Australian Media Outlets Skewer Vanity Fair’s Margot Robbie Cover Story
Writer Rich Cohen, a co-creator of HBO’s 'Vinyl', defends his profile as a "compliment" and "goof" as social media users and media down under call his take on Australia outdated and say he has a "Robbieboner."
Vanity Fair contributing editor Rich Cohen may have just come to the realization that he has become public enemy number one in Australia, a nation he’s described as being "sunny and slow."
Australian media outlets and online users spent Thursday and Friday skewering Cohen’s cover story on Australian actress Margot Robbie, in which he refers to the country as “a throwback inhabited by throwback people” and leeringly describes Robbie as “sexy and composed even while naked."
Cohen, who is also a Rolling Stone contributing editor and is credited as co-creator of HBO series Vinyl, insists that that piece was “supposed to be funny” and a ‘’compliment,” and says Australians are “the best people in the world,” according to local publisher Fairfax Media.
Cohen told Fairfax Media on Friday "I was mostly joking. It is a goof. Supposed to be funny," and that he was unaware of just how large the controversy he had unwittingly sparked had become on the other side of the world.
Australian outrage extended to both Cohen’s descriptions of The Legend of Tarzan star Robbie as “creepy and lecherous," as well as his many erroneous references to Australia’s geography and fauna and descriptors of the nation at the “bottom of the world.”
The opening paragraphs of the July cover story on Robbie reads: "America is so far gone, we have to go to Australia to find a girl next door. In case you’ve missed it, her name is Margot Robbie. She is 26 and beautiful, not in that otherworldly, catwalk way, but in a minor knock-around key, a blue mood, a slow dance. She is blonde but dark at the roots. She is tall but only with the help of certain shoes. She can be sexy and composed even while naked but only in character. As I said, she is from Australia. To understand her, you should think about what that means. Australia is America 50 years ago, sunny and slow, a throwback, which is why you go there for throwback people. They still live and die with the plot turns of soap operas in Melbourne and Perth, still dwell in a single mass market in Adelaide and Sydney. In the morning, they watch Australia’s Today show. In other words, it’s just like America, only different ... "
Australian comedian Rebecca Shaw at multicultural TV network SBS asked Cohen in a reaction, "What do you have against us? Is it because the only thing you know about Australia is what you learned from [a much maligned] The Simpsons episode where they go to Australia, and you disagree Bart should have been sentenced to The Boot?”
News Corp’s local online outlet, news.com.au, covered the reaction to the piece in no uncertain Australian terms: "Those reacting to the piece online are combating Cohen’s clear Robbieboner in the best way possible: mercilessly taking the piss.”
News.com.au notes that Cohen’s profile of Robbie “is the latest in a long list of articles by male journalists examining an attractive female celebrity in a way that suggests the woman in question should probably inquire about a restraining order on their way home from the interview."
The online outlet’s editor, Dan Stankey, countered with a rewrite headlined: "Vanity Fair, we fixed that dumb article for you," which started with a takedown of presidential hopeful Donald Trump. "Australia is so far gone, we have to go to America to find a boy next door,” Stankey wrote. “In case you missed it, his name is Donald Trump. He is 70 and beautiful, not in that otherworldly, catwalk way, but in the kind of way that makes you want to drown kittens. He is strawberry blonde but malevolent at the roots. He is tall but only with the help of shining towers that he builds as monuments to his greatness. He can be sexy and composed, even while firing reality TV wannabes, but only in character. As I said, he is from America. To understand him, you should think about what that means. America is Australia 50 years ago, racist and bigoted, a throwback, which is why you go there for throwback people.”
The Australian newspaper, meanwhile, noted that “if there’s one thing Australians will not stand for, it is being ridiculed by America.”
And the local arm of Mashable weighed in with a rundown of “5 of the weirdest things written about Australia in Vanity Fair's Margot Robbie profile," which includes ripostes like: "Sunny and slow? Yep, Aussies are still stunned by the wonders of color television and supermarkets. After all, it's too damn hot to make any cultural or technological progress. Also 'throwback people' — does that just mean white people?”
Robbie has not yet responded to the controversy.