Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The raruraru about things you see - 3

Prompted by Lucy and her response in the previous post, and because this has gotten me more than just a little irate -

Monday's Herald comes this little piece.

A 16-year-old New Zealand model has been pictured topless in fashion magazine Russh Australia - prompting a "please explain" call from her agent here.

The Australian magazine is being investigated for pictures featuring Auckland model Zippora Seven and 16-year-old male model Levi Clarke.

One image shows the pair in a bubble bath, with Zippora topless and Levi's eyes closed, as if he has passed out. Four bottles of champagne are visible.

The Australian Classifications Act prohibits the depiction of nudity and sexual activity of minors under 18, and a spokesman for the Australian Classification Board said: "I can advise that the board has contacted the publisher of Russh Australia."

Zippora's Australian agent Priscilla Leighton-Clark yesterday admitted the shoot had gone too far.

"It's wrong that our girl has appeared in our magazine exposing her breasts when she is so young," she told the Sunday Telegraph in Sydney.

However, Russh editor Natalie Shukur defended the shoot, claiming it was a homage to supermodel Kate Moss and her one-time boyfriend, actor Johnny Depp.

So the mag considers Kate Moss to be an appropriate role model for young teen girls?

Zippora's New Zealand agency Red Eleven said it had no involvement with the photo shoot.

Director Mandy Jacobsen told the Herald Red Eleven was "shocked" and "disappointed in the pictures", shot about a month ago.

She said the agency would be talking with Ms Leighton-Clark this week, and wanted an explanation.

There is an unwritten law in New Zealand preventing the use of under-18s in nude photo shoots, Ms Jacobsen said.

"We have to be very careful about these girls on shoots, and what the story's about."

Well, for a start, this stinks to high heaven. Despite the very direct parallels to the Cyrus instance there is one distinction that is very clear. I am prepared to accept that the Cyrus photos taken by Liebowitz were not taken primarily for publication; that they were taken as an add-on and forwarded to the magazine as part of a portfolio by Cyrus.

This instance involves, as clearly, the magazine taking the images with the clear intent of publication.

Today's Herald -

The responses in the public forum make depressing reading, even for an old lech like me.

This one is WRONG. Read that ? WRONG!!!!!

It is patently illegal under Aussie Rules. That should be enough for anyone. For me, the rules would be WRONG if they allowed the publication.

That opinion might seem to differ from my somewhat guarded acceptance of the Cyrus photo. The latter was (my vain hope) taken without the intent of publication. I have not seen the Aussie photos, and I won't be going looking for it any time soon. From the description I would have some "difficulty" putting it into the same category as the Cyrus photo.

There are limits. Cyrus I can accept (if only because the photographer was Liebowitz). This example I can not, irrespective of the name of the hack who took them.


Dave Justus said...

I don't quite get why who the photographer is would effect the appropriateness of a photo of an underage girl.

T. F. Stern said...

I'd have to go along with Dave's questioning, who took the photo makes a difference?

I'd equate that with the old saying, It doesn't matter if it was your friend or your enemy who poisons you, the results are the same.

The probligo said...

I guess that as much as anything else it is a matter of "presentation", or "taste", "artistic merit" also comes to mind (get the impression that I am fishing pretty hard here folks?).

If you want, the difference is the fact that this latter example includes a guy in the same bath. That certainly goes way past any line that I would draw.

The Cyrus photo is a demure (a good word that the Thesaurus found for me) presentation of a young lass. As I read the image, the sexual connotations are innocence surprised set off against awareness. It is the kind of scene that might have happened had I accidently walked in on my daughter as she was getting out of bed in the morning.

Can I also point out that there is a considerable difference in the intended audience between Vanity Fair and this Aussie rag intended for teenage girls.

Oh, and where is the outcry about "right to publish"? Perhaps people should recall the outrage of Muslim people to the caricature of Muhommet. Perhaps the Cyrus photo, as a presentation of American sexual innocence, is the step too far for Americans. Will we see rioting in the streets and burning of copies of Vanity Fair? I doubt it.

I admire Liebowitz' work. She is an artist of the highest order. Without being published as the cover of Vanity Fair, the image of Cyrus would rank as one of the best. The fact that it was put to that use should not detract from the merit of the image.

Dave Justus said...

I dunno, I find a girl in a sexual explicit pose with a boy her own age a whole lot less troubling then a girl in a sexual pose on her Dad's lap. I guess I am just old fashioned that way.

(I haven't seen any of these images, just heard them described)

As for the comparison with the Muslim cartoon controversy, most people, myself included, said that they had every right to dislike and complain about the publications. What we railed against, is the violence and threat of violence. I have no sympathy for anyone who wants Miley Cyrus or Leibowitz or an editor of vanity fair dead because of these pictures.

Liebowitz is a fine artist. I don't think that that means that she should be able to get away with publishing content that a lesser artist would be excoriated for however. If a photo would be inappropraite if an unknown person took it, it is inappropriate if a famous artist took it.

The probligo said...

" a girl in a sexual pose on her Dad's lap."

My eye's deceive me once again. I only saw the girl with a sheet held to her chest.

