Vanity Fair found itself in a bit of a social media firestorm Monday morning, when the photo accompanying its article about the state of late-night television unintentionally summarized the true state of late-night television better than any think piece ever could. The photo in question features most of the current hosts (notably absent are Carson Daly, Andy Cohen, and Chris Hardwick) sitting around and having a drink.
Thankfully, Twitter cut right to the heart of the matter.
@VanityFair All straight dudes. There are more guys named James/Jimmy than black guys.— MY state of mind (@blkMYmorris) September 14, 2015
@VanityFair I don't have anything against these guys, but that's a whole lot of white dudes.— Rachel Rainey (@RachelDRainey) September 14, 2015
I'm glad Vanity Fair published that all-dude late night photo. For many,seeing is believing. That's the reality. It looks bad, as it should.— Caroline Framke (@carolineframke) September 14, 2015
There are problems with the photograph on every level. Most fundamentally is the fact that there are no women included. While not Vanity Fair’s problem, the choice to celebrate late-night television as better than ever, given that the lineup is still a year away from a woman’s inclusion into the boys club (Both Samantha Bee and Chelsea Handler are set to host late-night shows of their own in 2016.) is irksome.
But beyond that, there are creative choices in the photo itself that are deeply suspect. Having the hosts sit around in their suits and drink, given the exclusivity of the late-night club, channels a Don Draper-like essence of casual misogyny, in which the only thing that’s missing is a “no girls allowed” sign on the door.
More than that, the photo is shot on a white background, lit with what appears to be white light, meaning that everyone in the shot looks similarly beige, stripping Trevor Noah and Larry Wilmore of their heritage while presenting an even more homogenized and whitewashed vision of late-night than actually exists.
Though Vanity Fair's article eventually goes on to speak about how outrageous it is that there is still such a dearth of female representation in the late-night world, nothing it says could speak louder than the unintentionally revealing photo that accompanies the article itself.
However, it may be best to let future late-night host Samantha Bee have the final word on the matter. Her show, "Full Frontal," is scheduled to premiere on TBS in January 2016.
Follow me on Twitter at @midwestspitfire.
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