Vanity Fair’s 2021 Hollywood Issue cover & editorial: offensively bad or just meh?

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It’s time for my annual bitchfest about the Vanity Fair Hollywood issue. The thing to keep in mind is that I’m not comparing the current, awful iteration of the VF Hollywood issue to some perfect dream, something which can never be achieved by mere mortals. I’m comparing the current version to the old version, which was amazing. Back in the 1990s and even into the early ‘00s, the VF Hollywood Issue was SO GOOD. They did huge editorials with all of the notable actors from the past year, they would put together stunning covers, sometimes with young, hip, mostly white celebrities and sometimes with older Establishment Hollywood figures. The Hollywood Issue would also include several deep dives into Old Hollywood scandals and films. It was one of their signature achievements every year and VF did it so well. But I guess everyone at Vanity Fair just decided to phone it in at some point.

This year’s Hollywood Issue has a terrible cover. I completely understand the magazine’s decision to not bring together nine or ten celebrities to all pose together at the same time. But it feels like there would have been easier work-arounds than this horrendous Photoshop hatchet job? This looks amateurish and like it was done on a very limited budget. This year’s cover stars are: Michael B. Jordan (fine), Zendaya (good), Charlize Theron (she’s not promoting anything!), Sasha Baron Cohen (eh), Spike Lee (good), Maya Rudolph (a TV star?), Dan Levy (another TV star?), Awkwafina (eh), LaKeith Stanfield (fine) and Michaela Coel (good, but a TV star). At least there’s more diversity/inclusion on the cover this year, but the cover’s Photoshop still feels disrespectful.

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What in the world are these messy separate photoshoots?? The photoshoots and videos are by Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari. What was the intention behind this?? You can see the full VF cover package here.

Cover & social media courtesy of Vanity Fair.

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38 Responses to “Vanity Fair’s 2021 Hollywood Issue cover & editorial: offensively bad or just meh?”

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  1. Northerngirl says:

    I think it’s fun and colorful, I like it.

  2. LNG says:

    Why can’t TV stars be on the Hollywood edition? TV is producing WAY better content than movies are, and it seems like all the “movie actors” really want to be on TV right now. (But I do agree this cover is awful haha)

    • Lena says:

      I agree. Hollywood is Hollywood. It’s not the Oscar edition. I do miss movie stars though. Real movie stars have been gone for years now.

    • lascivious chicken says:

      Agreed. Questioning the inclusion of TV stars is a very retro take. A lot has shifted in the business in the last 10 years and right now most theaters aren’t even open.

    • Kaiser says:

      I mean, I agree that TV is churning out better quality content, but typically the Hollywood Issue IS timed for the Oscars and Oscar-bait actors

    • PPP says:

      Yes, what a strange thing to complain about, especially given Michaela Cole’s GG snub!

    • Mia4s says:

      Once Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, etc. started working in TV (not to mention a good chunk of the Avengers) the supposed distinction between “TV star” and “Movie star” was dead. That hierarchy hasn’t been a thing in at least five years. Hell these days you’re better off on streaming!

    • lucy2 says:

      I agree as well – I hope creators like Michaela and Dan ARE the future of Hollywood.

    • Gina says:

      I thought the same thing. I think in the past it was the “movie” issue. I think they are acknowledging how important television is to Hollywood, especially in the past year.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      The “TV is second rate” is very old fashioned. TV/episodic streaming is where it is now. For actors and creators, they get more freedom to push the boundaries, and the character arcs are much more nuanced because you get to do them in seasons and not hours.

  3. Jess says:

    The cover seems fine. Fun and quirky but the inside shots?? It’s like when zoomera brought back the 90s and early 00s, they meant the photoshopping and CGI too?

  4. Oy_Hey says:

    all of it just looks…insane. This looks like a deranged clown took some actors hostage and had a photoshoot. I’m very confused…

  5. JJJ says:

    The creative directors created Toiletpaper Mag – is super fun and they prob had to dial it down a bit for NA audiences. Otherwise, their work is great!

  6. KatianaD says:

    I’m way more into series than movies for the past few years . And mikaela made one of the best series I’ve seen lately! Hope everyone got to check out « i may destroy you » . Then dan made the series which people fell in love with last year which made the pandemic a little easier . I’m guessing the surprise is because this cover used to be for movie stars only?

  7. Bunny says:

    It is sort of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band-y. Colourful. I like it.

    TV vs. movies: movies are struggling due to the pandemic; while at the same time, TV has been pumping out exceptionally high-quality content for the last several years. It seems completely appropriate to me.

  8. Jesus says:

    I mean, TV stars are Hollywood. Especially this past decade, with peak TV, streaming services and you know… the pandemic closing movi theatres . To think they are somehow less than movie stars seems a bit out of the loop.
    The pictures are hideous.
    (And yes, Mikaela is amazing! And I know Awkwafina is great and all but her stage name… cant take it seriously lol)

  9. Kyla says:

    I have every Hollywood issue that Vanity Fair has put out since they started in the mid-1990s. Those first 10 years were so good (unfortunately not from a diversity perspective ) in styling and content. I still look at them from time to time. The last few years have been a mess and very limited content inside the issue. I still buy the Hollywood issue every to add to the collection, but it is often months before I get around to reading it.