"...she should be able to get away with publishing content..."

So, Annie Liebowitz is now the publisher of Vanity Fair?

I'm sure that there will be a lot of people, Liebowitz included, who would like to know that.

Ah, well. This is obviously how other people see the world.

Not funny, Dave. Nor accurate.

Dave Justus said...

My understanding is that one of the Cyrus pictures was Miley sitting topless on Billy Ray's lap. Only her back is visible, but it is plain that she is not wearing a shirt. As I said though, I haven't seen these images myself.

It of course isn't just a Publishing house that is involved in the publishing of a given work of art. The artist, editors, and others are all involved.

The probligo said...

Dave, I go back to one of my comments in the earlier post -

"America has made itself a problem. It stems from the combination of personal freedoms - both moral and legal - and the potential to make money; lots and lots of money. In 99.5% of instances the outcomes are good to excellent. This is an instance where - by most measures - it has come horribly unstuck.

The solution to that problem?

In my mind that does not include the imposition of standards or prohibitions - that is public or even government censorship - any more than it requires legal sanction.

It does require people - very many people - to recognise that the making of money is not the final objective in this world. There have to be some limits and they should be applied by the individual voluntarily.

And there lies the problem - whose limits, whose values?

I submit (as was implied by that comment) that is up to the individual.

Dave Justus said...

Probligo, I have no idea where that last tangent of yours is going or what it relates to.

I will note though that if something is 'required' then it seems impossible to simply leave it up to individuals on a voluntary basis.

The probligo said...

Dave, what word would your pedantry prefer?

The sense is that of "requiring" (i.e. "needing") a decision to be made.

In this instance I am suggesting that decision should be made by every individual - not by a cartel of controllers of public taste led by those who believe themselves to be "more moral" than others.

Dave Justus said...


You said: "It (presumably refering to 'the solution') does require people - very many people - to recognise that the making of money is not the final objective in this world"

If the solution requires something in order to be a viable solution, then having that requirement be based upon volutary individual action just doesn't make sense. Especially if there is already a 'problem' (although I admit I don't entirely understand what you think the problem is, something with America having too much money, which overall I am ok with.)

Lets make an example: I think there is a problem with companies poluting the river in my town. It is required that this behavior stop. My solution is for these companies to voluntarily stop poluting.

See why that is a dumb solution?

The probligo said...


Can I point out that in your last example the companies responsible for the pollution, an act that is "voluntary", could be said to have made the "required decision". The problem that you have with it is that you do not like their decision.

If the act is not permissable (i.e. illegal) then I can agree with the law as well as the state imposed requirement. But that "requirement" to obey the law is not what I am talking about.

Applying that to the Cyrus case, you are implying that the government should legislate to make such images not legal. That is the level of "require" as you have portrayed it.

In the case I am trying to make, it is not a particular "answer" that is "required". What is "required" is that people at least consider their own position and decide accordingly. I might not agree with their decision. That is immaterial. The "required" action has been achieved. They have objectively (I hope) examined how they feel about the problem. I take it that you have considered the worth of the Cyrus cover photo (I have only seen the one on the cover and that is the only one I am talking about) and that you can not accept it in your values. I see considerable art in the image; that does not make it worthy of publication as a magazine article but it is certainly an image that I can admire and respect for its qualities.

As I said before - a specific answer can not be "required". That (in this case) is imposed censorship. The word has just come to me - the "required" social response is coerced and not voluntary.

TF has a post on child pornography. Go read the post and the comments. I can not prevent others from getting their rocks off through images of child abuse and sexual depravity. That does not mean that I have to ("am required"?) to tolerate it or to like it. That decision - whether child porno is acceptable - is "required", consciously made and self-imposed. It is not coerced by state threats of legal sanction for not complying with a state-imposed "requirement".

As it happens, child pornography is illegal in NZ. I happen to feel considerable satisfaction every time a pervert is caught, charged, tried, found guilty and imprisoned for possession of child pornography. Good thing, good justice, and if he happens to get locked in the same cell as a serial rapist for a long time then so much the better.

But that is solely because in the instance of this perversion my personal feelings are supported by the state and its law.

Dave Justus said...


I am still confused as to your point.

First off though, I have never said that I supported legal sanctions against Cyrus, or that I am upset with them. Indeed, the first comment I made on the subject on you blog I said that I didn't think it was all that big a deal. I enjoy the discussion about morality, law, and privacy, and I think this is an interesting jump off for those topics, but I presonally don't think it a big deal.

I am now more confused, in that previously I thought you were 'requiring' certain actions. Now it seems you are instead 'requiring' certain thoughts, although how you imigine you can achieve such an effect is beyond me.

I happen to disagree with you that America has a problem from having too many rights and using those rights to make lots of money. I happen to think that both of those things, lots of freedom and lots of money are great, and they are even better together.

I don't think we need to do anything to solve those 'problems' and certainly I don't demand that people think about things first. If their actions cause problems that are unacceptable in some fashion was can (and have) fashioned laws to deal with those actions. Whether they thought about it first is considerably less important then what they actually did.