Magazine takes heat for putting Michelle Williams in ‘redface’

Dylan Stableford
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Another magazine is under fire for its stereotypical portrayal of race on its cover—this time for a depiction of American Indians.

AnOther Magazine, a British biannual fashion and culture publication, put Oscar-nominated actress Michelle Williams in what appears to be Native American garb (flannel shirt, braided wig, feathers) on an alternative cover it produced for its spring/summer issue. While the image is black and white, Williams, who stars in "Oz: The Great and Powerful," appears to be wearing "redface." (The main cover features Williams wearing a white wig, veil and "Army Athletic Dept." sweatshirt.)

According to the magazine, Williams was "transform[ed] into eight imaginary characters" by photographer Willy Vanderperre and stylist Olivier Rizzo for a cover shoot inspired by the issue's theme, "There's No Place Like Home."

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"Now I've really seen it all," Ruth Hopkins wrote on Jezebel.com. "Are they endeavoring to capture the spirit of the American Indian Movement circa 1973? Is this an ad for the Native American Rights Fund or the American Indian College Fund? Nope. It's a 33-year-old white actress hyping her latest Hollywood project by wearing a cheap costume designed to make her look like she's the member of another race."

The cover photo is "shocking," Lexi Nisita wrote on the website Refinery29.com, but the coverline—"There's No Place Like Home"—is equally problematic:

[It's] actually very pointed in this instance, given the fact that thousands of Native Americans were forcefully ousted from their homes (not to mention slaughtered and denied full rights of citizenship) when European settlers came to this continent. The line is, of course, a reference to Ms. Williams' recent role in Oz The Great And Powerful, but if that's all they meant, they should have just dressed her up as Dorothy.

What's more, the film, Nisita noted, is based on the novels of L. Frank Baum, "an outspoken racist who called for the literal 'annihilation' of Native Americans in an editorial for the newspaper where he worked in December of 1890, just days before the Wounded Knee Massacre."

The cover "should be pulled," Hopkins added, "and all parties involved owe the American Indian community an apology."

A representative for AnOther magazine did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

[Update: Magazine defends decision]

Last month, Bloomberg Businessweek took a similar beating from critics who said the magazine's Feb. 25 cover—featuring a cartoon illustration of what appears to be a black family rolling in cash from a housing rebound—was racist.

"Our cover illustration got strong reactions, which we regret," Josh Tyrangiel, Bloomberg Businessweek's editor in chief, said in a statement to Yahoo News. "If we had to do it over again, we'd do it differently."

Of course, it's not just magazines. Last year, the producers of the annual Victoria's Secret Fashion Show took heat from critics for dressing one of its lingerie models in a traditional Native-American headdress.