Monday, March 17, 2003

March Is the Month of the Prominent Crotch
You might already know that March is Women's History Month. And if you read advertising circulars in the Sunday newspaper, you might also know that March is Frozen Food Month. But if you take some time to flip through the March 2003 issue of Interview magazine, it quickly becomes clear that March is also the Month of the Prominent Crotch. Let's spread ourselves out and take a look, shall we?

Not too far into the book, we come across a two-page Prada spread. Here, a male model wearing an awkward knit sweater, lei, and almost-tartan skirt ensemble raises his left knee to the sky and bunches his eyebrows forward in a glower as if to say, "Look at me! You lookin' at me?" A mere eight pages later, we have a two-page Donna Karan spread in which a well-dressed and high-heeled model with no undershirt demurely knocks her knees while she reads what appears to be an academic journal or book of scientific abstracts. This is perhaps the most tasteful and teasing shot of the crotch in this issue, softcore for randy R&D kids.

On the following page, an oiled-up Dior model flashes the swell of her breast while swooning against a blood-red rubber wall, clutching at her pelvic region with the hand not holding her steady. Eyes closed and lips parted, the model seems to be losing consciousness: "I should eat," she thinks. Six more pages in, Dolce & Gabbana goes ga-ga glancing at a full-frontal crotch shot of a woman spreading her legs for a handheld video camera. Surrounded by no fewer than 10 monitors and two cameras, this is self-mediated crotch prominence at its best. Another showing swell of breast hints that this model is much more than just a crotch. Let's not pigeonhole these people, please.

On p. 70, a 1990 Herb Ritts photograph shows Madonna clutching at her crotch, indicating that the crotch knows no class boundaries. Everyone's got a crotch. P. 77 sports a Matthew Barney advertisement in which a pale-skinned, bee-hived model spreads her legs for the camera's eye too, demurely and delicately crossing her unringed and uncalloused hands in front of her bared crotch. "Don't go there! Oh, whatever, come on," her eyes seem to beckon tiredly. On p. 94, a slightly out-of-focus tennis ball hovers in front of -- and partially obscuring -- Buddhist athlete Paradorn Srichaphan's crotch. A Bebe advert on p. 109 displays another full-frontal crotch shot. And on p. 167, a fashion shoot by Kelly Klein highlights yet another full-frontal, spread-legged male crotch rocket. Clad in a silk robe, our near-prone hero has dangled a string of pearls over his midriff. "Barbara Bush has got nothing on me."

But it is the Gucci ad placed just one page before the magazine's masthead that has brows a-sweating, angry pens a-writing, and tongues a-wagging. It is also this advert that successfully secures March's position as the Month of the Prominent Crotch. The Guardian has yawned at the ad's daring and slightly dangerous display of pubic hair shaved into the shape of a capital "g." MarketingWeb's Kim Penstone has asked whether Gucci has gone too far. And Adland has also addressed the controversy surrounding the ad.

It's interesting that this advert hit the stands just before wannabe Boston brahmin began to bawl about a barely bawdlerized FCUK advert insert in the Boston Globe this Sunday. In today's newspaper, the Globe's ombudsman -- or woman, as the case may be -- Christine Chinlund takes it on the chin and collapses under the weight of reader complaint faster than any of the lingerie-clad models would have fallen for one of their male (or female) counterparts. I have no problem with FCUK's naming or branding strategy -- as long as they fess up to the value and vigor of the probable pun.

But Gucci. Whither Gucci? When I first heard about the ad, I was shocked. Shocked. Pubic hair on parade in a newsstand magazine? Then I saw the ad. And you know what? I have no problems with it whatsover. It's hardly titillating, and the male model kneeling before the G-shaved girly girl seems more bemused and confused than aroused. There's little sense of what comes next. So the fantasy hangs in the air and we are left to turn the page and our attention elsewhere -- and to other prominent crotches. Counter to Chinlund's unnecessary concession that the Boston Globe is a family publication -- what daily newspaper shouldn't strive to be so? -- Interview has no such limitation. While a pale shadow of what I think Andy Warhol envisioned, Interview is quite similar to the previous iteration of Details magazine, a periodical focusing on gloss, fashion, and celebrities -- all the while embracing an intriguing queer angle to everything it does.

I think instituting March as the Month of the Prominent Crotch is a fine idea. And I salute Interview for holding the banner so high. Because that way, we can see people's pelvises more prominently.

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