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70 years of controversial magazine covers
September 23, 2009 1:35 PM   Subscribe

70 years of controversial magazine covers.
posted by Matthias Rascher (70 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
That camel-humping cover is awsome. I love that the Economist has a sixth-grade sense of humor with its covers.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:40 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


This cover and photo shoot sacrificed People’s editorial soul for a first shot at the Brangelina twins. Instead of their usual journalistic even-handed approach, they seemingly acquiesced to the couple’s need for nothing but positive coverage in order to get a scoop on the rest of the world with the first baby pictures.

Can't. Stop. Laughing.
posted by Paid In Full at 1:42 PM on September 23, 2009 [16 favorites]


Checklist for quote-endquote controversial covers:

1) Nudity and/or sexual themes

2) Threat of violence

3) Blasphemy

4) Racism

5) A head-shot on a Time cover that covers up part of the M so that it looks like you have devil horns
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:46 PM on September 23, 2009 [7 favorites]


1940-1965 must have been a very boring time for magazine covers.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 1:47 PM on September 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


70 years of controversial magazine covers, A.K.A. Peoples concerns are generally pretty pathetic in retrospect.

Aiiie! Time M Devil horns! Boobies!
posted by Artw at 1:49 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


There are some classic covers here, but I don't see any controversy in, for example, the New Yorker's post 9-11 cover. The Gellar zombie arm is hardly an outstanding example of Photoshop fail. And what was so controversial about Ellen's "Yep, I'm gay" cover?

The National Lampoon dog cover made it to the ASME list of 40 greatest magazine covers of the past 40 years -- as did almost every single one from this list. Wow. How did that happen?
posted by maudlin at 1:51 PM on September 23, 2009


People sure pick dumb shit to get worked up about. Amirite?
posted by Joe Beese at 1:52 PM on September 23, 2009


The Metafilter logo has an M in it. I'm just saying.
posted by Artw at 1:54 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Little trivia fact: The dog in the National Lampoon cover looked too pathetic and sad when looking right at the camera, so the photographer and crew tried to get the dog to look in any other direction, and nothing was working. Finally, someone came up with the solution of actually pulling the trigger, and when they did this, the dog looked at the source of the sound and that's how they got the shot.

Look, this stuff has to go somewhere...
posted by jscott at 1:55 PM on September 23, 2009 [25 favorites]


Tony Hendra on the story behind the Lampoon cover:
The shot was extremely hard to get; when the dog looked straight out at the reader, he simply appeared victimized. Then someone had the notion of actually pulling the trigger. The dog reacted to the noise and this was the result.
posted by maudlin at 1:55 PM on September 23, 2009


A few of these don't seem very controversial. Did the cover with Warhol in the soup can offend a bunch of people with relatives who had drowned in tomato soup?
posted by exogenous at 1:59 PM on September 23, 2009 [10 favorites]


I remember only a couple of these as actually controversial at the time (Obama fist bump, blackened OJ)... but on the other hand, I remember many of these as good magazine covers, in that they got some attention or a chuckle from me at the magazine stand.
posted by rokusan at 2:01 PM on September 23, 2009


The last one reminds me of OK Magazine's decision to publish a special obituary edition dedicated to Jade Goody, complete with her touching last words.

The problem? Well... er, she hadn't actually died yet.
posted by afx237vi at 2:02 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Then someone had the notion of actually pulling the trigger. The dog reacted to the noise and this was the result.

You realize what this means? This means the dog was shot before I didn't buy the magazine.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 2:03 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


And the comments, as in any other comment section on anything other than metafilter, consist of inanity used as an opportunity to link the commentator's own (usually lame) website. See also nearly every comment on things like "The Big Picture."

Most of these didn't seem that remarkable, frankly.
posted by maxwelton at 2:05 PM on September 23, 2009


That Hitler is going to go places.
posted by Artw at 2:06 PM on September 23, 2009


You know who else was Man of the Year, Artw?
posted by joe lisboa at 2:12 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Many aren't controversial at all. The blogger obviously picked a few of the ASME "best" covers, called ALL of them controversial as his hook, dug back to 1939 for HITLER! OMFG!, then added Gellar! Zombie! Arm! OMFG! and a few others.

