If you’ve seen the James Franco/Seth Rogan and Muppets parodies, you probably know that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West will grace Vogue magazine’s April cover, she in a bridal-y strapless, he with his arms lovingly encircling/strategically placed over her hips. You might not know, however, that actress Sarah Michelle Gellar got a lot of press over the weekend for tweeting her distaste for the cover choice: “Well….guess I’m canceling my Vogue subscription. Who’s with me???”
Although some dismissed Gellar’s diss, saying the actress is irrelevant and just jealous (some of which, such as “What will Kim Kardashian tweet when SMG appears on the cover of LA Parent magazine?” were funny), her words were retweeted more than 9,000 times, and thousands expressed their disgust via Twitter independently as well.
Via the new #VOGUEISDEAD Twitter handle, former readers tweeted promises to cancel their subscriptions and comments such as, “Diana Vreeland is rolling in her grave. So tacky, Wintour. No longer reading.” Given American culture’s hard-on for all things trashy, I have to admit that I found the angry Twitter backlash about the choice of putting the couple on the cover sort of heartwarming.
I don’t know much about Kim Kardashian even though, like everyone else, I have seen pictures of her butt and hips about 40,000 times. It seems like the best thing you can say about her is that since she flaunts her curvy body, she’s a positive body-image role model. I did my best to research anything she has done with her life other than being photographed partying, shopping or frolicking on a beach; filming a reality show; or making a sex tape. Evidently, she also launched fashion and fragrance lines that I’ve never heard of. Other than that, there really is nothing.
Kanye West is the ambitious rapper and self-identified narcissist well known for angry outbursts, interrupting Taylor Swift’s MTV Video Music Awards speech and being called a jackass by President Obama for doing so.
Kanye reportedly has been bugging Vogue editor Anna Wintour to put Kim on the cover of the fashion dinosaur for some time. In an October interview, Kanye said, “There’s no way Kim Kardashian shouldn’t be on the cover of Vogue right now. She’s like the most intriguing woman right now. She’s got Barbara Walters calling her like every day. And collectively, we’re the most influential with clothing.”
I guess a clothing line sold at Sears has more fashion significance than I would have thought, but, moving on — A columnist for The Guardian had a decidedly British take on the uproar, focusing on the issue of class:
“As an articulate charismatic New York beatnik intellectual, [Lena] 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.”
In her defense of the Kimye cover, Wintour wrote in her editor’s letter, “Through her strength of character [Kardashian] has created a place for herself in the world’s spotlight, and it takes real guts to do that.”
Kim Kardashian is strong because why? Because she bravely soldiered on after her sex tape was “leaked”? Because she got married on TV, loves velour tracksuits and got her ass X-rayed on her show to resolve the burning controversy over whether she has butt implants?
Calling Kanye a “cultural provocateur,” Wintour also wrote, “Part of the pleasure of editing Vogue, one that lies in a long tradition of this magazine, is being able to feature those who define the culture at any given moment, who stir things up, whose presence in the world shapes the way it looks and influences the way we see it. I think we can all agree on the fact that that role is currently being played by Kim and Kanye to a T.”
That is what offends me, not that the Kimye presence tarnishes the reputation of fashion’s supposed bible. Much of the world thinks of Americans as champions of loutish self-absorption who exhibit total ignorance about anything happening in other countries and an affinity for guns. Does someone as influential as Wintour have to perpetuate this image by proclaiming that Kimye is the most fascinating influence in our culture? How embarrassing.
Whatever your opinion of Kimye, however, the cries that this cover choice destroys the sanctity of Vogue as a fashion bible are pretty dumb when you think about it. Has anyone really expected cutting-edge fashion from Vogue since the ’70s? Maybe the ’80s?
The argument I’ve always heard when people complain that the expensive couture in high-fashion layouts is unattainable and therefore irrelevant to most readers is that the fashion in magazines such as Vogue are supposed to be “inspirational.” But does anyone even have time to be “inspired” by pictures of $4,000 shorts at this point? Although I’m sure that to many people, the idea that Vogue is dead sounds like little more than a snotty hyperbolic Twitter outburst, but I think it’s true. Fashion bloggers long took over the role of inspirers. Even in the print realm, aren’t people who are actually interested in fashion reading W, maybe Nylon, I Heart Fake, Bullett, Purple Fashion, Oyster?
Maybe April’s Vogue cover is refreshing in the sense that it’s a rebirth of sorts: Not dead but no longer the fashion bible, Vogue is a celebrity rag no loftier than US Weekly. Own it, Wintour.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.