After controversy erupted across the internet over the Flaunt Magazine "Guantanamo" Coachella party sponsored by Smashbox and True Religion, the theme has been changed — and today we received information that, after apparently going through several drafts, a new theme has been decided on and both sponsors have dropped out. The invitation reads: "One Night Only: A pop-up experience of peace & love." Which seems to be a complete 180-degree turn from the previous theme, of course.
UPDATE: After our story broke yesterday, our pals at Jezebel, Salon, NY Mag, and Buzzfeed all ran with the article, prompting sponsor Smashbox to respond. (Previously, we were told by True Religion they didn't know this was the theme, either, and they had concerns about the party as well.) In our comments, a representative from Smashbox has written:
"Smashbox Studios agreed to sponsor the pop up photo session portion of Flaunt's Coachella event not knowing there was a theme beyond it being a "feel good after party" to the music festival. We saw the invitation for the first time this morning, when it was thankfully brought to our attention by our concerned clients. In no way do we condone the artwork or title and have spoken with the magazine who have agreed to a name and artwork change."
However, Smashbox has now told NY Mag that the atmosphere of the party is tainted, and they are pulling out of the event altogether. Also, Buzzfeed has reported that a representative of Flaunt told them:
"In its 15-year history, Flaunt has not shied away from controversy or provocation. We routinely cover topics of social and political contention. At our event, we intend to create an atmosphere of fun, and the spirit and theme were never intended to cause offense or harm. Guantanamo has been controversial from its inception, and that an unresolved human rights issue is again fetching headlines is, in our opinion, true to our aims as a publication. We value and respect the public's concern and are taking action."
No word yet on what that action entails.
Coachella is pretty much crowned the "cool-kid" festival, thanks to its proximity to Los Angeles, high celebrity ratio, It-brand corporate sponsorship, and the generally on-point line-up. With cool-kid cred, of course, comes a healthy dose of irony, but irony is best when accompanied with intelligence and self-awareness, not haphazardly juxtaposing offensive imagery and glam.
Flaunt Magazine tends to be pretty great when it comes to thinking creatively, but its recent invite to a Guantanamo-themed party (yes, seriously) quickly shifted from fun to completely absurd. Touting "pleasurable torture" and showing scantily clad girls with automatic weapons holding blindfolded beach-goers hostage, the event promises a "unique and painfully pleasurable pop up (sic) experience. The watering hole, the first building ever built in Coachella, CA, will feature playful torture by Smashbox Studios with beats poured by French music and fashion label Kitsuné. This one will go until dawn." Yep, that was a waterboarding joke you just read.
The idea of a "New Guantanamo" isn't playful or cheeky — it's completely antithetical to the spirit of Coachella — or fun, or any sort of festival experience, whatsoever. Of course, that may be the point: The contrast of two totally disparate events, but that doesn't make it interesting, edgy, or even okay. Instead, it imagines a "sexy" version of Guantanamo where, instead of torture, espionage, terrorist activity, waterboarding, fear, and pain, there exists socially mobile "partygoers" just looking to have "a little crazy fun." We've reached out for a comment, and are currently waiting to hear back, but this feels so intrinsically wrong to us, we are flabbergasted that no one involved with this gathering didn't pause and pose a slightly horrified WTF.