(Kanye’s ex Alexis, Kanye, and Kim in 2007…they look so young!)
It is all too easy to hate on Kim Kardashian and Kanye West for reasons that are not even remotely outside of their own doing. The Kardashians and Mr. West in my opinion all place too great an emphasis on the importance of physical appearance and material goods (a trap I often find myself falling into…except I’m doing so on a much smaller budget). This obsession with looks and things, in addition to constantly showing off these things, irritates a lot of people and makes Kim and Kanye easy targets. Now that Kanye has met with Trump and said he’d have voted for Trump if he’d voted at all, it seems like Kanye’s been lost to the dark side (since I agree that Trump is a man with many racist, sexist, and frightening beliefs that can and will hurt a lot of people). But Kanye’s behaviour slowly but surely crossed over from over-the-top celebrity behaviour to that which appears to be that of a sick person. It is true that I have contributed to his sickness in my own small way by giving attention to Kanye for the outlandish things he says, which probably has allowed his possible mental illness to fester and grow because it was going unchecked. I don’t think all of these outlandish things are irrelevant or wrong, because many times I think Kanye has told the truth about North American culture. Kanye shouldn’t have ripped the mic out of T-Swift’s hand, but I have no idea what the video she was winning the award for is, and I can easily visualize Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” video that lost. West’s sentiment was right, action was sooo wrong.
Kanye and Kim have stood out among from the crowd because most people, especially celebrities, only attempt to share information about themselves that makes themselves look good or that is flattering. I’ve done a lot of stupid things and struggled with my mental health in the past, so I always feel like a weirdo around people who seem like they have it all together…or who are unwilling to open up about not having it all together. Why I think Kim and Kanye are people I’m so attracted to is because they’ve never pretended to have it all together. I like that Kanye has said what is on his mind at the time, even though I’ve found many of his comments frustrating, disgusting, potentially harmful to others, etc., I do first and foremost respect someone who will speak his truth at the time that it is happening rather than constantly trying to think of how he should present himself to others. Remember this:
It is refreshing, because it often feels like no matter how glaringly obvious certain things are in our society oftentimes no one will call it out. Kanye will call it out, but as we can see with his recent mental health struggles, maybe calling out the truth contributes to developing mental health problems (as well as being so famous that no one tells you no and so Kanye’s ego has continued to grow bigger and bigger which also doesn’t help any mental health issues).
I got fired from a restaurant I worked at for speaking my mind (and crying while working a couple times…oopsy), so I’ve learned to shut the fuck up and not speak my mind at all times. The greatest thing I took away from getting fired is to not speak my mind when I know the audience I’m speaking to is not going to share my perspective and will likely use what I say (especially when I knew the truth was irrelevant to my bosses…I was told by my manager at this restaurant to lie to him when I didn’t want to take a shift and since I don’t drink, as I’m a recovering alcoholic, he told me to lie and tell customers I drink to sell alcohol better…I told him that I’d rather have him be mad at me than lie…ha…probably shouldn’t have done that considering the outcome of my employment there. Yet, now I have a job I love where I can be more of myself, so in the end, maybe it was worth saying what I felt was the truth…who knows…).
Nevertheless, I don’t think that everything Kanye and Kim have done is negative. Yes, while even my cultural psychology textbook at UBC this past semester took time out to claim that Keeping Up With the Kardashians is completely mindless entertainment (I disagree…it is mostly mindless, but there are also some worthwhile messages the show has put out). Needless to say that Kim and Kanye have become scapegoats for individuals who want to show that they are any number of things, such as 1) they’re above consuming popular culture, 2) they’re not superficial, 3) they have better things to do than care about these people (ummm…then why are you taking the time to bash them?), and 4) the world is headed toward ruin unless we start to focus on what is important.
