Why Are People So Upset About Sam Smith's Corset Photoshoot?

Out of the frying pan and into the fire: fresh from a Grammys controversy, Sam Smith is again in the hot seat. The non-binary singer posed for Perfect Magazine wearing some skin-tight (and then some) corsets, which inexplicably divided fans.

Both Smith and Perfect are no strangers to out-there imagery.

The singer recently turned heads with an inflatable suit at the Brit Awards and arrived with a demonic posse to the 2023 Grammys, for instance, while Perfect‘s editorial frequently warp physicality to make a statement beyond clothing.

Shot for the magazine’s fourth issue, “Autonomy,” Sam Smith really played up the physicality of it all.

They wore skin-tight strings, barely-there swimsuit-style wraps, and too-tight corsets, playing with the notion of body image by deconstructing editorial convention.

Smith is clearly encouraging the viewer to reflect: What is “flattering?” What is the “right” body type? How should clothes fit?

Instead people took it at face value, recalling the strangely mixed response that followed Smith’s music video for “I’m Not Here to Make Friends,” which featured similarly convention-crushing outfits.

On Instagram, comments range from “How does anyone on this planet think this is okay,” to “Completely vile and inappropriate content.” But there was ample support for Smith, too (“Every time a Karen is offended a gay is conceived,” one commenter laughed).

Meanwhile, on Reddit, the discourse was darker. “This looks painful,” one top comment said. “This feels like fetish content but I’m not sure what the fetish is exactly and I don’t really want to know,” another demurred.

It’s extremely strange that a gender non-conforming celebrity, one who’s rightfully celebrated for boosting representation at that, would garner so much criticism among even their fans for wearing a boundary-pushing outfit, frankly.

Smith is of age, clearly comfortable in their own skin, and having fun upending stale cultural codes: what more could people want?

The editorial shoot is clearly tongue in cheek. The clothes are clearly supposed to be tight. The focus is clearly supposed to be on Smith’s unwillingness to conform to body image norms.

And, yet, even the people who’ve otherwise supported Smith are unsettled by a few provocative photos. Why? Smith clearly knows what they’re doing — it says “Autonomy” right there on the magazine cover. Why isn’t everyone else on the same page?

Smith, who has a habit for wearing comparably normal (and, honestly, stylish) clothes in their day-to-day life, most recently courted some aforementioned controversy at the 2023 Grammys, where they performed recent single “Unholy” with Kim Petras.

Unsurprisingly, pearl-clutchers found the gently-edgy performance upsetting and complained to the network and the FCC, which regulates America’s television programming among other things.

In this new era of cultural conservatism, all it takes is a few saucy photos to get people pissed. A shame, because we could all collectively use a little more self-reflection and a little less blind judgment.

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