.

"While we recognize the seriousness of this debate, the image in question in no way intends to mimic, trivialize or stereotype any particular ethnic group or culture, as recent reports suggest," AnOther magazine said in a statement to Yahoo News.

The image, seen above, is "one of a suite of images taken from inside the magazine, presenting Ms. Williams in a series of eight different imaginary characters," the statement explained. It went on to say:

All the characters in the story were inspired by multiple fashion and cultural references, characters and eras, as well as by our admiration of Ms. Williams as one of the most respected and talented actresses of her generation.

While we dispute the suggestion that the image has a racist subtext in the strongest possible terms, we're mortified to think that anyone would interpret it in this way.

Williams wears what appears to be Native American garb (flannel shirt, braided wig, feathers) on an alternative cover the biannual fashion and culture publication produced for its spring-summer issue. While the image is black and white, Williams, who stars in "Oz The Great and Powerful," appears to be wearing "redface." (The main cover features Williams wearing a white wig, veil and "Army Athletic Dept." sweatshirt.)

According to AnOther, Williams was "transform[ed] into eight imaginary characters" by photographer Willy Vanderperre and stylist Olivier Rizzo for a cover shoot inspired by the issue's theme, "There's No Place Like Home."

[Related: Magazine takes heat for putting Michelle Williams in ‘redface’]

"Now I've really seen it all," Ruth Hopkins wrote on Jezebel.com. "Are they endeavoring to capture the spirit of the American Indian Movement circa 1973? Is this an ad for the Native American Rights Fund or the American Indian College Fund? Nope. It's a 33-year-old white actress hyping her latest Hollywood project by wearing a cheap costume designed to make her look like she's the member of another race."

The cover photo is "shocking," Lexi Nisita wrote on the website Refinery29.com, but the coverline—"There's No Place Like Home"—is equally problematic:

[It's] actually very pointed in this instance, given the fact that thousands of Native Americans were forcefully ousted from their homes (not to mention slaughtered and denied full rights of citizenship) when European settlers came to this continent. The line is, of course, a reference to Ms. Williams' recent role in Oz The Great And Powerful, but if that's all they meant, they should have just dressed her up as Dorothy.

What's more, the film, Nisita noted, is based on the novels of L. Frank Baum, "an outspoken racist who called for the literal 'annihilation' of Native Americans in an editorial for the newspaper where he worked in December of 1890, just days before the Wounded Knee Massacre."

The cover "should be pulled," Hopkins added, "and all parties involved owe the American Indian community an apology."

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