Vanity Fair Late Night Cover Draws Critical Reactions

September 15th 2015

Laura Donovan

Vanity Fair just released its October 2015 feature on late night hosts, and many expressed outrage over the fact that the cover image includes only men.

As ATTN: has previously noted, the comedy world has faced repeated criticism for lacking female late-night hosts. Last year, "The Tonight Show" announced Jimmy Fallon would replace longtime host Jay Leno; this year, "The Daily Show" announced Trevor Noah would be taking over for Jon Stewart, who hosted the show for 16 years after Craig Kilborn left in the late 1990s. Colbert took over "Late Show" in replacement of David Letterman last week.

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The article itself highlights this issue, with writer David Kamp noting:

"What’s conspicuously missing from late-night, still, is women. How gobsmackingly insane is it that no TV network has had the common sense—and that’s all we’re talking about in 2015, not courage, bravery, or even decency—to hand over the reins of an existing late-night comedy program to a female person? While Amy Schumer has acknowledged that she turned down The Daily Show, happy where she is at Comedy Central, that doesn’t mitigate the fact that Chelsea Peretti, Megan Amram, and Jen Kirkman, to name but three contenders, are alive, sentient, funny, and presumably open to taking a meeting... Fortunately, comedic redress is on its way, in the form of two new shows created from scratch, Samantha Bee’s for TBS and Chelsea Handler’s for Netflix. (Both shows are due in 2016.) Two female hosts plus the 10 men featured here is still a long way from a late-night that truly looks like America. But the next version of this story’s opening picture will be that much brighter."

Regardless of this acknowledgement, Samantha Bee, a former "Daily Show" correspondent and the host of her upcoming satirical news show "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee," had a powerful response to the image. Here is what Bee and a slew of others had to say about the piece:

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Last month, "Late Show" host Stephen Colbert wrote in a column for Glamour that he was going to use his new program to give proper representation to women, adding that late night shows are a boys club and he can't figure out why our culture has not evolved beyond that yet.

"[W]hile I'm happy to have a job, I am surprised that the world of late-night TV lacks a female presence, unlike sitcoms, which are packed with smoking-hot wives who teach their doughy husband a valuable lesson when he slips on a pizza and falls headfirst into a porta-potty full of beer. While there are many talented female comedians out there, right now the world of late-night is a bit of a sausagefest. Perhaps one day it will be just the opposite—which I believe is called a Georgia O'Keeffe retrospective."

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In the spring, comedian Amy Schumer mocked how women are sexualized and conditioned to behave on late night shows in an "Insider Amy Schumer" skit. During the segment, Schumer portrays an actress named Amy Lake Blively who acts dumb and also has to put up with perverted comments and actions from the male late night host and the men in the audience.

Vanity Fair's other controversies

This is far from the first time Vanity Fair has come under fire for its lack of diversity. In March 2010, the publication's "New Hollywood" cover was criticized for only featuring white women.

"Were there no promising young actors of color who could have been featured in either issue?" Yahoo! Shine writer Joanna Douglas noted at the time. "[S]urely [Oscar nominee Gabourey] Sidibe, Zoe Saldana of ‘Avatar’ and ‘Star Trek,’ and Freida Pinto of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ are having their moment.”

Vanity Fair's 2012 Hollywood issue had two women of color on the cover, but many felt this was not enough since the majority of the other females featured are white and the two women of color were "obscured on the two thirds hidden from the newsstand view," as pointed out by the Daily Beast.

"The ladies on the power panel — the left third, aka the actual newsstand cover — are Rooney Mara, Mia Wasikowska, Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain," wrote Jezebel's Dodai Stewart. "Pariah's Adepero Oduye and Mission Impossible's Paula Patton are the only two ladies of color, and they are not on the power panel, but on the right two-thirds of the cover, which is folded up and tucked away when on newsstands."