Is the world ready for the concept of “deserving and undeserving” celebrity? The appalled reaction towards the Kim Kardashian and Kanye West American Vogue cover would suggest so.
There have already been spoofs on the cover, including one featuring Kermit and Miss Piggy. Elsewhere, many people (including actress Sarah Michelle Gellar) have tweeted that they’ll never buy Vogue again. American Vogue editor, Anna Wintour, has issued a statement explaining her position, as if appealing for public calm at the outbreak of a world war. It’s all quite extraordinary. Put in style terms, here’s a story where the trend is for brazen snobbery, accessorised with the kind of pop-cultural hierarchy that never goes out of fashion.
Why is it deemed so offensive and wrong that Kim Kardashian is on the cover of Vogue? I’ve had a giggle imagining the reputed hustling of West to get his fiancée the gig: “Yeezus” wheedling and hectoring away to a sunglass-ed Wintour over heaven knows how many dressing-free Caesar salads at Chateau Marmont. Meanwhile, I like to think that Kim was at home, stamping her foot and demanding “The whole world!”, in the manner of Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka. For such mental amusements alone, it was worth it.
However, there’s another level here. All the gushing when Lena Dunham got her Vogue cover did not acknowledge that, ultimately, as an articulate charismatic New York beatnik intellectual, Dunham was more than classy and worthy enough to fit the Vogue remit. Here was a “deserving” celebrity, all that needed to be photo-shopped into oblivion was the cellulite. By contrast, no one could deny that Kardashian was the very definition of “undeserving”. From her sex taped past to her selfie present, here was a big-assed, big-gobbed, déclassé reality diva, who basically represented everything that usually isn’t allowed onto a Vogue cover. Putting her on one, in a crazy meringue wedding dress, with Kanye mooning about pointlessly behind, is not only funny, it’s a brilliant and brutal culture clash – and, arguably, one of the most egalitarian and refreshing things Wintour and Vogue have ever done.