You guys, celebutant lives when viewed as sociological texts are REALLY INTERESTING. For example: What does our obsession with Kim Kardashian, her relationship with Kanye West, and their unborn baby say about us as a culture?
In case you’ve already forgotten, some people interpreted an old Mayan calendar to mean that the end of the world was supposed to come back on December 21st, 2012, and lots of other people believed it and were preparing for impending doom.
Now, obviously, apocalypse was in the air, so it’s not 100% random that this association would arise, but I found myself wondering, “Why do people associate this baby with End Times?” I mean, in the same news cycle we had people in Pakistan being killed by American robot-planes and a young woman being gang-raped in New Dehli -- but the Kimye baby was the harbinger of the destruction of mankind?
Ok, I get it, that other stuff is too serious to joke about, and really does make people feel like the world is ending which is why we distract ourselves by making hyper-sarcastic jokes about things like the Kimye baby. But still, bad-news fatigue is not a full explanation for the extremely high correlation between this pregnancy and apocalypse.
As a proud critical-race-feminist who is totally not buying post-racial-anything, I wondered if this was about race.
Kim K is Armenian and has a racially ambiguous appearance. Racially ambiguous people make Americans nervous because we are taught to judge everyone by perceived race so we have a hard time knowing what to think and how to act in relation to a person if we can't place them racially. (Also, please, if you feel rage surging and are about to post something in the comments about how you don’t SEE race and this is totally NOT true about anyone except Klansmen, please see my earlier comment re: totally not buying post-racial-anything).
Kanye is a black man, who despite being a crossover darling beloved by the fashion elite, is never read by anyone as anything other than a black man.
I think the way people react to their pairing says a lot about the different ways we perceive race in our culture. In an interview with Kim and her sister Khloe, which I will not link to here because it is NSFW, Howard Stern inferred that he sees Kim Kardashian as a white woman by talking about what a big deal it is that she mostly dates black guys. But a lot of people aren’t so sure about Kim’s race. Some people are wondering if Kim K is black. I know this because of Google Search auto-complete:
For people who read Kim K as black, she’s not in an interracial relationship. Is one of the reasons some people think Kim K is black because she dates black men? I mean, to be totally honest, I assumed Amber Rose was black when she was dating Kanye, and I assumed it because Kanye is black, because her aesthetic is hip-hop, and because of her body type. Which is SO DUMB because I am a black girl with a non-stereotypical black-girl body type, so I should know better than to think there is even such a thing as a black body type! What kind of critical-race-feminist am I, running around projecting an identity onto someone based on racialized, sexist narratives? The kind that isn’t too proud to admit that when I saw images of Kim K for the first time on the landing page at Bossip I opened a new tab and Googled “Is Kim Kardashian black?” We all gotta start somewhere.
Some people are wondering if Kim K is white:
And some people are just wondering in general about Kim K’s race:
Of special note is the “Kim Kardashian race traitor” auto-complete, reminding us once again that racism and misogyny go together like peas and carrots.
This whole “race traitor” business is what made me wonder if people see the Kimye spawn as the antichrist because they see it, consciously or unconsciously, as the Worst Miscegenation Ever. OMG! That black guy who was really mean to Taylor Swift got a white girl pregnant! IT MUST BE THE END OF THE WORLD!
I think this idea can operate even for people who sort of think of Kim as black or not-white. Since the passing of his Majesty Michael Jackson, Kim K has been bearing the “I embody everyone’s ideas of whiteness and everyone’s ideas of blackness at the same time” mantle, albeit far less gracefully.
All that said, just because I’m not buying post-racial-anything doesn’t mean I subscribe to the idea of all-racial-everything. The widespread fear of Kimye-baby-induced-Rapture probably had more to do with the fact that these two people are essentially the ripe tainted fruit of a shallow, consumerist, love-to-hate our celebrities culture and people just can’t believe it's come to this, than with racial panic. As a friend of mine put it, “That baby will pop out looking at itself in a mirror and demanding to be rinsed off with bottles of Voss water.” Another friend’s reaction was, “Oh. Kim’s giving birth to a new cast member.”
KQED, what do you think? What does our obsession with this couple and their progeny say about us as a culture? Have you ever found yourself Googling “what race is [insert celbrity here]?” Let us know in the comments!