  10. Christina says:

    It looks like the art direction is a nod to Kehinde Wiley.

    • lucy2 says:

      I thought that as well, especially with how LaKeith is posed, but wondered if it was a nod or just a rip off?

      Those inside photos are bananas though. The only one I like is Zendaya’s. The Michael B Jordan one looks like a cheesy Sears photoshoot from the 80s. WTH.

    • Laura says:

      I was going to say the same thing looks like a nod to Kehinde Wiley especially the florals and the man on the horse is pretty much a replica of one of his paintings.

  11. Andy says:

    Charlize’s action film for Netflix, The Old Guard, was a massive hit during the beginning of quarantine – she may not be in awards contention this year, but she earned her place on this cover.

    • Courtney B says:

      I didn’t think I’d like Old Guard but I loved it! And if anyone is looking for the sweetest, most romantic LGBTQ moment in movies recently (imo) this is the movie! I really hope there’s a sequel since it opened the door for one.

      • lucy2 says:

        I’ve been meaning to rewatch it. It was so good, just all around good, and yes that relationship and that moment are fantastic.

      • SarahCS says:

        Yes and yes, I LOVED that scene and enjoyed the whole movie. We watched it twice a couple of months apart and I enjoyed it as much the second time. It’s set up for a sequel so I really hope it happens and is as good.

  12. ab says:

    I kind of love this cover and the inside photo shoots. A bit of a magical realism thing going on, whimsical and fun. It’s more interesting to me than the standard everyone together in a room in fancy clothes covers of the past.

  13. Case says:

    I’m fine with this cover and I think all the people they selected, whether from films or television, are spot on. I actually enjoy the colors and styling quite a lot.

  14. Annabel says:

    I actually think what they did here is clever and bold and kind of wonderfully over-the-top. Since they couldn’t safely bring together X number of stars for a photoshoot, they had two choices: they could bring them in one at a time, painstakingly pose them in position, and then Photoshop all of those people together as if they were in the same room, which would look pretty stiff and awkward, or… they could lean into the Photoshop, they could embrace the reality that a pandemic-era shoot is going to involve a bit more Photoshop than normal, and they could make Photoshop the star of the show.

  15. Lionel says:

    IMO the classic Hollywood Edition covers were boring and borderline offensive: always Annie Leibovitz shoots, always male stars in formalwear, and always female stars in lingerie. I like this better.

  16. Courtney B says:

    I think the cover is horrid in the cut and paste style they did but think the though process behind it could’ve been good. It’s just messy looking though. Zendaya looks great in that inside photo—it seems like an actual gorgeous high fashion magazine shot.

  17. Marigold says:

    I like it. I think it’s pretty and fun.

  18. L4frimaire says:

    I don’t mind the brightness and concept of the cover, but the actors on it are so random. Like a few have made something interesting this year but the others, just filling out space. They made Zendaya look skeletal. A lot of tv people. It’s a meh but Vanity Fair lately has supposedly good intentions but basic AF execution. Grayson Carter is a jerk but he could put together a good magazine.

  19. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I’m not entirely sure VF understands diversity in color. “They want color? We’ll give them color,” appears apropros lol.

  20. Mimi says:

    The cover and inside collages are the work of Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari, two creatives who are huge right now. Theirs is a fun, whimsical style that is meant to evoke joy for the viewer, and can be seen in many campaigns (Nike, Pellegrino, etc.).

    And no, I don’t work for/with them; am a CD so have to know this stuff!

  21. The Recluse says:

    Not a fan of Cattalan and I don’t know who the other artist world big wig is. This is the first I heard of that person.
    This sort of over the top presentation is what seems to happen whenever they bring in some hyped up hot shot from the fashion/art world.
    It’s different.
    Wonder if Wes Anderson would be capable of a fun one – with a whimsical narrative built in?

  22. Mel says:

    I am just here for LaKeith Stanfield. And to agree with everyone that TV is giving us the most content nowadays (not talking COVID specifically though no cinemas in France). I rented Tenet on Amazon to watch an actual « movie » made for the big screen and that thing gave me a headache!

  23. Freddy says:

    How can each and every image be so horrible? YUCK!

  24. Lyds says:

    I love it. This recalls full-blown technicolor Hollywood, once described by Sylvia Plath, albeit disparagingly, as a place where everyone “… seems to feel obliged to wear a lurid costume in each new scene and to stand around like a clotheshorse with a lot of very green trees or very yellow wheat or very blue ocean rolling away for miles and miles in every direction.”

  25. AL says:

    Ehmmm I kind of really like the idea but not exactly the execution. It’s just a little.. TOO cartoony /unreal for me. Like.. if it were less processed looking?? Or.. it makes me think of Pushing Daisies with how colorful that show was. If it were just less edited? Or lit less starkly? But ya know.. to each their own. I really enjoy the fun, colorful idea…