American Apparel — they of the oversexed, uber-hip, and often controversial advertisements, is no stranger to a good spoof. Previously, Funny or Die tacked the t-shirt giant with a video of a photo shoot for the brand’s fictional “Trans Am” line, which aims to be the first collection designed specifically for the transgendered community. Now, photographer Holly Norris is sending up the brand with American Able, a series of photographs in the vein of American Apparel’s typical advertising style — but featuring a disable-bodied model named Jes.
Norris writes on her website:
“‘American Able’ intends to, through spoof, reveal the ways in which women with disabilities are invisibilized in advertising and mass media. I chose American Apparel not just for their notable style, but also for their claims that many of their models are just ‘every day’ women who are employees, friends and fans of the company.”
We love this and agree — just because the women in American Apparel ads are plucked off the street or out of the warehouse doesn’t mean they look any different than the usual model suspects seen in other advertisements. Jennifer Wright of TheGloss.com agrees, arguing that these photos make her “feel more like buying a tank top than anything Dov Charney has produced ever has.”
True/Slant’s Susanna Breslin, on the other hand, isn’t sold on Norris’ statement. She writes:
Still, there may be a bit of a gap between Norris’s women’s studies, disability-positive rhetoric and the results of her “let’s sex-up a disabled person” project. Ultimately, any work of art begs to be understood. Is this disability exploitation designed to generate attention influenced by Charney’s own marketing savvy, or are we supposed to have an experience with these images that leads us to de-otherize that which was other? In the end, one can’t help but see little more than one more young woman in her underpants.
What do you think?