By Linda Smith
Kim Kardashian was recently on the featured cover story of Paper magazine as part of the magazine’s movement to “break the Internet” with such celebrity as hers. The photos accompanying the story reveal much of Kardashian, literally and otherwise.
Now, celebrities aggrandize themselves through power plays, and while they do not always do this to the same extent that Kim Kardashian has, there is always something showing that they are a constantly powerful force in this world. This leads one to wonder what kind of image they leave for their followers after all of this. In the Paper magazine story, “No Filter: An Afternoon with Kim Kardashian,” one of the transitions reads, “She is variously seen as a feminist-entrepreneur-pop-culture-icon or a late-stage symptom of our society›s myriad ills: narcissism, opportunism, unbridled ambition, unchecked capitalism. But behind all the hoopla, there is an actual woman — a physical body where the forces of fame and wealth converge. Who isn’t at least a tad curious about the flesh that carries the myth?”
So, all there can possibly be to the “actual woman” of Kardashian is “a physical body where the forces of fame and wealth converge”? This is dissatisfying in every way. One of the least controversial photos from the shoot, in which a stream of champagne shooting from a bottle perfectly lands in the glass balanced on Kardashian’s derriere, is probably the most unsettling and only worsens this awful testament to “actual” womanhood.
According to a mic.com article called “The Big Problem With Kim Kardashian’s Butt Photos Nobody Is Talking About,” Kardashian did the shoot without payment because she wanted to work with photographer Jean-Paul Goude. The Paper cover is a recreation of Goude’s 1976 photo called “Carolina Beaumont,” or the “Champagne Incident.” The original photo features a naked, smiling black woman doing the same “trick” with the champagne bottle and glass. Goude published this in a book of photos called “Jungle Fever,” a book that animalizes and fetishizes the bodies of black women.
So, that’s it? Kardashian is glorifying and bringing back a pose that stands for a grossly-mistaken, disturbing thought, and we’re supposed to blindly follow a woman whose behavior, according to Paper, “suggests that the key to total ubiquity is giving up all of one’s verbal edges and sharp angles (while occasionally tossing out a memorable visual flare: a sex tape, say, or a nude photo shoot)”?
While all of this adds up to an unsettling look into the question of who we should look up to, maybe we shouldn’t be worried about society just yet. Kardashian has been spoofed by the likes of Chelsea Handler, Jimmy Fallon and Buzzfeed for the shoot. And in the end, the Internet has not broken.
The Paper article goes on to say that Kardashian is above “mere mortals who occasionally visit the grocery store in yoga pants” and really is the girl who spends two hours on makeup every day. In the interview, Kardashian says we have all “seen every side” of her on her show. At this point in the interview, the writer, to show us the extent of her reality, notes that she pops “a piece of pound cake into her mouth.”
Kardashian is not exactly doing herself any favors, and while the author of the article, Amanda Fortini, seems to be incapable of doing anything more than fangirling over the reality star, I think it is safe to say that the majority of readers just can’t relate to her self-proclaimed ubiquity on the most temporal of media. The fact of the matter is that Kardashian is sorely misrepresenting femininity while simultaneously glorifying a terrible prejudice of the past against black women. Actual womanhood cannot and will not ever be measured by a lovely facade fortified only by glitz and wealth, and it is time that our society breaks this trend.