ASME top 40
(2005) used by this blogger (2009):

1. Naked John and clothed Yoko
2. Naked Demi
3. Pierced Ali
4. NY map
5. Warhol soup
6. New Yorker twin towers
7. NatLamp dog
...
12. Time asks if God is pining for the fjords
...
16. Economist humping camels
...
19. Esquire and Clinton's package
...
21. LIFE and Vietcong prisoner
...
27. EW and grafittied chicks
...
29. Black Playmate
...
33. Wired and the passion of Apple
...
37. Yep, she's gay
posted by maudlin at 2:13 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


That's right, you. Me. All of us. What a stupid concept / cover that was.
posted by joe lisboa at 2:13 PM on September 23, 2009


Turns out we were all fucking dumbasses buying too many SUVs and McMansions and contributing to a bubble economy.
posted by Artw at 2:15 PM on September 23, 2009


Until it was pointed out, I never perceived the Bill Clinton Esquire cover to put me in the position of fellating him.

Should I feel dirty or privileged?
posted by fatbird at 2:17 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


exogenous: "A few of these don't seem very controversial. Did the cover with Warhol in the soup can offend a bunch of people with relatives who had drowned in tomato soup?"

It wasn't the picture that was controversial, it was the idea that paintings of food labels were art. Cue the standard, "my kid could paint that" comments.
posted by octothorpe at 2:19 PM on September 23, 2009


Time Man of the Year 2006 was also a despised lunatic with a thirst for global domination.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:22 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


It wasn't the picture that was controversial == WTF is it doing here?
posted by Artw at 2:30 PM on September 23, 2009


The National Lampoon cover would be controversial today but not when that was released. Americans "got" satire back then.
posted by Zambrano at 2:30 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


me in the position of fellating him.
Should I feel dirty or privileged?


If y'all are doing it right: both.
posted by rokusan at 2:33 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ronald G. Harris’ famous cover shot definitely raised a few eyebrows in pre-Photoshop days.

I hate to break the news to the writer, but, people were very aware of photo-retouching back in the 70's. As they were in the 60's, 50's, 40's, 30's... Photoshop is far from the alpha and omega when it comes to the history of photo manipulation. About all that comment says is just how jaded we have become about image integrity in this age of P-Shop.

I loved that cover when it came out.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:39 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's a shame they didn't mention the Esquire E-ink cover, which I bought out of sheer novelty. Controversial in the fact that people were not sure whether the stunt was worth it. I say it was a wasted opportunity, since they had the supply chain down pat they could have made a display that was more robust and could be re-programmed and used again for newer issues. But then again, you'd have people throwing out circuit boards every month, which would be rotting in landfills, adding to the waste. Really Not Worth It.
posted by hellojed at 2:40 PM on September 23, 2009


Stalin used to actually have to go back in time an have the people physically erased.

(Not really, but I bet he would have liked to)
posted by Artw at 2:41 PM on September 23, 2009


And what was so controversial about Ellen's "Yep, I'm gay" cover?

Little-known fact: At one point in American history, homosexuality was considered highly controversial.
posted by EarBucket at 2:41 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Time Man of the Year 2006 was also a despised lunatic with a thirst for global domination.

If you needed any evidence of Time's complete loss of all backbone or journalistic integrity (ok, any more evidence), their Man of the Year for 2001 was it. Rudy Giuliani? Really? Wasn't there somebody else who did something extraordinarily noteworthy that year? Which had the greatest impact on the world since the fall of the Berlin Wall? Whose effects are still being felt today? Bunch of cowards at Time lacked the courage of their convictions to pick the person who had the most impact on the world in any given year, for good or ill.

The 2006 crap was just the logical endpoint of their watered-down, lukewarm inability to take a stand.
posted by Justinian at 2:44 PM on September 23, 2009


And what was so controversial about Ellen's "Yep, I'm gay" cover?

