The Year's Most Controversial Magazine Covers


Another year is drawing to a close, which means it’s time to make 2010’s roundup of the year’s most controversial magazine covers an annual thing. As usual, 2011 brought plenty of outrage over starlets showing skin, but that’s hardly the only transgression that had parents, pundits, and censors worked into a lather. Meet the grocery store chain that thinks gay families are as explicit as Penthouse, learn why it’s not cool to put Kim Kardashian on the cover of Turkish Cosmo, and take one last, long look at Michele Bachmann’s crazy eyes, after the jump.

Elton John’s adorable baby judged unsafe for “young shoppers”

No, it’s not the bizarre expression on Elton John’s face that caused Arkansas supermarket chain Harps to censor the January Us Weekly cover above. The issue apparently merited the kind of “Family Shield” you see blocking explicit porn magazines from public view because it pictured a pair of gay dads and their new baby. According to Harps president, the shield was placed after “our store manager received some complaints” and then removed after sane customers pointed out that it’s actually kind of homophobic to suggest that gay families are somehow offensive. Elton John: respectable enough for British knighthood, but too controversial for grocery stores in the South.

Maxim fails to adequately cover Olivia Munn’s crotch

It’s not exactly shocking to see a scantily clad celebrity woman on the cover of Maxim. But Fox News flipped out nonetheless over the February cover above, where Olivia Munn appears in “a pair of verrrry transparent lace panties.” Predictably, Fox turned to conservative Media Research Center VP Dan Gainor — the guy who thinks the Muppets are liberal propaganda — to provide some outrage: “Any store could have children coming in. If I were a parent, and I walked into a store and saw that cover, I would make a scene until the manager hid it.” Yes, shopkeepers, Dan Gainor is that guy.

Lea Michele: Too sexy for Gleeks?

Although last year’s Terry Richardson GQ shoot featuring Lea Michele and her Glee co-stars was far racier, she still managed to raise eyebrows as Cosmo’s March cover girl. Some angry mommies were scandalized at the sight of their kids’ favorite wholesome overachiever baring her, um, torso. The ladymag’s wildly reasonable response: “We’re thrilled to feature Lea Michele on the March cover of Cosmopolitan magazine and think she looks stunning. Michele is a grown woman and Cosmopolitan is a magazine for adults.”

Kim Kardashian, accidental Cosmopolitan Turkey cover girl

Meanwhile, in Turkey, Cosmo was doing something far less defensible. The magazine passed a photo of Kim Kardashian from an American shoot to its Turkish sister publication, which placed it on the cover without her knowledge. The fairly crappy move was exacerbated by the fact that the image appeared on newsstands in April — the month when Armenians like Kardashian commemorate their country’s genocide at the hands of Turks. Oops.

Grazia gives Kate Middleton lipo

Kate Middleton is undoubtedly a rather slim person — but even so, Prince William’s bride looked a bit malnourished in her wedding gown on the May cover of British Grazia. Compare this cover to the Australian version of the same magazine, and you’ll notice that Grazia‘s photo retouching team took some unnecessary liberties with Middleton’s middle. When the Photoshop disaster came to light, the magazine gave what Jezebel accurately calls a “fauxpology,” explaining the fairly horrifying process by which your cover-photo sausage gets made. Spoiler: it involves copy-pasting an entire arm.

Andrej Pejic’s ambiguous pecs

It’s acceptable to show men’s nipples on a non-porn magazine cover, but not women’s. This much is clear. But what happens when your naked-from-the-waist-up cover boy is Andrej Pejic, the androgynous model with a feminine face who has modeled women’s clothing both in print and on the runway? Barnes & Noble gets so confused it censors his pecs. That’s what.

Michele Bachmann’s crazy eyes, Newsweek

In perhaps the most controversial magazine cover of the year, Newsweek featured a photo of Michele Bachmann that dared to show the Republican candidate wearing one of her typical, loony expressions. Pundits on both the right and left called the crazy-eyes shot sexist, and Tina Brown responded with the following tweet: “Bachmann’s intensity is galvanizing voters in Iowa right now and Newsweek’s cover captures that. More importantly, the photo quickly became a meme, spawning such variations as “Hot Chicks With Michele Bachmeyes” and a Halloween mask.

New Humanist crucifies Ricky Gervais

If you’re trying to piss of Christians, there’s no better way to do it than crucifying one of the world’s most famous atheists on your magazine cover. We’re guessing the UK’s Rationalist Association knew this when they decided to feature a newly trim Ricky Gervais, with the word “atheist” scrawled on his chest, all done up like Jesus on the cross in their New Humanist magazine. And, predictably, Christian publications took the bait. Explaining the image at the Huffington Post, Gervais wrote, “I thought the caption … could be ‘Stand up for what you believe.'” True enough, but it could also have been, “Ricky Gervais would like some more of your attention now, please.”

Yup, that’s James Franco’s butt on the cover of Flaunt

James Franco has done everything else in the past few years — so of course he allowed Flaunt magazine to digitally tramp-stamp his naked ass for the cover of their fall fashion issue. Since the crack was covered by a sticker on newsstands and nothing Franco does shocks anyone anymore, the image wasn’t exactly controversial. But it still managed to score Flaunt more media attention than we imagine they’re used to getting.

Veena Malik’s FHM India cover is all kinds of questionable

There’s a lot going on in Pakistani actress Veena Malik’s FHM India cover: First of all, she’s got “ISI” — the initials of Pakistan’s highly controversial intelligence agency — scrawled on her arm. That touch was supposed to be a lighthearted joke, according to Malik, meant to “poke fun at Indian fear of Pakistani spies.” What the actress doesn’t find funny is that FHM manipulated the image to make it look as though she posed naked, when in reality she had on underwear. And Malik isn’t just venting her anger to the press — she’s suing.