I feel just a little soiled, a little used. As we all know, the newsmagazine business isn't what it once was, and it appears likely that TIME's new cover was deliberately designed from the get-go to—forgive me—titillate.
The cover bespeaks the fecundity of woman, the sacred bond between parent and child, and a refreshing frankness about natural functions. Plus, apparently even mature adult males can't help but feel just a tad jealous of the lucky tyke.
Martin Schoeller took the cover image last weekend in a one-day shoot in which he photographed four families. The cover story is about something called "attachment parenting," about which I know nothing, except that it obviously involves not weaning babies.
Martin's agency, Vaughan Hannigan, helpfully supplied some outtakes from the sessions...
...And I, like the biologically preprogrammed entity I no doubt am, am dutifully stepping into their snare.
At least I'm not alone. Others have been writing about the attention-getting cover (I'll avoid the culture's default term, "controversial," since the controversy here is no doubt fully intended). The Chicago Tribune notes that "the cover photo has been rocketing through social media circles for more than a day, with screeds, pleas and jokes in tow. Commenters are weighing in on all sides of related issues—parental rights, child advocacy and media sensationalism, to name a few." The Los Angeles Times quotes Samir Husni, a professor at the Magazine Innovation Center of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi, who says, "It's just a story about breastfeeding. Yet it stops you. It shocks you. This is in your face. And that, of course, is an editor's dream come true. Lots of people may be shocked with this cover. We live in a society that says, 'If I don't shock you, you won't pay attention to me.'"
That's their theory, anyway. Who knows if it will move magazines? (I do sort of want to buy one, just to encourage them.) And Mother's Day is Sunday, which is timely.
The cover subject is Jamie Lynne Grumet, 26, of Los Angeles, and her now nearly 4-year-old son, who (just taking a wild guess) is going to be hearing about this when he's older.
(P.S. Just for the record, I personally don't think the cover picture is even the slightest bit shocking or inappropriate. As far as its subject is concerned I have no real opinion—seems to me it's up to the individual parent or parents how long to breastfeed, and even if I don't agree with their decision or wouldn't wish the same for my own child, what others decide to do is none of my business. I raised my son by myself from the time he was five days old, and I wish he could have been breastfed, at least for a while. One of my standard jokes when he was a baby was that although I'd give myself an "A" as father, I only rated a "C" as a mother—but I got marked down a whole grade point for lack of breasts. Rimshot.)
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Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by KeithB: "I preferred this slight re-wording of the cover: