There Goes the Neighborhood — Again

You fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me, the saying goes. What are we to make of our gatekeepers in mass media who keep handing victories to a woman with no discernible talent — except making a public spectacle of her sex life, heading up a cottage industry based on a vulgar life, and cashing on an extremely short-lived marriage?

You’ve all probably seen that the April issue of Vogue features a portrait of Kanye West and his fiancee Kim Kardashian. People everywhere are in an uproar that their beloved standard bearer of fashion, style and class would stoop to such depths add to let Miss Kardashian occupy the same space as pop culture royalty — Audrey Hepburn, Beyonce, Naomi Campbell, Cher, Michelle Obama, and Rihanna.

You can read all about the scorn being heaped on this couple, from fiery indignation to flip indifference, all over the Web. I see a couple of things going on here. The first is that Kim could not carry the cover alone, now that she is just past the prime of her career as a sex worker and fame monger. She had to share it with her repellant, self-anointed pseudo-messiah of a fiance. (Even tough I’ll admit that he is legitimately super talented.) Even Miley Cyrus was going to have her own Vogue shoot, until she incurred public contempt with her frenzied masturbating at some award show. If Vogue could defend its integrity from the likes of her, then how could it drop the ball when it came to the brunette?

Which brings me to my second point. The mighty Vogue has fallen far indeed if its resorting to two of the trashiest public figures to compete in the lineup at the newsstands. Neither woman is so striking or iconic that they really define the best sensibilities of their times, generally the reason people are chosen for the cover of Vogue. And their infamy supersedes any legitimate talent. Yes, Kim has her millions of minions of twits following her micro blog. She has the show, the fashion business and all the other trappings of a career born from a sex tape. And Miley is a singer. But neither one, as far as I can see, is an undisputed icon of fashion, or heading in that direction. Yet the most revered publication of fashion, style and beauty was actually going to reward both women with a cover. And wasn’t it a couple of months ago that Kanye was throwing a hissy fit over Michele Obama getting her second cover before his fiance got hers?

It really says a lot about how mystified the decision makers are in mass media about their audiences to keep foisting this woman on people. She got a TV show, treating us to her entire gold-digging family. Then Tyler Perry cast her in his movie last year, “Temptation,” but that didn’t help it at the box office, and now Ms. Wintour has put Kim Kardashian on the cover of her magazine. Will it work, though?

Let’s all take this lesson: As important as Vogue is in its own world, it upholds shallow and meaningless values in the bigger picture. We shouldn’t be overly concerned that the publication decided to feature Kim ahead of say, Lupita Nyong’o. (Had to work her in somehow!) It’s a sign of the times, and my sense is that it won’t pay off for the publication in the long run.

Aside from the YouTubers who post tutorials of Kim’s hair and makeup looks, or devotees of her reality show, who is going to treasure that issue of the magazine? The general public is reacting to Kimye like — symbolically enough, given her history — a rash that flares up every now and then but is never really cured.

Maybe I’m wrong and Kanye ended up giving an insightful interview. Maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised, but I think we’ll just see more of the same antics from these two. Until someone else inexplicably decides to reward their off putting behavior.


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