What I think is sometimes forgotten is that entertainment is intended to help people either escape from their problems or to offer solace that someone else is aware of or understands what you’re going through. Kim and Kanye have offered me both of these things many, many times over the last 10 years. For that I still have loyalty towards them, even though I am repulsed by some of the things that they do. There are people out there who work incredibly hard and don’t necessarily want to watch something “deep” when they’re at home trying to unwind. Watching Khloe Kardashian and Kris Jenner get drunk in a Mexican restaurant then seeing them tee-pee a very pregnant and bitchy Kim Kardashian’s house was hilarious. Yes, I know that the whole set-up down to the last detail was planned beforehand. I don’t care. I was still entertained. It is a privilege to have the time and energy to consume entertainment that is always thought-provoking and enlightening. Some people just want to relax and that’s okay after a hard day’s work or a stressful life situation!
Escapism through television or music is not as dangerous as escapism through crack. Based on the level of criticism heaped at Kanye and the Kardashians, sometimes I think some arrogant-ass apparently super spiritual and highly-evolved people seem to think that a trashy TV show is just as bad as an addictive drug. I disagree.
One of the things that I like about the Kardashians is that they aren’t rich people who try to downplay their love of their own wealth and all of the luxurious things their wealth affords them. I think this is something that their average fans respect, because so many wealthy people are clearly into beautiful things, yet they front like they don’t care about that stuff.
Kim has turned her image (for doing nothing apparently) into money (by taking part in smart business deals like the creation of “Kimojis”), so even if you don’t think they’re artists (which outside of Kanye, I’d say Kris Jenner is the closest thing to an artist since she has orchestrated their show and likely come up with many of the creative ideas for different show topics) Kim is not embarrassed about being a businesswoman who is about making money. Also, the show has emphasized that while the Kardashian family has had many advantages that have made it easier for them than other people to gain success in the entertainment industry, they are responsible, hard-working (they work a lot even if you don’t think the type of work they are doing is valuable, their days are booked-up with filming, promotional events, overseeing business activities…they’re not sitting around doing nothing), show-up when booked and have gained a good reputation as reliable entertainers who will do what they say they’ll do. I like that Kim is openly about building her brand, because is there anything wrong with wanting to make money and to be successful? Everyone isn’t artsy, and there needs to be room for a variety of women out there. Also, yes Kim was in a sex tape and she has chosen to put her naked body on display. Do I think she is too reliant on her sexuality, or that she would feel like less of a person if she wasn’t hot? Yes, butt that’s not the whole story (pun intended).
Honestly, if I was disfigured or gained 100 pounds, I’d also (at least initially) feel less confident, so aren’t I also too intertwined with my own sexuality and appearance? I think a lot of people use their looks and sexuality to feel good about themselves without being overtly aware of it, and it is all too easy to criticize those who do this more openly than others. Even if someone works in an office in conservative attire their appearance still impacts how others see and treat them, so no one is exempt from whether or not how fuckable or unfuckable they are to others influences what privileges they receive and which opportunities come their way. Do I think Kim takes it too far by making it seem like it is the most important thing in the world to be sexy? Yes.
But, I also think there are some positives to Kim showing her naked body. It is Kim’s own body, and when she has posted nude selfies, she’s made the point that since it’s her body she gets to do what she wants with it. This is feminism. And as a feminist I don’t want to be told how much of my body to show. Kim has also pointed out that she isn’t telling other women what to do with their bodies, so why do so many other people want to tell her what she should do with hers? Maybe there’s jealousy. Maybe some people wish they could pose naked or look like Kim, so they judge her instead. I don’t know for sure, but in that sense I think Kim has used her platform to get women and men to consider why they care so much about how she expresses herself, when they still have the freedom to cover up as much as they want if that’s what they’re comfortable with. Kim’s message is to each their own, and that is something I can get on board with, and that I need to practice more.
The other strange thing about their family, which is so disconnected from the reality of the average person, is that the Kardashians come across as completely down-to-earth in some ways. The quality of their TV show has gone down lately, because instead of coming up with fun topics and themes they have focused too strongly on their own fame and celebrity drama, but the show has been on for more than 10 seasons, and the earliest seasons were so much fun to watch. One episode that stands out to me is when Kris raises the issue of incontinence. She explains that after having 6 children, it’s hard for her to laugh without peeing herself. My sister, Natalie, and I love this episode because it reminds us of our Mom! Anytime we make her laugh she has to run to the bathroom.
