Ranjona Banerji: The curious case of The Cut and Priyanka Chopra

07 Dec,2018

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The Cut is an online magazine run by New York Magazine. Its tagline goes: “Style. Self. Power. Culture.” This is how it describes itself: “With wit, honesty and power, The Cut covers issues that matter to women with stylish minds: fashion, politics, motherhood, health, ambition and culture”.

This week, this stylish interpretation of fashionable women’s minds carried an opinion piece on the marriage of Bollywood star and American TV actress Priyanka Chopra to American pop singer Nick Jonas. The “essay” by Mariah Smith speculated on the marriage, called Chopra a fraud and a scam artist, and both implied and said that poor Jonas had been trapped into marriage by a manipulative and greedy older woman when all he wanted was a fling.

It was, at best a gossip column, at worst a ridiculous rant written by an extreme Nick Jonas fangirl upset that her idol had married someone else. But I am being kind. It was not just nasty – celebrities are well used to that – it was also extremely badly written and pointless. If you want to call Chopra a fraud and a scam, then please give us some juicy evidence. Maybe she never really won Miss World, maybe the current Chopra is a clone, maybe she never had an extremely successful career in Bollywood, maybe it was a body double who acted in Quantico. How about a long list of younger men she has scammed? I don’t know, something. Prove she’s an alien from Alpha Centauri; but it’s so cheap to slam her for being an alien from India.

But that fact that she was rich and successful and likes luxury items that she can well afford, if that makes her a fraud, well, close down all those magazines about the high life and do some nice, solid, life-threatening war-zone investigative journalism instead. It’s not even as if the “essay” (sounds a bit pretentious or like a thing you had to write in school or, more likely, as attempt to write a proper opinion piece) was particularly funny or witty or satirical or made any significant point about the wastefulness of celebrity culture.

I am all for celebrity and glamour journalism. I don’t read it myself, not being the sort of woman much interested any more in fashion or motherhood or ambition (not sure what that means). Plus, a $55 lip gloss is out of my reach, available as The Cut’s “gift of the day” (though they did honestly say that The Cut earns a bit if anyone buys one). So, The Cut is not for me. And after reading The Cut’s opinion on Indian celebrities and customs, I don’t think I fit into The Cut colour-wise either (dark brown).

Or, journalism-wise.

After all the outrage on the internet, The Cut took the piece down. This in itself is controversial. It means you don’t stand by your writers or their opinions. Or you don’t have a proper checking system. Everyone makes mistakes, sure. But this one was a huge embarrassment. The writer Mariah Smith has since protected her Twitter account. The Cut put up this apology:

“Last night, the Cut published a post about Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra’s relationship that shouldn’t have gone up. We’ve received dozens of messages from readers expressing their anger. We want you to know that we hear you and we’re sorry. The whole piece missed the mark. There is no good explanation for this other than human error and poor judgement. This was a mistake, and we apologize to our readers and to Priyanka and Nick.”

https://www.thecut.com/2018/12/everything-to-know-about-priyanka-chopra-and-nick-jonas.html

And there’s also this story on the “spectacular” wedding photos in The Cut. Balm after the cut?

https://www.thecut.com/2018/12/nick-jonas-and-priyanka-chopra-wedding-ceremonies-photos.html

The international media covered the internet outrage to the piece, here The Washington Post and The Guardian:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2018/12/06/what-cut-got-so-disastrously-wrong-about-priyanka-chopra-nick-jonas/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.af31dc15e476

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/dec/06/us-magazine-deletes-article-calling-priyanka-chopra-a-scam-artist

Four lessons that one can see for The Cut: First, a better system of checks and balances, even if you have what you consider good writers. New York Magazine tweeted this article out to its followers, so clearly people within The Cut and New York Magazine’s newsrooms did read it.

Second, and this works for all of us: One more reminder of how harsh and powerful social media has made the voice of the people.

Three, and this only from me: Get some nasty, irreverent spoof/satire writers who are not celebrity wannabes but rather celebrity cynics.

And four, that promised “wit” was sorely missing!

 

 

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