Oh, No Thank You! Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show Edition

Oh, No Thank You! Victoria's Secret Show Edition

By Anne T. Donahue

After a six-year hiatus, it was announced Wednesday afternoon that the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show will return this year, promising to “reflect who we are today, plus everything you know and love.” Okay!

If you may or may not recall, the show originally ran from 1995 to 2018 and featured models like Naomi, Gisele, Tyra, and Claudia (we’re on a first name basis, obviously), as well as performances by the likes of Jay Z, Taylor Swift, and Ed Sheeran. It was also the antithesis of inclusivity, with a special focus on thinness.

A source told Page Six, the new incarnation will “deliver precisely what our customers have been asking for – the glamour, runway, fashion, wings, entertainment – all through a powerful, modern lens reflecting who we are today.” And while I’m not exactly sure who’s been asking for what and for how long, I will say this feels incredibly in-step with the noughties resurgence defining our current landscape, which I don’t mean in a good way.

I’ve been hopeful that we, as a people, had come to outgrow Victoria’s Secret. Not necessarily the product (because wear what you want and what you choose to put on is your business), but the brand. You know: the very consciously conceived image of what a corporation believes is sexy, and the celebration of pushing said sexy product to female viewers through an extremely limited lens. Wings and heels and matching sets and tans upon abs upon push-up bras upon smiles.

Which again, is not for me to police, because I believe we all get to make choices about what we consume for entertainment, and who we give our money to. But as body positivity seems to dissolve with each passing day, I’m disappointed by the fact that in the midst of a world on fire, we’re choosing to seek comfort in a display and a broadcast that’s served primarily to make people feel shitty.

Lest we forget that in 2019, it was revealed that former Victoria’s Secret CEO Les Wexner had close ties to Jeffrey Epstein (whom he enabled), and that participants of the fashion show were subjected to (alleged) misconduct at the hands of Ed Razek, the man behind the show. This, together with Razek’s 2018 comments that plus-sized and transgendered bodies would ruin the “fantasy” of the production add up to qualify Victoria’s Secret as hardly a beacon of responsibility, inclusion, or even good form. Its legacy is rooted in the homogenic, heteronormative, consumptive male gaze. It’s the product of men in power telling women what they should want.

I know this sounds like I’m banging on my shoe on the table, and that’s because I am. I know last year’s Fashion Show broadcast (which streamed on Prime) was relatively successful, and I know that networks and corporations are scrambling to make anything – anything – consumers will respond to. But is this it? Really? Women in giant wings and in heels, walking onstage to the pop music of billionaires? Is this what we’ve arrived to culturally? And Victoria’s Secret? Out of every brand in the world? How much are they willing to overhaul, exactly? How, without completely re-branding, can they appease what they claim we’ve been asking for?

I want to be clear that what frustrates me isn’t the models or the underwear or even the fact that enough people care about Angels to justify this event. What frustrates me is that the higher-ups believe we’re still so tethered to a brand’s legacy and what it once represented that they assume a few choice words will placate us enough to celebrate its glorious comeback. Maybe fans have been asking for glamour and wings and fashion and a runway. But those things can’t possibly make up for a company whose history is woven into the egregious behaviour of the men behind it. “Do better” sometimes means stop doing it altogether, or do it without the fanfare or bravado, so we can convince ourselves that any improvements are organic and not a desperate attempt to up sales.

Need a little more Anne? Read more from Anne T. Donahue right here!

Tags: Anne T. Donahue, top story, topstory, victoria's secret

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