The things we hate—or, if that’s too strong a word, dislike very much—tend to say a lot more about us than the actual objects of our disdain. Whether it’s a person or a concept/idea/product that rubs us the wrong way, it’s naïve to think that our disapproving feelings stem solely from some innate shittiness in all things deemed worthy of our overturned thumbs. Much more likely, is the reality that they threaten us in some way, either literally, or by being representative of something that bothers our worldview, our values, and our beliefs.
Which is a long-winded way for me to say that, if Kanye West and Kim Kardashian on the cover of Vogue really gets your blood running, in the non-excited sense, you have issues that you need to unpack. Taste certainly comes into play here—and perhaps you’re just not really pumped up by Kanye and Kim’s fantastic union of all things high and low—but if that’s all it is, anger and shit talking shouldn’t really come into play. I don’t bow down to all things Miley Cyrus, for instance, but I thought her cover of W, known to be a magazine of high art and fashion, was a lovely little wink at propriety. Whether or not you lust after Kanye’s lyrics or Kim’s ability to make the monotone sensual via her very particular brand of power-dressing, you should at least concede that their cover is another one of those lovely stick-it-to-the-man scenarios. The man, here, being a white-washed lovechild of privilege and tradition, which in itself has many spawn…this one in particular being the gilded laurels over which Queen Anna Wintour presides.
After the cover went public yesterday, social media stalwarts collectively vomited up their opinions into a mess that was equal parts celebratory and derisive. A few twats on Twitter had the nerve to contend that Vogue “should not have succumbed,” as if the only conceivable way for Kanye and Kim to get on the cover of Vogue would be by way of belligerent manipulation and/or begging. What, exactly, do those who harbor this opinion believe Miss Wintour has succumbed to that’s so repugnant? A famous and talented black man, and his famous and talented (yes, she’s talented—look at the empire she has fashioned out of thin air) wife who has the audacity to succeed in a society whose definition of success is obviously a lot less American Dreamy than it would like us to believe.
If your argument is that a Vogue cover should be given to those with talent only, I’m going to ask you to rethink your notion of talent. Is Blake Lively more talented than Kim Kardashian? I really, really don’t think so—yet no one got their panties in a twist over her skinny blonde non-butt on the cover, as it was in line with what we know to be the tried-and-true Vogue tradition. Kim Kardashian, with the rest of her family, has crafted a powerful brand without any formidable clout to back it up. She has expertly dominated the American market in a way that has allowed her not to be pigeonholed, except, of course, by the close-minded (here’s looking at you, haters). Kanye, similarly, started with “nothing” and turned it into something, and then some. They have maintained their relevance longer than most people in the public eye (by constantly changing with the times), and haven’t totally lost their shit a la LiLo whilst doing so—a feat in itself.
To wag your finger at them alone, but especially at them on this cover, is not only to scorn progress, but also to scorn the glue that supposedly holds America together. You don’t have to care about their lives, or find them interesting, but harping on about how awful they are, how poorly conceived this cover was, only proves their relevance and game-changing abilities. That—and it colors you ignorant and your mind very, very small.
Frankly, I can’t think of anything in contemporary society that is more idealistically American than this cover, which proudly honors a once-upon-a-time-shamed-for-her-sex-tape star and her talented fiancé, who people are constantly trying to write off—with little success. This is what we talk about when we talk about American dreams, isn’t it? Not the WASP-y blonde reign we’ve so comfortably accepted for the last millennium.
So you might ask: how dare they? How dare Anna? To which I’d respond, because Anna Wintour gets what you apparently don’t—which is that the times are changing in ways far more exciting than Bobby D could have ever imagined, and if our antiquated institutions don’t start changing with them, they’ll simply disappear. Kim and Kanye get this too, and they are part of the rare breed that is actually steering the ship of this transformation—one that is less holier-than-thou and more thou-canst-be-holy-if-thou-hustles-hard-enough.