Vice magazine, having been shamed into removing photos of its 'suicide fashion spread' (where models recreated the suicides of famous female novelists) are by no means the first fashion magazine to have placed a colossal boot in their mouths.
In recent years, there was Vogue India's photo shoot with street people wearing Fendi bibs and holding Burberry umbrellas aloft (both items worth about three year's salary for them) branded 'tasteless' by The Guardian's Jess Cartner-Morley, and Vogue Italia's 'Water and Oil' shoot that featured a model prancing about in an oil slick as a reference to the Deepwater Horizon spill.
Vice considers itself an authority on speaking to young people - Vice's chief creative officer Eddy Morretti has said: "We know how to speak to young people. They're listening to us. We're a trusted brand for them."
So how poignant is it, that this happened to erupt on the same day two teenagers died after being hit by a speeding train in a suspected suicide pact?
You don't need to be a fly on the wall to see the thought process that led to the Vice Magazine shoot - they thought they were creating art and in the end got so caught up in their own pretension that they couldn't see what an offensive and thoughtless spread it was.
Let's start with the half-hearted apology that now sits on the page where the pictures have been removed.
"The fashion spreads in Vice Magazine are always unconventional and approached with an art editorial point-of-view rather than a typical fashion photo-editorial one. Our main goal is to create artful images, with the fashion message following, rather than leading.
"Last Words" was created in this tradition and focused on the demise of a set of writers whose lives we very much wish weren't cut tragically short, especially at their own hands."
Look, anyone can tell this is a crap apology. It's like a friend apologising for vomiting in your shoes but blaming you for leaving them in front of her in the first place. If you read the original here, the apology only comes into effect in the last line, and the rest is just guff to justify why those pictures even made it past the boardroom in the first place. The second part I have a real problem is that the focus is on the 'demise' of writers whose lives were cut short. A writer is celebrated for their work, that they produced when they were alive. So why isn't the magazine celebrating that, rather than shining a spotlight on what must have been, for all of these women from Virginia Woolf to Sylvia Plath, dark, lonely moments filled with fear and unhappiness?
The Samaritans have some breathtaking stats on their site about suicide - globally, there is one suicide every second. And in the UK, suicide among women is increasing. The United States - where the magazine is published - is no better, suicide is on an even sharper increase there.
If you know anyone who has been suicidal, or if you have been suicidal, then you'll feel as revulsed as I did when you saw these images. When someone you know has been through this dark period, the fact that some magazine is making light of it, is just beyond the pale. We're not talking about a parody here - those moments when a person has reached their lowest ebb, where they really decide that life is just unbearable and the only way out is a final one, those moments need to be treated with respect.
That is not what Vice have done. Not only have these pictures appeared online, where anyone can see them from adults to vulnerable teens and children, but it beggars belief that no one at the magazine put their hand up and said: "Er, guys..." Magazine shoots are lengthy and planned meticulously - the sense of disbelief that a magazine has allowed some bonkers person to submit this idea, give it space in the magazine, a budget and time in post production is huge.
There isn't much Vice can do, beyond perhaps making a charitable donation to a charity that deals with suicide. Oh wait, there is. A decent apology would be a good place to start.
If you are affected by any of the issues raised call The Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90
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