"Diana at 50" 'Newsweek' Cover Sparks Outrage -- Is It in Poor Taste?

Readers are up in arms over an image that shows a computer-generated Princess Diana taking a stroll with Kate Middleton

Princess Diana would have been 50 this July 1 if she hadn't been killed in that car accident in Paris in 1997. To commemorate the occasion, Newsweek's editor-in-chief Tina Brown has written a story titled "Diana at 50: If She Were Here Now," imagining what Diana would be like today if she'd lived. While the article has been generally well received, the accompanying Newsweek cover has sparked some serious outrage.

The cover of this week's issue boasts a computer-generated image of an imagined 50-year-old Diana (sporting some added wrinkles and looking a few pounds plumper) superimposed into another photo to make it look as though she's strolling along with the daughter-in-law she never knew, Kate Middleton. The image is being called "tacky," "cheap," and "creepy" by outraged readers, Twitter followers and members of the press.

Brown has long been a provocateur, and she made a statement yesterday about the controversial cover and article: "We wanted to bring the memory of Diana alive in a vivid image that transcends time and reflects my piece."

While that is all well and good, the overwhelming response has been negative. "This is completely offensive and inappropriate," one commenter wrote on the Newsweek website, expressing a common attitude toward the image.

And Twitter users have been even less kind. The Twitterverse exploded at the launch of the Newsweek cover, with angry posts pouring in from around the globe. Hashtags like "#wtf" proliferated, and one Twitter user commented, "Vomit rises in the throat."

Another commenter weighed in on the L.A. Times website, saying: "Think of her sons, my God. I lost my mother last year and if I picked up a photo like this... and we are talking about Princess Diana! THIS is sick media capitalizing on a poor dead woman's memory. Her sons deserve a retraction and an apology, and come to think of it, so do we, the subscribers, who are going to receive this appalling magazine in the mail. I'm cancelling my subscription."

Tina Brown is no stranger to controversy, and her article was written from the perspective of one who had studied Diana, and knew her well. But the digitally altered image of Diana, mixed with the speculative tone of what Diana would have been doing had she not tragically died, does not sit well at all with readers. While it may be interesting to travel down the "what if" path, the fact of the matter remains: Diana died in 1997 in a horrific car crash, during the prime of her life. Her two sons were robbed of their mother. And her death was a wrenching moment for the British and the world as a whole.

Diana was, of course, a celebrity, but many of the comments from readers show an empathy and compassion for Diana's family members who still miss her. One reader weighed in on Newsweek's website: "Ugh this is SO tasteless...let the poor woman RIP...if I were any of her family members i'd be so offended and upset by this."

It is quite interesting that while the cover has stirred up such passionate feelings, most people are less appalled to read about what Diana might be like at 50. So what does Brown say about a 50-year-old Diana? For starters, she would have been married a couple more times, settled down in her favorite city (New York), and would have a Facebook page and 10 million Twitter followers.

"There is no doubt she would have kept her chin taut with strategic Botox shots and her bare arms buff from the gym," Brown writes. And, Brown believes, Diana also would have found peace with Prince Charles: "I believe her best male friend in later years would have been, poignantly, her reviled first husband."

And how would Diana have dealt with the publicity surrounding her son's marriage? Brown thinks it would have gone like this: "Diana, rejoicing in her flawless Spencer pedigree, would have positioned herself as a firm defender of the Middletons against the palace snobs and ostentatiously made Carole Middleton, Kate's dynamic mother, her new BFF."

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