April 26, 2005

Your Turn: Mssing Identity

Ms1        Ms2

In one of those conflicts that becomes a “last straw,” Ms. Magazine Editor-in-Chief Elaine Lafferty resigned from the publication after a debate over a cover design.  Ms. Lafferty was planning on running the version on the left this month.  The “powers that be” overruled her, however, resulting in the final newsstand version on the right.

Alternet has a good summary covering the magazine’s history; Ms. Lafferty’s stewardship over the past two years; and the drama surrounding this cover.  The departure seems unfortunate, considering the magazine had been on the upswing.  The quality had improved, it had recently won some awards, and it’s popularity was also on the rise. 

From what is known of the falling out, it seems ownership felt that the publication was growing too commercial, too “sexy” and overly “fluffy.”  On the other side, Ms. Lafferty intimated that the owners suffer from a definition of feminism that is overly narrow and dogmatic.

For the BAG’s purposes, I’m wondering how you analyze these two covers, particularly the one that got nixed. 

There are some good elements to work with here.  You have the curves and the apron and the tank top; the black versus the red — and white; the specific dynamic of the “Desperate Housewives” logo (they altered it in the second version, supposedly to avoid copyright problems); the body language, including the interesting hand positioning and, of course, the parts that are cut off; and, the black type in a slightly triangular shape in a particularly suggestive location.

If I had to mention just one element that stood out for me, it would be the way the matching white type on the revised cover creates a link between “Ms.” and the word “DESPERATE.”  It could be random, an unconscious plea or even someone’s surreptitious editorial comment.

What else are you picking up?

(larger version of left cover here)

(images: New York ObserverApril 4, 2005, page 1)

Post By

Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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