The Year’s Most Controversial Magazine Covers [NSFW]

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Observation: Now that we’re all focused on the aggressive stupidity of say, the average Upworthy headline or the listicle about Syria presented entirely in Jurassic Park GIFs, the magazine cover is no longer such a great vehicle for shock delivery. That did not, however, keep some outlets from doing their level best to shock America out of (what they perceive to be) its bovine complacency. Here are 2013’s most memorable examples.

Rolling Stone‘s Tsarnaev cover was easily the loudest of this year’s dust-ups. It was also, in many ways, the most stupid. Critics insisted the cover “glamorized” Dzokhar Tsarnaev, ignoring totally that in fact there was a critical perspective inherent in displaying him as a normal, even attractive-looking kid who did a monstrous thing.

TIME‘s cover story on a Buddhist monk who leads a movement targeting all Muslims for social exclusion in Myanmar led to that issue of the magazine being pulled from shelves across that country. The concern was that it would foment more religious conflict.

The New Yorker‘s Bert and Ernie Supreme Court DOMA decision cover was widely admired, but a few dissenters — including our own Tyler Coates — pointed out that it could also read as somewhat infantilizing to actual gay couples. An avalanche of commentary ensued.

ELLE‘s Melissa McCarthy cover annoyed some, though not because it was particularly badly photoshopped — we’ll have the Photoshop tragedy of the year for you below. But it irked because the outfit she was wearing, a giant, enveloping coat, was the kind of thing most fashion editors would never put on anyone but someone on whom they thought it would be “flattering” — “flattering” being something of a code word for collateral violence between women on the subject of who “looks the best.” Aye carumba.

TIME‘s “Chris Christie is FAT, just in case you didn’t notice” cover was an exercise in its characteristic subtlety.

Per her recent Candy cover, Lady Gaga DOES NOT DO BRAZILIANS, OK? OK.

Ebony‘s Trayvon covers sparked a bunch of Tea Party intellectuals on Twitter to complain that they were racist. Ebony righteously mocked them; a #WhitePeopleBoycottingEbony hashtag had a good run on Twitter; great times were had by all.

Millenials! Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.

Ah, and then there was the inevitable Terrible Photoshop/Pose thing. Kerry Washington looks like a scary gauze alien whose lips have some kind of LED shimmer going on here. Her hair also looks like it would cut you if the wind whipped it too fast. Plus, she seems to be wearing some kind of sequined money pouch like the one your parents got you so you could avoid pickpockets on your high school trip to Paris. No, no, no.