Robert Crumb has revealed the politically charged New Yorker cover over which he quit over a year and a half ago, making The New Yorker look cowardly for rejecting his controversial image. The drawing of a gender indeterminate couple awaiting "gender inspection" before obtaining a marriage license certainly would have caused chatter at the time. But the new context -- rejection and a year-and-a-half simmer period after Crumb's outspoken New Yorker boycott -- has brought the controversy to a whole new level. The political meaning and outrage of the art has been obscured by a more pressing question: Why did the liberal New Yorker reject Crumb's drawing?
There's the obvious answer to this question: Crumb went too far for The New Yorker. At least Gawker's Seth Abramovitch thinks that must be what made Editor in Chief David Remnick forgo Crumb's scandalous offering. "Clearly, the 'gender inspection' sign was what Remnick was wrestling with, and the fallout from millions of gays and lesbians who would have undoubtedly felt marginalized and stereotyped by the depiction," writes Abramovitch. Abramovitch isn't alone in this assertion, Crumb himself in an interview with Vice posited a similar theory. "The New Yorker is majorly politically correct, terrified of offending some gay person," he told Nadja Sayej.
But maybe it had nothing at all to do with that. It's not like Remnick is completely averse to scandalous covers. Remember the Obama fist-bump July 2008 cover that drew controversy? (Abramovitch does.) Crumb got rejected and is overreacting. In that same Vice interview Crumb admits he knew The New Yorker often rejects covers. "When you go to the cover editor’s office, you notice that the walls are covered with rejected New Yorker covers," he said. "Sometimes there are two rejected covers for each issue." Yet, he publicly quits when his own gets rejected, claiming the lack of explanation was what really stung. "I felt insulted, not so much by the rejection as for the lack of any reason given. I can't work for a publication that won't give you any guidelines or criterion for accepting or rejecting a work submitted," he told Syej. And this is why the scandal, if it's about prudishness at The New Yorker, is invented: No New Yorker staff members told Crumb his cover was too salacious. They just didn't tell Crumb anything. The Atlantic Wire reached out to the magazine for comment, a PR rep has yet to get back to us.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.