Dear New Yorker profiles, you’re kind of wussy.

Does anyone else think that New Yorker profiles lately are, well, a little too pro? Between the worshipful profiles of POM Wonderful marketing guru Lynda Resnick (“Pomegranate Princess,” by Amanda Fortini) and Pascal Dangin, King of Photoshop (“Pixel Perfect,” by Lauren Collins), I’m beginning to wonder if Eustace Tilley has misplaced his monocle. These stories are awfully fuzzy-sighted.

It’s one thing for journalists to steer clear of unwarranted venom (Deborah Solomon interrogating some innocent grandfatherly type like Ted Kooser can come across as a little paranoid-delusional). And I can understand the complications that must arise from spending several pleasant weeks with a person–it’s safe to assume that most subjects will treat their profilers courteously, since it’s in their best interest–and then attempting to create a balanced, discerning (though not necessarily critical) portrait. But these credulous articles seem to avoid tough questions altogether; it’s as if it never occurred to Fortini and Collins to ask them.

Jezebel e-i-c Anna points out of “Pixel Perfect” writer Collins,

[Collins] seems almost resolutely disinterested in exploring Dangin’s role in perpetuating unrealistic standards of beauty and when a photograph ceases to be a photograph and becomes, what Redbook editor Stacy Morrison once said, “an image”: most of the critics and/or experts of photo manipulation Collins quotes are all long-dead; the only living people she does quote are all fans of Dangin; and she all but skips over the news that Dangin retouched Dove’s ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’ advertisements.

Meanwhile, Amanda Fortini fawns over Resnick (a weak one-liner is an illustration of Resnick’s “standup’s bada-bum timing”) and obligingly quotes people who marvel at her ability to extend her “range” beyond the “Gucci and Prada sensibility” and dream up Scarlett O’Hara collector dolls (“People say, ‘She’s a marketing genius, she just gets it,'” Resnick backdoor brags). Resnick seems like a nice enough lady, if a bit shallow, but the fact remains that she has dedicated her career to knick-knacks, dial-a-flowers, and figuring out how to make Americans shell out five bucks for a juice no one drank ten years ago. There’s nothing wrong with that, but from the way the article is written, you’d think she was making great humanitarian strides. It might have been interesting to lob a few questions about contemporary consumerism and extravagant wealth her way, but Fortini seems too focused on her 24-karat-gold-leaf moldings and moralizing poetry quotations to bother. (The profile ends with Resnick solemnly reciting the lines, “…The two kinds of people on earth I mean/Are the people who lift, and the people who lean.” She forgot about the people who gag.)

So come on, New Yorker profiles! Enough with the no bark, no bite routine. I bet Anthony Lane and ol’ Hertzberg have got some skepticism to spare.

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2 responses to “Dear New Yorker profiles, you’re kind of wussy.

  1. Love the “forgot about people who gag” line.

  2. The profile on Richard Pryor about 9 or so years ago (Hilton Als, I think) is one of the best ones I ever read.

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