If you have walked down the checkout aisle of any major grocery store recently, chances are you have seen the face of surviving Boston bomber, Dzohkhar Tsarnaev, without any mention of his name, on the cover of the latest “Rolling Stone.”
With his mysterious brown eyes staring into yours, “The Bomber” is in big black letters placed perfectly on top of his shirt as a nametag and his perfectly imperfect curls sweeping across his face.
What was once a personal “selfie” to Tsarnaev, is now the headshot that has caused a wave of discomfort amongst some Americans. If you only frequent CVS or Walgreens, you probably have no idea what cover I’m talking about, since both chain stores refused to feature the August 1 edition of “Rolling Stone” due to the personal jab the cover makes to the drug store industry. “Rolling Stone” made a bold move putting Tsarnaev on its cover, especially since many still live with the consequences of this horrific event and continue to grieve because of it.
But these bold moves are needed, no matter how difficult they may be. But, it isn’t the picture that seems to be the issue, since the same photo was used on the cover of the New York Times in May. However, the picture in the New York Times was accompanied by the byline, “The Dark Side, Carefully Masked.” The byline assumes that Tsarnaev was always an awful human being but was able to hide it from everyone in his life, which is what everyone assumes when they think of the personal lives of the perpetrators.
Comparatively, the byline on “Rolling Stone”s reads: “How a popular, promising student was failed by his family, fell into radical Islam and became a monster.” The byline addresses how Tsarnaev was a “popular, promising student,” which makes his transformation that much scarier. Critics have responded negatively because no one likes to think about the fact that Tsarnaev was a normal teenager, living a normal life.
At some point in his life he could have been featured in “Just like US.”
Everyone wants to think that there was always something wrong with him, that he always showed signs of aggression and was doomed to commit the horror. They don’t like the fact that “Rolling Stone” is depicting him as a real person with a developed personality.
But the fact is, he was an indivual in conflicted . He was a normal teenager who went to school, complained about homework, and went out with his friends on the weekend—there’s no escaping that. “Rolling Stone” proves that while there were specific events that triggered Tsarnaev, this was not something that could have been anticipated. There is no “perfect formula” to breeding a monster.
The editors of the magazine defend their cover, saying it is a part of “‘Rolling Stone’s’ long-standing commitment to serious and thoughtful coverage of the most important political and cultural issues of our day.”
They should stand by their cover, because it explores the complexities of monsters such as Tsarnaev.
If you can’t appreciate the cover as a piece that has more depth than what appears to be a modeling portfolio, that’s fine. But don’t refuse to showcase it in your store because you find the portfolio to falsely portray Tsarnaev as a seductive celebrity (Yes, I’m looking at you CVS and Walgreens, with my deep, mysterious brown eyes).
This boycott movement proved to be extremely successful when “Rolling Stone” ended up selling over 13,000 copies since July 19, double the average amount of sales made in 2012 alone.
The overwhelming success this issue garnered, proves that despite CVS and Walgreens’ failed attempts to make a statement by boycotting the magazine, this rare profile of Tsarnaev was necessary to truly understand that a monster may not have always been one. And while the thought of that is frightening, closing your eyes to it doesn’t change the fact of the matter.
Aliza Asad is a second-year international studies major and can be reached at email@example.com.