Mostly Fab the Cover: Meryl Streep; Fug or Fab the Pics: Vogue itself

So, let me begin by stating for the record that I love Meryl Streep, and I am thrilled Vogue finally put someone of her age and accomplishment level on the cover, after giving that platform to the same handful of predictably dull choices like Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger and Sarah Jessica Parker approximately eleven-hundred times. Frankly, it’s amazing to me that it took this long, although it feels like Vogue wants you to hug them for being so brave and then give them an award.

Even the layout appears to scream, “DO NOT FORGET WHAT WE HAVE DONE.” The number 50 is barking at us from the bottom left, as if to suggest, “50! As in, a smaller number than the age of the lady on the cover!” And there’s that story up by her face about flawless skin at any age. I feel like it’s yelling, “ANY AGE. EVEN MERYL’S, Y’ALL. BECAUSE IF YOU HAVEN’T HEARD, SHE’S OLDER THAN ANYONE WE’VE EVER PUT ON OUR COVER.”

But I’m conflicted. I do think Meryl looks good. And I don’t want Meryl to look like anyone other than Meryl. But I wonder if there was some acreage between “plonk Meryl on a rock” and “make Meryl look like Katy Perry.” Check out the other photo they’re distributing as part of the big cover coup:

Striking and stark and arty, yes. But be honest: It’s also one sidebar about stomach crunches away from looking like a Self magazine spread. Meryl even appears to be wearing yoga pants.

So tell me: Is this exactly right, or a letdown? I can see the argument for both. On one hand, Meryl herself does not come off as someone who has patience for pretension, and there’s certainly something to be gained for letting her be herself without any adornments or headdresses or other assorted whatnots. But, when you found out Meryl Streep was going to be on — and in – Vogue, did you hope a LITTLE bit that they’d give her more of the editorial Vogue treatment? She doesn’t have to be running through a horse-laden prairie in a $10,000 skirt woven from crushed New Year’s Eve party horns, and she doesn’t have to be naked and body painted with her own portrait from 40 years ago. But as I said, there’s a lot of space between that for them to have had some glamorous fun with a gorgeous woman who makes aging look enviable and gives women in her generation a real aspirational touchstone. So a big part of me would love to see what they could’ve done if only they’d thought of something other than, “Let’s stick Meryl on a rock,” or, “Let’s stick Meryl on a rock and unbutton an extra bit of her blouse.”

I’d love to know your thoughts — do you think Vogue played it exactly right, or didn’t do enough? Does this feel like a sincere gesture, or just something they could do and then publicly pat themselves on the back for it? Honestly, I think it’s possible that it’s both. Obviously Meryl more than deserved the honor; I just wonder if she deserved more than those pants.

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Comments (52):

  1. Chasmosaur

    While I get your criticism, I prefer the second, Yoga Pant/Self magazine picture.

    The cover looks horrible to me. They obviously said, “Okay, everyone knows Meryl Streep has age lines, but this is Vogue. So do a half-assed job of smoothing out her face.”

    The second picture looks a little less post-production-ed.

    • Annie E

      I would really like the cover if they hadn’t made her face look so wonkily wrinkle-free.

    • Karen

      Exactly right. She looks air-brushed to a fare-thee-well on the cover. The yoga-pants-cover-rock photo looks much more like her.

      But, yeah, I think they could have put her in some awesome Mirren-esque gown, just for shits and giggles.

    • Katie

      I agree, but the yoga pants photo, although a bit better, looks photoshopped too. I think everyone knows what Meryl Streep actually looks like – she doesn’t try to hide it, and that’s part of her appeal. Too bad Vogue couldn’t just let her be herself.

      • Chasmosaur

        Note I said *less* post-production-ed. It’s still be retouched to be certain.

  2. Jamie

    Well, she did send up Wintour something fabulous in The Devil Wears Prada, so… Lesson to be learned here: You mess with the Wintour, you get the lackluster photo spread.

  3. Carol

    Meryl in real life is no glamourpuss, meaning she doesn’t go all out for ‘events’, preferring to let her natural beauty show. Perhaps Vogue was just playing on that.

  4. ceecee

    I wish they hadn’t done that unbuttoned top button- it looks sleazy. Otherwise, I love both pictures; I wish I owned that blue dress and I think she looks elegant, confident and relaxed.

  5. Evalyn

    Would you be saying the same thing if it were Helen Mirren? While the media is saturated with young things trying to look younger and older at the same time or just trying to see how weird they can appear, I find Meryl and Helen refreshing. If you need “more” there are plenty of Katy Perrys and Lady Gagas who seem endlessly willing to display themselves in whatever overdone fashion you like. Give me straight ahead real women. Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Diane Keaton. Those are real women, real life, real time examples I can look up to. With any luck, we all age. Give me the strength to do it as gracefully as they do. Vougue shoudl be give props for their restraint because I, for one, want them to do more of the same.

