Critics slam Vogue’s ‘global talent’ cover starring Scarlett Johansson: ‘They still place the white woman in the center’

Vogue‘s April issue is celebrating “global talent” by featuring 14 female celebrities from around the globe — but has its diverse mission been undermined by its inclusion of Scarlett Johansson?

Scarlett Johansson appears on the <i>Vogue</i> cover alongside Doona Bae and Deepika Padukone. (Photo: Mikael Jansson//Vogue)
Scarlett Johansson appears on the Vogue cover alongside Doona Bae and Deepika Padukone. (Photo: Mikael Jansson//Vogue)

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Critics are taking the magazine to task by putting Johansson front and center in her cover shoot, where she’s flanked by South Korean actress Doona Bae and Indian film star Deepika Padukone. White women also score the most prominent position in the issue’s second cover shoot, which shows Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki and France’s Léa Seydoux posing alongside Nigerian star Adesua Etomi-Wellington and Chinese model, actress and singer Angelababy.

Adesua Etomi-Wellington, Elizabeth Debicki, Léa Seydoux and Angelababy also posed for the double cover. (Photo: Mikael Jansson/Vogue)
Adesua Etomi-Wellington, Elizabeth Debicki, Léa Seydoux and Angelababy also posed for the double cover. (Photo: Mikael Jansson/Vogue)

The placement didn’t go unnoticed, with several commenters slamming the magazine for casting women of color as mere “sidekicks.”

“Interesting how they still place the white woman in the center though,” a commenter noted.

“I’m done with this magazine’s hypocrisy,” complained a critic who felt that, as India’s highest-paid actress, Padukone is a “bigger star” than Johansson. “They call for inclusivity but don’t practice it.”

“Considering the message Vogue is trying to convey by featuring diversity on its cover, they could’ve done way better than this!” read another disappointed comment.

“The placement of actors in this image and the use of Greco-Roman imagery calls upon a past British colonial empire that disenfranchised and enslaved a large group of people,” added a commenter. “Be mindful of history. Do better.”

“Of course the colonizer had to be above and center,” another person wrote.

Johansson’s inclusion is particularly controversial, given past accusations of cultural appropriation against the star. She received backlash after playing the lead in 2017’s Ghost in the Shell, the film adaptation of the popular Japanese manga, rather than an Asian actress. Johansson’s casting recently inspired Sandra Oh’s joke about the whitewashing of Asian roles at the 2019 Golden Globes.

Placing her on a cover celebrating diversity — alongside two Asian women, no less — struck many as ironic.

“Are all three of these women Scarlett Johansson?” joked a commenter in reference to the star’s past problematic casting.

“This would have been so much better had Scarlett not been on the cover,” argued a commenter.

“Three Asian models on the cover of Vogue — wow,” cracked another Johansson critic.

But not everyone saw a problem. Fans defended Johansson’s placement, arguing that the magazine’s Western readers would be most familiar with an American celebrity.

“That ‘white lady’ as you call her is actually a major player in Hollywood, which is still the center of the Western film industry after all,” one commenter wrote.

“Of course the Western actress is above and center,” added another supporter. “Vogue is a Western magazine. Scarlett is a Western actress. She sells, the other actresses don’t sell here. I don’t even know them, and I know most Western people don’t know them either … This racial issue when not address with actual problems gets annoying.”

As it happens, Johansson herself seems to reference complaints about Hollywood’s lack of diversity in her accompanying interview.

“It’s a conversation that Hollywood has never had before,” she tells interviewer Gaby Wood. “It feels like we’re all kind of catching up.”

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