Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Covering your bases

There's something unsettling about Vanity Fair's Africa Issue, "guest edited" by Bono. My copy came with a big fat supplement about diamonds for a start. I don't believe in guest editing much. It's a trade-off in which both parties end up feeling short-changed. The magazine gets a bit more star power to boost its sales. The star gets to pretend that they are manipulating the media for a higher purpose. (Bono apparently wanted to call it "Fair Vanity" for one issue. See what he almost did there?)
Clearly there are a lot of very wealthy people who are putting their money to good use in Africa. People like Bill and Melinda Gates and Oprah Winfrey, who are on the cover of my copy. That's a good thing. Mind you it also reflects just what unprecedented sums of money have been made in entertainment and media over the last twenty years.
Inevitably, they've done the multiple covers thing. Most of them feature wealthy, powerful Americans and were shot far away from the trouble and strife of Africa. I'd love to know how the print run broke down between the different individuals on the covers. How many of the Clooney/Jay Z copies found their way to the bookstall at Grand Central Station. How many of the Warren Buffet/Bill Gates copies went to subscribers in Des Moines.
Still at least it's for a good cause, which is more than can be said for Empire, which feels the need to mark whatever the latest Star Wars anniversary is with 30 different Star Wars covers. It's difficult to know which is sadder - the human effort involved in organising this exercise in merchandising or the fact that some people will feel they have to buy them all.


  1. Bono on the cover of anything would put me off buying it - and I find it a bit off that the cover of an African issue doesn't have any Africans on it. It's almost like the continent has become a little offshoot of America Plc.

  2. I agree, it's obscene. Bono on anything is a complete turn off. Take off that bloody welder's mask, for God's sake.

  3. Anonymous11:48 am

    These mutiple covers are such a tedious gimmick.

  4. Hey, don't knock it: every day spent 'saving the world' is another day away from making music with his awful band. I've often wondered what happens when a celeb guest edits a magazine - what changes etc. I wonder whether this month's Vanty Fair will run any articles on platform shoes, cowboy hats, gimmicky sunglasses - you know, some of the other things that really mean someting to Bonzo!?

  5. @Clair - There are African on the over - Djimon Hounsou and Iman. But I think I see your point...being African myself, I was wondering why there are no photos of the average African on the cover of an issue of a major magazine celebrating the continent. But the sad reality of the world we live in is people are not attracted to things like that and the average person would rather do a double take AND buy a copy of a magazine with a Clooney on the cover. That being said, reading the magazine provides a wonderful insight into the continent in a way few people have seen it and like Bono said, makes Africa look more like an adventure than a burden which is the reputation that it has had over time.

  6. Anonymous8:42 pm

    Is Bono so devoid of confidence that he feels the need to shore up his 'hipster' image with those awful bloody ski mask coloured goggle things? Or does he think we might not recognise him without them, and fears he might just melt into the crowd as another insignificant nobody? Oh, the insecurity of earning more than most of the African states you claim you care about so much. What on earth do Africans think of this vision of a visually challenged earnest do-gooder when he descends on them with entourage of lackeys and sycophants? do they know it's Christmas, or is that just the effect of rose-tinted ski goggles?

  7. Anonymous7:40 pm

    That story in the new Word about Bono clicking his fingers - fantastic!