I don't know about the cover, but her coming out through mainstream media channels, including that as a plot on an established ABC sitcom, and the resulting conservative backlash were pretty controversial at the time. Falwell famously called her "Ellen Degenerate," and to anti-gay conservatives, having an out gay woman on Prime Time television was a dire sign of the end times.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:45 PM on September 23, 2009


Yes, but the cover?
posted by Artw at 2:48 PM on September 23, 2009


Having an out gay woman on Prime Time television was a dire sign of the end times.

True, but that's nothing to do with the cover, is it?

This post really isn't doing much other than driving up pageviews for a blogger who, as maudlin demonstrated, simply lifted most of his piece from another source, anyway.
posted by rokusan at 2:49 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Goddammit ArtW I am coming to your house with a big stick now.
posted by rokusan at 2:49 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just want to take a moment to thank webdesignerdepot.com for NOT breaking this list across 30 different pages in a blatant and pathetic attempt to increase pageviews.
posted by dersins at 2:55 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


I remember when Time magazine's cover with Ayatollah Khomeini after the hostage situation in Iran was pretty controversial.
posted by digsrus at 3:00 PM on September 23, 2009


Covers editor Franoise Mouly created a testament to the Twin Towers

That was actually Art Spiegelman, no?
posted by Rangeboy at 3:02 PM on September 23, 2009


Esquire covers
posted by Artw at 3:03 PM on September 23, 2009


Little-known fact: At one point in American history, homosexuality was considered highly controversial.

Whereas now it's goody-gumpdrop land.

A black playmate was controversial? Truly, the past is a different country.

(Am I allowed to say she's hot, or will that spawn a MeTa thread?)
posted by rodgerd at 3:04 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


The National Lampoon cover would be controversial today but not when that was released. Americans "got" satire back then.
posted by Zambrano


Eh, American's "get" satire today. Mind your generalizin' there, boy. It was a take off of the famous rumor that Ozzy Osbourne insisted his fans kill a puppy before he would perform. People might not "get" it today if they don't know the history. It would just seem odd. Context is everything.

But, again, mind your generalizing, boy.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:07 PM on September 23, 2009


Another great cover that was controversial was when Reason magazine, in an issue focused on privacy concerns, sent an individualized cover to all of its subscribers...an image of their home taken from a satellite.
posted by Falconetti at 3:12 PM on September 23, 2009


They forgot Mad's most controversial cover.
posted by Ndwright at 3:17 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


That would have been a much better trick for Times YOU cover.
posted by Artw at 3:17 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Was the Hitler Man-of-the-Year cover controversial at the time?
posted by kirkaracha at 3:30 PM on September 23, 2009


It at least rises to the level of Controversial Right Now.
posted by Artw at 3:32 PM on September 23, 2009


rokusan: True, but that's nothing to do with the cover, is it?

I'm not convinced it's entirely separate. The trifecta of the Time cover, her statement on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and her in-character coming out on Ellen meant that DeGeneres's coming out (smiling and willing) was visible to the eyes of millions of people. And the fact that it was on the cover of Time and not The Advocate or Curve, or unwillingly via a tabloid made it an important benchmark.

A few years earlier, the story would have broken in The Advocate or some other obscure magazine and filtered its way through the entertainment sections. A few years later, it's no longer front page material. But at the time, I remember it as being somewhat controversial.

Not that I think that this is an especially good list. I just remembered that Ellen's coming out was a big deal when it happened because she was practically a household name and it received unprecedented MSM coverage.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:52 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


It has not been 12 years since Ellen came out.

* off to re-read Prufrock and roll trouser cuffs *
posted by everichon at 3:53 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Eh, American's "get" satire today.

Maybe the witten word. But not film or TV anymore.

The 'joke' or 'gag' is always direct, telegraphed or explained nowadays. So-called "funny" ads, The Office and 30 Rock are prime examples.

Do you call all African-Americans "boy"? How quaint.
posted by Zambrano at 3:54 PM on September 23, 2009


Do you call all African-Americans "boy"? How quaint.