So Kris Jenner was cleverly aware that she wasn’t the only woman going through this (another strength of the Kardashians is that they’re a female-driven brand…these are women creating their own brands and show, so they know what women go through and profit from this knowledge). Kris ends up getting an endorsement deal in the episode, for a woman’s pad brand (kind of like Depends, but not that brand) and she films a commercial for it. The whole topic was quite entertaining and led to some scenes that had me cracking up! Another early episode was where Kim was asked to pose for the cover of Playboy for a special celebrity issue, and she was told she wouldn’t have to get naked for it (this was back in the day when she didn’t want to get naked on camera). At the shoot, the photographers and Kris Jenner try to pressure her to take it all off (yes, it’s weird that someone’s mom is encouraging them to pose nude). Kim gets really mad and she turns the tables on her Mom and says her Mom doesn’t know how hard it is to be asked to strip down on camera. Kris fires back with letting Kim know she’d love to be photographed naked. Kris hires a photographer, strips down to nothing and poses with Caitlyn’s gold medals (this is back when they were married). Kris is a wild woman and she’s hilarious!
When Kourtney got pregnant with her first child, one storyline was her considering whether she wanted to have the baby or have an abortion. Since Scott and Kourtney were on shaky ground at the time (aren’t they always?), Kourtney didn’t know whether she was prepared to have a child. I love that the show offered abortion as an option, because abortion is often completely avoided in popular culture, and especially on a “light” reality show. Kourtney decided against getting an abortion and choose to have her son Mason, but this is an example of how the show has made a positive contribution by challenging norms and offering women alternatives.
Another thing is that Kim gains a significant amount of weight during pregnancy, because it’s normal and healthy to do so. On the show, Kim admits she doesn’t like weighing more, instead of being fake and pretending it’s all good since it’s for the sake of the baby. It gives me hope that if I’m pregnant and balloon up, it’s normal, and remaining tiny while pregnant is uncommon and possibly unhealthy. At least Kim’s willing to do what is right for the health of her baby, since I’ve seen some celebrity women who seem unbelievably thin a very short while after giving birth. Ben Stiller’s wife Christine Taylor being the most extreme example I can remember…3 weeks after the birth of one of her children she was on the red carpet stick thin with a flat stomach. This is clearly a harsh judgment on my part, because I do not truly know what Kim or Christine Taylor have done to their bodies, but it seemed impossible that Christine Taylor was a healthy weight throughout her pregnancy if she could be this thin such a short while after having a baby. I am speculating in a negative manner, but may be she restricted her calories while pregnant due to a fear of gaining weight? I tried to find a picture of Christine Taylor from the night I’m thinking of, but couldn’t, probably since it was more than 10 years ago.
The Kardashians seem to have put all of their embarrassing stuff out there (and this last year indicates that maybe they’re facing harsh consequences for doing so…some privacy is good), so in terms of what they’re trying to do they’ve really gone for it. There might be quite a few other people, famous ones, who are just as messed-up as the Kardashians, but these people might also go to psychotically extreme lengths to conceal their own dysfunction. So maybe the Kardashians are huge liars who fake everything, but I also believe that in some ways they’ve been much more real and self-deprecating than the vast majority of other celebrities. I think this is partly why people care about the Kardashians enough to SPEND MONEY ON THEM. Just because someone can be an actor in a movie and have some studio heads and a director believe in them, doesn’t mean they can market themselves in a way that a person in middle America will spend a dime on a product that they’re hawking. The Kardashians and Jenners have been able to do this time and time again.
NOW TAYLOR SWIFT: Kanye’s lyrics about Taylor Swift were sexist and offensive in my opinion. I would have supported Taylor Swift if she had told Kanye to go fuck himself for writing such rude thing about her…BUT SHE DIDN’T!
