Kimye, don't hate the player
Monday 24th March 2014
I had the loveliest weekend. I got a manicure. I went for a swim in the ocean and somehow managed to get just one of my inner thighs sunburnt. I ate a ginormous slice of watermelon covered in lime juice. The best thing about my weekend though happened when I woke up on Saturday morning. I rolled over and picked up my smartphone, blearily scrolling through my Twitter feed with one eye open. It was then that I read the news that Kim Kardashian and her fiancée Kanye West are on the cover of Vogue magazine.
I love Kim. Anyone who has ever stumbled onto my Twitter will know that. Having followed her and her family since the first season of their reality television show, I knew that she would be over the moon at being featured on the cover of Vogue. When I saw her Instagram update that the cover was her dream come true I felt so happy for her. I’m not especially in love with the cover itself – I wish they were both wearing something a little more outrageous and fashion forward – but they look beautiful and who doesn’t feel happy when someone’s dream comes true?
Some other people didn’t feel so happy. Sarah Michelle Gellar tweeted that she was cancelling her Vogue subscription and other, non-famous Vogue readers expressed their disgust at seeing Kim and Kanye on the cover, posting online that Kimye will “never belong on the cover of Vogue” and that the fashion magazine had gone from “class to trash in one day”. James Franco and Seth Rogen parodied the cover on Instagram, releasing an image with their heads photoshopped in place of Kimye’s – I think this was supposed to be hilarious because two straight men were pretending to be in a romantic relationship? Franco and Rogen seemed to totally miss the significance of Kanye being the second black man on the cover of Vogue - as one of my favourite Tweeters, Brocklesnitch, quipped “can we get more white dudes taking the place of non-white people in photos, we just don’t see enough of them”. Everywhere I went online someone had something to say about Kimye’s Vogue cover – and I couldn’t see anybody saying anything nice.
There are plenty of legitimate reasons not to like Kim and her family. There’s a particularly revolting episode in the first season of Keeping Up With The Kardashians where Kourtney and Khloe give a homeless man a makeover. The sisters repeatedly use the transphobic slur ‘tranny’ in interviews and Khloe has faced legal action over physically abusing a trans woman outside a club. Kim’s charity auctions are dodgy at best and downright unethical at worst. I don’t like these things about the Kardashians and I’m definitely not excusing them. It’s pretty much impossible to find any television show or celebrity who hasn’t said or done something problematic and I believe it’s totally possible to enjoy a television show even if the participants have been jerks sometimes. The thing is, I don’t hear people saying that the Kardashians have been jerks for the reasons just mentioned. I only hear the Kardashian family criticised for being talentless, money-hungry, and for capitalising on Kim’s leaked sex tape.
"Are we so afraid of female sexuality that seeing it in celluloid is enough to ruin a career?"
I’ve never understood why people get so angry about Kim’s sex tape. She made the video in 2003 with singer Ray J, which was leaked in 2007. After the leak she gave an official statement where she confirmed she hadn’t given consent for the tape to be made public and she filed legal charges against distribution company Vivid Entertainment. Until I wrote this article, I didn’t know the name of the company that distributed Kim’s sex tape. Why aren’t people up in arms about a company that profited off a non-consensual violation of privacy? Why is it that Kim cops so much flack for sexually experimenting with her boyfriend? Discussions about sex and female anatomy frequently feature on Keeping Up With The Kardashians and it’s one of the things I like the most about the show. There’s a really great moment in one of the earlier seasons where Kim is getting ready for an interview on The Tyra Banks Show, so Kourtney pretends to be Tyra and asks her why she made a sex tape. Kim replies “because I was horny and I felt like it”. I hate the rhetoric that young women shouldn’t send their partners nude pictures or have sex on camera because those images will eventually be made public. Shouldn’t we be able to expect better of men and their self control? Shouldn’t men who expose and humiliate their partners without consent be the villains here? And while we’re at it, why do naked pictures or sex tapes have the potential to be so damaging for women? Are we so afraid of female sexuality that seeing it in celluloid is enough to ruin a career?
When I reveal in conversation that I love the Kardashians, this admission is usually met with scorn. “Why do you like them?” people squeal, “they’re only famous because of a sex tape!” For me, this is missing the point. Kim and her family didn’t just make the best out of a bad situation; they made billions of freaking dollars out of a bad situation. I’m baffled by anyone who thinks a family can have four well rating television shows, a best-selling book and several clothing, cosmetics and perfume lines without doing any work. The Kardashians are a family of businesswomen, who’ve made bank out of a celebrity culture that fetishizes and commodifies womens' bodies. I see a whole lot of people hating the players, when maybe they should be hating the game.
Much of the criticism surrounding the magazine cover seems to stem from the idea that there are ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ types of people to grace the cover of Vogue. Sure, it would be weird for a high school teacher or a dog groomer to be on the front cover of America’s best known fashion magazine, but Kim and Kanye ain’t no dog groomers. Kanye West is a rapper who has won 21 Grammy awards; he’s actively involved in the fashion industry and he recently designed a pair of shoes for Nike that sold out in 11 minutes. Kim Kardashian is a reality television mogul, who has been heavily involved in the fashion industry since she opened a boutique store with her family eight years ago. How can this power couple be the wrong fit for Vogue magazine? People are acting as if Vogue is some hallowed, sacred space when in actual fact, in the last 12 months they’ve featured women like Katy Perry and Lena Dunham on the cover. I have a soft spot for both Perry and Dunham, but Perry sings lyrics like “Yo, shout out to all you kids, buying bottle service, with your rent money. Respect” and Dunham has made a career out of writing scripts featuring unlikeable women and lots of everyday nudity. It’s Vogue magazine, not the Old Testament. I think the perception that Kim and Kanye don’t belong on the cover is more to do with perceptions of hip-hop and reality television, two of the most popular aspects of modern popular culture. Could the fact that Kim and Kanye aren’t taken seriously as artists be more than just a little bit snobbish and racist? As Brocklesnitch pointed out on Twitter, 10 of the last eleven Vogue covers have featured famous white women. If Kanye had won 21 Grammys in a whiter music genre would it be okay for him to be on the cover then? If Kim had appeared naked on an Emmy award-winning HBO show, instead of in her own sex tape, would that meet your standards?
I’m not saying you have to like the Kardashians or Kanye West. I get that there are lots of reasons why you might not, and I also get that sometimes it doesn’t feel like there are enough hours in the day to brush your teeth, so why would you make time for reality television. What I’m saying is that if you’re outraged by the Kimye Vogue cover, I’m deeply suspect about why exactly you’re so outraged. At the end of the day, a fashion magazine has released an issue with two fashionable celebrities on the cover. When it hits the stands in Australia I’ll be the first in line to buy it. Uh huh, honey.