    • Eliza Bennett

      I deeply disagree with your premise here–no, the GFY girls would be even LOUDER about it if Helen MotherFing Mirren only got Yoga Pants On A Rock. I think Helen’s cover shots would be snazzier.
      Please don’t tell me “real” women who age “gracefully” have NO interest in fun clothes, working it on a Vogue cover or even just trying on all the awesome glittery things you know are chilling in the fashion closet. Meryl’s elegant and easy style deserves more than two shots on a rock. I’m thinking something like the Vogue covers with Michelle Obama. Michelle looked glamorous and at the same time like she was there to say something, not just model–and Meryl could have benefited from the same idea.
      K. Off my soapbox.

      • GFY Heather

        Exactly — the point here is not, and I think I made this clear, that I have any problem with Meryl vs other older ladies. I think it’s terrific that she’s on the cover. I just had the passing thought that this could have been more fun and joyful.

  6. Anne B

    Don’t make me judge her. Please don’t ask me to judge her.

    Meryl, I love you. This looks fine to me. <3

  7. vandalfan

    I’m so grateful they did not photoshop her lipstick to match the garish pink print. For me, she can do no wrong, and yes this is beautiful and yes she deserves better and yet, yes, this is fine for January and the post-holiday malaise.

  8. Eva

    I’m not a fan of the cover photo and actually prefer the second one, but not for the cover :) I agree that they could have had more fun with angles and dresses for the cover and kept the second photo, which feels natural and relaxed.

  9. Lizzy

    The undone button says it all. That’s about as seductive and glamorous as this spread gets. And what’s with the full skirt? I agree with your criticism. The styling here is just all wrong, very ordinary and cliched. Why is it only Europeans seem to understand women of a certain age?

  10. Heironyms.

    I actually think this is perfect if only because it recalls stills and posters from The French Lieutenant’s Woman, in which Meryl had her first starring role. The muted blue-cyan tint, the sea behind her, hair blowing back in the wind. It makes a point about how little she’s changed physically in the intervening forty-some years. Here are some images from the film:

  11. GFY Heather

    I think I just wished it had been more… joyful, and celebratory. She is a woman aging beautifully. Why not have her kick up her heels instead of acting like she’s a retiree who teaches yoga?

    • Shelley Noble

      You wouldn’t know this until you were over 50 but when one ages gracefully teaching yoga while retired is kicking up your heels. Priorities change. The Definition of fun changes. Simply being and being at peace with one’s self is enough.

      • KB

        I think that’s a personal preference – my mom is 65, and at the moment is literally kicking up her heels on a beach in Aruba, and did the same thing last winter in Mexico, when she called me with the mariachi band in the background to rub it in. Having fun is her priority, and Meryl seems the same type. I would like to see her in a bright color in a different environment, even on her own farm, with a cocktail in hand.

  12. Louisa

    It’s Meryl, but her expression looks like she’s deliberately setting her face at an angle and in a state of mildness that gives her awesome face the least possible show of age. Just enough smile to straighten the jawline but not enough to wrinkle the eyes. I wish they’d photographed her with a more natural expression. She’s 63ish. This looks too much like everyone involved was both awed and terrified of doing this, so they did it as safely as possible. It nags at me, when what I want is to love it.

  13. Lizzy

    Homely. That’s it – the cover outfit looks kinda homely, which makes the undone button look all the more a gauche attempt to be sexy. Yuk. Meryl deserves better.

  14. Jen

    Are these photos by Annie Leibovitz? I’m just guessing because they look very “Annie”. And while she is a wonderful photographer, I don’t think her aesthetic flatters many of her subjects. I think Vogue is trying to pat itself on the back for featuring a seasoned, well-respected face but has done Meryl a disservice by making her look like a spread in a Newport News catalog. I need more vogue from Vogue.

    • Sajorina

      I don’t know if these are Annie’s pictures, but she actually always looks exactly like Meryl does in the 2nd pic!

    • maria

      They should have used Mario Testino. He actually knows how to photograph women. This photo looks like a “Good Housekeeping” cover to me.

  15. Sparky

    As the Onion recently posted: “Meryl Streep Unable to be Tried by Jury as She Has No Peers.”

  16. Jules

    I would have liked it no matter who the celebrity was, just because of the moody rocks and crashing surf.

  17. fritanga

    Vogue (and most all other American fashion magazines) are so deadly afraid of “old” women, fat women, less-than-gorgeous women, etc. that they’ve relegated themselves to constantly celebrating stupid, shallow, colorless women (BOOBS LEGSLY) on their covers. Yes, the self-congratulation and the Photoshopping are obvious, which makes me wonder why Streep did this at all. It’s more than a little insulting.

    • Sajorina

      Excuse me, but I wouldn’t call Blake Lively stupid and shallow, but I would agree with you if you were talking about a talentless bimbo like Kim K.!

