The last time Meryl graced the cover of Vogue, it was when she was promoting The Iron Lady, for which she won what was considered a surprise Oscar, as much as any Oscar won by Meryl can ever be unexpected (as I recall, the favorite was Viola Davis for The Help). Now, Meryl is getting ready for the release of The Post, in which she plays the Washington paper’s legendary publisher Katherine Graham — an idol of mine from back when I thought journalism was in my future. So maybe Vogue will strike gold for her twice.

That 2011 cover was quite good but also a bit odd — Meryl! On a rock! By the sea! — and a common complaint was that it airbrushed her too heavily. I both liked that cover (even with its New Age randomness) and agreed with that complaint. That is not a factor here. This is both a realistic picture of Meryl and a refreshing one given how little Vogue likes to acknowledge age. I think I like it better smaller than blown up. When I see it in thumbnail, she looks like she’s shifting in her seat and rolling up her sleeves to tell me a saucy joke that she — with a twinkle — is not sure I can handle:

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“All right,” she is saying. “But when I get to the part with the bike pump, don’t say I didn’t warn you.” [Apparently mobile doesn’t size these right and you’re seeing this huge and the top one slightly smaller. Hopefully between the two that’s enough to get the idea? Sigh.]

In full she seems almost more fatigued. I want this photo to give her more power than it does; even with the director’s chair behind her, there’s an air of, “Can I take a vacation yet?”

I don’t MIND that, necessarily. It shouldn’t be revolutionary for Vogue to put an actress on the cover who has actual age lines. Meryl is 68, and she has earned the right to be Over It if she wants to be, and I’m glad Meryl is not on this cover looking 45. But Meryl is not Over It, I don’t think. Meryl is not retiring. Meryl is not slowing down. Meryl is not slipping out of her command seat, nor bored (I assume), nor any less hungry simply because she’s been at the top for a long time. Meryl is going to win like six more Oscars and live to be 102 and still act rings around the whippersnappers. Meryl is going to make Mamma Mia 4. Meryl is still Meryl, and will be Meryling for years to come, and I’d kind of like the cover to project an aura of potency. After all, she’s┬ásomething of a superhero, so — as quietly classy as this is — I want Vogue to show her off as one. Or at the very least have her sit up straight and level us with her gaze.

[Photo: Vogue]