Here’s the excerpt of their videotaped speakerphone discussion about some of his lyrics:
Taylor reminds him about all of the success she had prior to him interrupting her acceptance speech. Taylor, it’s ok to be pissed off that this arrogant asshole keeps pretending he made you, when he didn’t. You created yourself, wrote your own songs, and have worked your butt off, and please don’t downplay that.
(Sidenote: Yes, I still enjoy and listen to the song Famous even though it contains lyrics that offend me. Nevertheless, when Kim dropped the receipts (aka the proof) of what Taylor actually said when Kanye told her part of the lyrics, (he left out the “I made that bitch famous” part) Taylor said she was flattered and gave her blessing. Once the song came out Taylor released a long statement pleading complete ignorance about the song or any of its lyrics. Taylor was caught in a lie, and the most annoying part is she didn’t own it and apologize.
So Kim did prove that Taylor Swift was willing to lie and cover up certain things once public opinion about the song was unfavourable. I found that satisfying because I respect Taylor Swift as an artist and as an incredibly hard worker, but I think she relies on a virginal image (for example by saying she wouldn’t show her belly button…so what if you did show your belly button?…and then she ended up showing her belly button anyways, so it was like, why’d you get on your high horse about how much skin you’re showing anyways?…and Taylor seems incapable of admitting she’s had sex. But maybe she shouldn’t have to, but to me it seems like she likes to play the innocent card hardcore) and downplays her ambitiousness. Taylor Swift to me is that girl that wants to be liked by everybody so badly she won’t openly admit to disliking another person unless she already thinks everyone will be on her side for doing so.
The last thing I wanted to say is that Kanye has lyrics that inspire me as a female. Yes, he also has lyrics that are sexist and wrong. I am working on having less of an all-or-nothing approach to things and my relationship with Kim and Kanye (even though I don’t know them and likely never will) is an example of this. Rap music gets an especially bad rap for its depiction of women, but I always prefer a straight-up attitude to a thinly-veiled version of sexism. Many men look at women as pieces of meat, but of course, few will admit that. John Mayer’s “Your body is a wonderland…” lyrics have always bothered me more than rap lyrics, because the subtext is still the same: you’re hot and so I want to fuck you. Except John Mayer probably uses these cheesy-ass sentiments to get women in bed.
One Kanye song I love to listen to when I’ve wanted to get myself back on track, stop focusing too much on a man, and shift the focus to where I’m going in my own life is called “I Wonder”.
The most important lyrics to me from the song “I Wonder” from Kanye’s album Graduation are as follows:
You say he get on your fucking nerves
You hope that he get what he deserves, word
Do you even remember what the issue is?
You just trying to find where the tissue is
You can still be who you wish you is
It ain’t happen yet
And that’s what intuition is
When you hop back in the car
Drive back to the crib
Run back to their arms
The chokes and the screams
You ever wonder what it all really means?
And I wonder if you know
What it means, what it means
And I wonder if you know
What it means to find your dreams
How many ladies in the house without a spouse?
Something in your blouse got me feeling so aroused
What you about?
On that independent shit
Trade it all for a husband and some kids
You ever wonder what it all really mean?
You wonder if you’ll ever find your dreams?
I have taken these lyrics to mean (since I don’t know what Kanye actually intended them to mean) that it’s important for women to stop playing the victim and crying about how men are hurting them, since there’s always people out there that will keep on hurting you if you don’t walk away. Instead of simply claiming to want to be independent while secretly just looking for a husband and a family (which is a beautiful dream too…just admit it if that’s your dream, or if a combo of the two or something else is your dream then that’s all good, too), it’s important to look inside and figure out what one’s dreams are and to try to achieve them. I guess that’s why I’m writing this right now, I have a dream of sharing my thoughts with others and having them think or feel differently or stronger about their own ideas and beliefs as a result of what I have to say. Now, if I could only get paid the big dollas for doing so…still, I wonder.
Hope 2017 is better for Kim, Kanye, and everyone else on this planet!