  18. TonyG

    I am firmly in the “Perfect. So Meryl” camp! I really loved this when I first saw it. It looks and feels like something Meryl could be doing if the photographer were not there. I guess your point is to put her in a situation where she is more in a fantastical world, but I rather like this just the way it is.

  19. Lina

    I read somewhere that it’s Annie Liebovitz, too, and honestly this shoot just looks lazy. Drive to nearest beach, throw on some clothes, snap some shots, go have margaritas. Besides that, Meryl looks like they photoshopped someone else’s skin onto her face. It is weird looking. Still, kudos to Vogue for dipping a proverbial toe into the water. Maybe Helen Mirren will be next.

  20. cc

    If they’d dressed her up people would be complaining how they weren’t “being true to Meryl” and her unshow-y fashion sense. They could have dressed her up or dressed her down and they did the second one.

  21. Sajorina

    To me the cover picture seems to say “This is how America’s Greatest Actress would look like if she had work done”… It is a nice picture, but it looks exactly like what it is: an airbrushed Meryl Streep on the rocks, which could also serve as the name of America’s Greatest Cocktail! Now, the 2nd picture is totally her… awesome, beautiful, gracious, uncomplicated and unpretentious; and, I LOVE IT! But, this is Vogue, so how about turning up the glamorous for her?
    Imagine if Brittish Vogue did this to Britain’s Greatest Actress, Helen Mirren? We would NOT be happy about it!

  22. june

    why on earth would you do an article on meryl streep and photoshop out her wrinkles? the more she ages, the more gorgeous she is! that’s just a Fact of Life

    • GingerLover

      Yes. I agree. And there is some photoshopping here, but frankly it also looks very Meryl. I like it. But then I love the 1950 ish vibe of the first dress. I think this is a Damned if they do, damned if they don’t situation, I’d rather this than new years party hats.

  23. Cecily

    It’s perfect, it’s Meryl. Love her, she can do no wrong, and I would only assume that any stylist telling her to do something she didn’t like would be told otherwise.

  24. Kris M

    I love the cover!

    I wish she was wearing something a little more interesting on the other pic. It IS Vogue, not Good Housekeeping.

  25. ChaChaHeels

    They put her on grey, colourless cover wearing more grey, then inside the magazine in black workout clothes. On top of everything, the photos not only look photoshopped, they look fake. As in, stick the picture of Meryl we took in the hallway somewhere on this picture of rocks on a beach. And in the second photo, I would believe they didn’t just fake the location, they stuck Meryl’s head on Annie Liebowitz’ body! I guess this is what they do when they hate your fearless, talented, but aging ass, but they have to promote you anyway.

  26. Alexis

    US Vogue is selling IS VOgue once again. Clearly, that is Meryl on the cover only I can’t really see her. It’s making me a little dizzy. WHY DOES THIS COVER MAKE ME FEEL LIKE I NEED GLASSES?

  27. anny

    I’ve never thought she was THAT talented (yep, I said it), but she certainly doesn’t deserve to be all Eileen Fishered up.

    All due respect to Eileen Fisher, but a lot of that stuff looks two seams and $450 away from a muumuu. (Huh. Anya Ayoung-Chee: the Eileen Fisher of her generation?)

  28. TonyG

    Folks who say this doesn’t look like Meryl Streep, I have one question to ask? Did you not immediately recognize this was her? Yes, a few wrinkles are gone, but this looks very much like her, a mature woman, slightly younger than someone her age would look. She’s 62 and looks like she’s in her early 50′s here. I have a few friends who in real life look about 10 years younger. It really isn’t so terrible. Then again, I’m not so much an anti-Photoshop groupie. It looks like her so it’s fine. I really don’t think folks would purchase magazines as much if stars looked like the photos we take with our digital cameras. They are selling a fantasy, sure, but it’s a fantasy many of us buy into. On some level, it’s why we come to this site, if we are to be real about it. The folks we love project an image that we crave, or at least, pay attention to.

  29. andnowyoutellme

    I find myself wondering how amazing this would be if it were French Vogue. Because you know it would be. As it is, Annie Liebovitz, if left to her own devices, could have made it so much more interesting than it is. But still. Meryl!

  30. maria

    The cover photo is just bad and actually makes her look older! The colors are all cold and her skin appears grey. Crappy picture of a beautiful woman and a stupid editorial choice.

  31. Sneza

    I can’t believe, out of the hundreds or maybe thousands of photos the Vogue photographer would have shot that day, that the one with that expression was the best one for the cover.

    It’s like they didn’t want her to look as fabulous as she can look. smh.

  32. Claire

    I agree that Meryl deserves better. But I think it would be an even bigger challege to Vogue to put a young thing in something this casual and laid-back. Like imagine Cameron Diaz in yoga pants on the cover…

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