Sunday, 3 February 2013
Two weeks ago the popular fashion blogger Pelayo Diaz posted a couple of images of himself on his blog, Kate Loves Me, posing in a David Elfin coat and toting a Celine handbag at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. In the brief caption that accompanies the pictures, seeming to betray a fundamental misunderstanding about the memorial’s purpose, Diaz notes “the good thing is that it doesn’t make you think about the past, only the future, and that's something I love being involved with.”
A fair number of people, myself included, took exception to this post for reasons that hardly need explaining but which – having witnessed the risible “but, he posed RESPECTFULLY” defense doing the rounds – I shall outline briefly. The Holocaust Memorial (or The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, in full) is a large site in central Berlin which has been set aside as a place to remember, and reflect upon, the worst atrocity in modern history. It’s there in its uncompromising form so that we do not forget the millions of victims of the Holocaust, and it acts as a reminder that we must never allow anything similar to happen again.
Everybody who visits the memorial will react to it in a slightly different way, but using it as a conduit for your own vapid self-promotion and vanity is not just wildly inappropriate, but is also downright offensive. You don’t need to have studied history, or watched Schindler’s List, or have Jewish friends (many of whom can tell you first hand the appalling ways in which their parents or grandparents were tortured and killed) to realise this. All it takes is a modicum of intelligence and decency.
You can almost sense the thought process. Here I am in Berlin (no doubt on some promotional junket paid for by a B-list mid-market brand), better do the tourist sites to get some snaps to feed my followers – perfect for showing how worldly and cultivated I am. These big concrete blocks look cool… a bit like that directional, geometric shoot in Vogue Italia with Karlie Kloss (or whoever). And apparently they’re totally deep and meaningful too. It will make a great story, how it’s all about me, and my future, and how I strive to be brave in my fight against anti-product placement legislation for blogs, and sartorial mediocrity. Boyfriend! Get 250 frames of me now. Move the camera to the left a bit, would you, my Balenciaga shoes aren’t visible enough. No, not that shot, it will never do. I don’t look nearly reflective enough. How about we try without the sunglasses? What if I relax my mouth a bit more? No that’s just not working… what about with the Celine bag to the side? Yes! Loving it! Sooo chic. Let’s scurry back to the hotel, Instagram the fruit bowl, then spend four hours Photoshopping the pictures for my blog. It’s all about ME right now. Apparently this one time some Jews died or something?
Still not seeing the problem, but sensing trouble brewing after the post went live, Diaz posted a perplexed, half-baked apology on his Facebook page (“I don't think [the images] are disrespectful or inappropriate in any way… I apologize if Ive hurt anybody’s feelings”). Many commenters on the apology post were supportive, also failing to see the problem, and painting a sad picture of fashion-obsessed youth online. Perhaps the “it’s all about ME, and my celebrity, and my personal narrative” culture among young people, which right-wing newspapers frequently bemoan, is more real and more widespread than I thought. Either way, I would have drawn a line under the incident as youthful misadventure (and hoped, optimistically perhaps, that Diaz would later spend 15 minutes on the Holocaust Wikipedia page educating himself) until another character entered the scene: Bryan Yambao.
Closer to 40 than 20 (read: old enough to know better), and a sometime presenter on the TV series America’s Next Top Model as well as a blogger at BryanBoy.com, Bryan Yambao tweeted in support of Diaz “So according to rabid PC trolls on the internet, we now shouldn’t photograph ourselves at memorials...” linking to a picture of himself, at the same memorial, staring vacantly into the distance. “I can’t stand extreme political correctness” Yambao affirmed. Listen, I’ll be the first to admit that ‘Twitter lynching’ and people over-reacting to perceived ‘offence’ online is tiresome, and sometimes a problem, but in this case it was sad to see a figure like Yambao, who is lauded by designers and fashion editors alike, attempt to dismiss a genuinely serious question as “extreme political correctness” perpetuated by “rabid PC trolls.” And how brave, and how provocative, of him to post a picture of himself at the same memorial, also looking like a brainless twat in badly-selected clothes. The defiance! The solidarity! The anarchy!
I hope that some of the respected fashion industry types, who have rushed to tell us how “outrageous” and “hilarious” Bryan Boy is, will reconsider their position. I hope that the sad Tweeters and Facebook commenters, whose profile pictures are of themselves staring blankly into cameraphones reflected back in the mirrors of public lavatories, wearing gaudy accessories and Les Plus Dorés ‘designer team’ T-shirts, who rushed to defend Diaz and Yambao with comments like “He didn't wear a swastika, he didn't do anything vulgar. So what's so disrespectful?” are representative of an uneducated minority. I hope that Pelayo and Bryan Boy’s dim little brains light up and realise that homosexuals were also murdered during the Nazi rule, making the whole thing slightly closer to home than they would imagine. It’s not just a matter of concrete blocks and some oversensitive people on the internet. There’s a bigger picture.
Posted by Hapsical at 16:49