No, I called you "boy", boy.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:44 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Time Magazine, April 8, 1966: Is God Dead?

This cover has been called the most controversial of all time. The related article concerned the “death of god movement” that had sprung up in the 1960’s. The cover and article enraged readers.
All of them? I guess the illiterate were cool with it, at least.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:14 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have old copies of Mandate and Inches that are more controversial than any of these.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 5:56 PM on September 23, 2009


Incredible that 50 of the 70 most recent years were in the last 10 years!
posted by DU at 6:02 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


I like the top left of this cover.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 6:03 PM on September 23, 2009


What is pessimistic or controversial about that Wired cover? Am I missing something?
posted by mike_bling at 6:08 PM on September 23, 2009


Quite a few of those covers tend towards the weak end of the controversial spectrum, but man... kudos to Webdesignerdepot for not splitting the article into 80 separate pages. Thanks for getting that one thing right.
posted by moonshine at 6:17 PM on September 23, 2009


Stylus Happenstance: "I like the top left of this cover."

I like the top right.

GAYS.
posted by subbes at 6:26 PM on September 23, 2009


Anyone ever read any political cartoons by Chuck Asay? He's a right-wing cartoonist who combines cutesy, well-drawn images with an absolutely horrifying fear and hatred of women, racial and religious minorities, that sort of thing. As such, he's fairly widely-published. A large number of his strips simply depict a scene with no joke; you're just supposed to know that, for example, a kindergartener not hating homosexuals is horrifying.

That's how I feel about these covers; in a lot of cases, the descriptions are terribly thin, and I'm apparently just supposed to know what's controversial.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:28 PM on September 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


I guess this wasn't a cover, AFAICT, but I always found this photograph from Life magazine striking. Take a look at the picture before reading the description.

It's a woman writing a thank you note to her boyfriend out fighting in Japan during WWII. He sent her the skull of a Japanese soldier, which he cleaned and boiled as a "war trophy." The skull has the inscription "Here is a good Jap -- a dead one!" The US reaction to the photo lead the military to change their policies regarding dead soldiers from the other side.

Full description here.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:36 PM on September 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


[Of people magazine] Instead of their usual journalistic even-handed approach

huh?
posted by alona at 7:12 PM on September 23, 2009


Anyone ever read any political cartoons by Chuck Asay? He's a right-wing cartoonist who combines cutesy, well-drawn images with an absolutely horrifying fear and hatred of women, racial and religious minorities, that sort of thing.

With a little editorial guidance, that could be a neat FPP for someone else to make. I'd like to get my head around something like that, but I pale at the thought of wading through thousands of bad cartoons to do so.
posted by rokusan at 8:45 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


But, again, mind your generalizing, boy.

Don't call Zambrano "boy." He'll tear your Gatorade machine apart.
posted by rokusan at 8:46 PM on September 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I love the New Yorker but that cover took me a few seconds to figure out...I got it though! Nice post.
posted by PhotoFilter at 9:27 PM on September 23, 2009


You know who else was Man of the Year, Artw?

You, Artw and me?

Don't know how I made the cut, must have been curved grading.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:21 PM on September 23, 2009


I always found this photograph from Life magazine striking.

It's especially disturbing because skulls are supposed to be a third anniversary gift. Sending it sooner is a major breach of dating etiquette.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:50 AM on September 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yeah, this is not a great list, but I have to say that "If you don't buy this magazine Dick Cheney will shoot you in the face" had me literally hooting with laughter.
posted by marginaliana at 7:11 AM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's missing the Jade Goody and NME 'Youth Suicide' covers.
posted by mippy at 8:51 AM on September 24, 2009


Journalist who asked, "Is God Dead?" dies.
posted by misha at 11:48 AM on September 24, 2009


I'd never before picked up on the devil horns covers of Time.
posted by reenum at 1:02 PM on September 24, 2009


Ndwright, I know! I spent the entire month trying to find where they hid Alfred E. Neumann.
posted by whuppy at 1:23 PM on September 24, 2009


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