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Remarking on the Almost Quaint Wholesomeness of the Annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

By Michael Murray | Think Pieces | February 25, 2011 |

By Michael Murray | Think Pieces | February 25, 2011 |

The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue has been around for more than 40 years, and at this point, any debate about it’s social validity is so far removed from the world we inhabit, that to bring it up suggests you’re a hippy—the kind of person who names their children India or Reykjavik.

Sex touches, even commands pretty much everything we do, and so nobody should be surprised if one grim February day, when the New Yorker brain trust sees that they’re losing market share, they decide to launch their own Swimsuit Issue. Yes, models—most wearing glasses—their bodies traced by just the softest breaths of poetry.

Existing in an omni sexual climate, the SI Swimsuit issue barely makes a ripple these days. Amidst the visual cacophony of the Internet, where masturbatory dream girls beckon to us constantly, this magazine seems quaint, wholesome, even. More than anything, it has the vibe of a 1960’s era Playboy magazine.


The attempt to disguise raw sexual desire as something other than it is (an interest in sports, vacation resorts, the art of body painting!) is a ready-made anachronism, so when you look at the SI Swimsuit issue, it really feels like you’re looking into the past.

Personally, I think it’s cute the way the magazine attempts to put an athletic, if kittenish spin on their parade of flesh. The new models are referred to as “Rookies,” like they’re promising baseball players hoping to break into the Major Leagues, which is pretty much exactly what they are in their comparative professions.

In conjunction with Victoria’s Secret, SI serves as the coronating vehicle by which the next great supermodel is crowned and presented to the mainstream. This year it’s Irina Shayk, who is, of course, stunningly beautiful. A sophisticated, potentially evil Russian, she’s exactly the type of cold war babe that James Bond would have laid and then dispatched without a tremor of guilt or uncertainty.


Her foil, so to speak, and surely the next cover girl, is SI rookie Kate Upton who will ensure that America will once again win gold in the supermodel Olympics.


Upton, blonde and blue-eyed, is a nubile 18 year-old sex bomb from Florida. She radiates health, optimism, sex, innocence, beauty and sex and some more sex.

They body-painted her.

She is what America is all about.


Wanting to know more, I watched the interviews that SI posted on-line. The questions, like the Playboy centerfold questionnaire— which the Playmate answered in her own girlish script—were silly, designed to get the guys listening to think maybe they had a shot. “Hey, I’m emotionally supportive, maybe I’ve got a shot with Chrissy Tiegen! Fuck her husband John Legend!”

Kate, just 18 and undoubtedly known more for how she looks than what she says, was a little, um, unformed in her articulations. When asked what it was that she couldn’t live without, she said her mother.

Whom she speaks to every single day.

And tells everything.

An erection killer if ever there was one.

She employed a kind of whispering gibberish to answer another question, couldn’t quite pronounce Ryan Reynolds’ name and said that her favorite music included Britney Spears and Rascal Flatts. Her answers and presence were conspicuously absent from the last half of the Q & A, and so for the time being, her “sinful pleasure” will remain a mystery to us.

Fortunately, a letter that Kate emailed to herself has been discovered and leaked onto the web:

Dear Old Kate:

Mom said it would be a really cool thing for me to write my thoughts down now, when I’m 18 and becoming a mega-star, to you, the 30 year-old version of myself. She said it would offer me some neat perspective so that old me could better understand my journey, or something.

It’s like Back to the future!

If you’re not the 30 year-old me, stop reading NOW because this is ONLY to be read by the 30 year-old me!!!

First of all, you have to tell me, did they make an Avatar sequel? That movie was totally awesome!! And in real life, have we conquered Pandora yet? I hope not, because that would be sad and exploitive, but I hope we can go there for vacations and be friends with them. I got painted blue for my SI photo shoot, so I think I can relate to the Pandorans.

Anyway, things are crazy right now, as you might remember. I’m a world-class model and everybody is calling me Kate the Great! I hope after all these years you haven’t forgotten just what a Bitch McGhee that Brooklyn Decker was!! She hated me! And just because I was young and hot! Kate, I hope you weren’t such a mean, old B-word when you were 23 and had the class to step aside for the new talent.

Also, her boyfriend, that tennis guy who never wins, Andy Roddick, is a super-perv! I swear he had a boner when he was watching me do my shoot, and Brooklyn (I am sorry, but that is a stupid, no-class name) is always talking about their greasy sex life. Gross-out!!

Anyway, as you know by now, there will always be haters, and I bet you’ve gone through some tough times since we were 18. I just hope you remembered our mantra, “Kater will always be greater than the haters,” and repeated it to yourself whenever you/we got in trouble, like when Mrs. Francis used to ask us questions in Biology.

Well, I guess you’re probably not very pretty now and other models have likely come along to be “the next great one.” I hope you’ve been able to handle yourself with class in spite of what the mean girls said. I hope you now own three islands, and never forget the joy that was in your beautiful heart. I hope you’ve aged gracefully and taken care of yourself, and that you’re now a judge on “American Idol” or saving Africans by bringing them the word of our lord, Jesus Christ.

Kate, you loved life and volleyball, and I hope you haven’t lost those qualities, for they are what made you, you.

I also hope you have a dog farm and got to follow Rascal Flatts on tour.


Kate the Great at 18

Michael Murray is a freelance writer. He presently lives in Toronto. You can find more of his musings on his blog, or check out his Facebook page.

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