Look, I don’t think Kim Kardashian needs any help from me: she’s far too rich and famous to actually let the haters bring her down. And yet, I feel compelled to come to her aid—if not out of genuine sympathy, then at least because her role as walking punchline is absurd. There are people out there who spew hate and actively make the world a shittier place. There are people more deserving of our mockery. Which is not to say that Kim should be off limits comedically—far from it. Make all the jokes you want, but do make sure they’re original. Because Kim’s mere existence isn’t as inherently hilarious as so many seem to think.
In light of her wedding, the jokes have been more and more persistent. And sure, some of them are funny, but the vast majority come down to the following—Kim Kardashian is a vapid, vacuous whore. Let’s break this down.
1. Kim Kardashian is stupid. Is she, though? I’ll give you that she doesn’t have a whole lot of actual talent and has gotten famous for, well, nothing, but that in and of itself is a skill. It takes some sort of savvy to know how to market yourself and make a career out of fame. So while jokes about Kim’s blatant attention-craving behavior make sense, jokes about how she’s a total idiot don’t, really. Not to mention the fact that, like Paris Hilton, her occasional airhead demeanor is likely a persona created to attract an audience. And it looks like it’s working. I’d also argue that there’s also a hint of misogyny to this humor (more on that in a bit). Kim Kardashian isn’t just dumb—she’s a “dumb bitch.”
2. Kim Kardashian is selfish. Spoiled, yes. Selfish is harder to prove. On Twitter, comedians retweet the admittedly shallow things Kim complains about, then counter her with a real world crisis or their personal problems. And yes, Kim’s nails pale in comparison to the number of unemployed individuals in this country, or the violent persecution of gay people in Uganda. But just because she’s tweeting about frivolous issues (which, I might add, we all do) doesn’t mean she has no sense of more pressing problems. How else to explain the clothes she donates to the Dream Foundation, or her trip to Africa in support of Russell Simmons’ Diamond Empowerment Fund? You can find a full list of her charitable contributions here.
3. Kim Kardashian is a slut. This one bothers me the most, because it reflects such an obvious gender disparity. We call Kim Kardashian a slut for the same reason we call Paris Hilton a slut: they both reached new levels of fame through widely publicized sex tapes. But while jokes about Kim and Paris being whores never seem to cease, we willfully forget all the men who have also had sex on camera. The list includes Rob Lowe, Colin Farrell, Eric Dane, and Tommy Lee. (Pam Anderson gained notoriety from her honeymoon tape. Tommy Lee earned a reputation for being well-endowed.) So, yeah, Kim Kardashian had a sex tape, and she profited from it. Good for her.
There are plenty of other easy jokes to be made. You could say Kim has a big ass, because making fun of the way someone’s body fat is proportioned is always hilarious. You could mock her for being Robert Kardashian’s daughter, even though that’s not exactly something she could have avoided. (Full disclosure: I made a Robert Kardashian joke on Twitter this morning. I stand by it, and don’t believe it targets Kim as an easy punchline.) You could make reference to Kim’s apparent penchant for black men, as though that’s some sort of character flaw. Relax, it’s not racist if everyone else is saying it!
I’m not trying to shame anyone: some of my closest friends, all of whom I consider to be exceptionally funny, make these jokes. And I don’t think less of them for it. I just believe that we should all hold ourselves to a higher standard. If you want to mock a celebrity, fine, as long as you’re being creative. Bonus points if you have a legitimate reason to tear him or her down—that is, something not related to gender, race, or sexuality.
You might, for example, ridicule Chris Brown’s insistence that he loves women in light of his violent beating of Rihanna. (Old news? Sure, but it’s still horrifying.) You could lampoon Katy Perry’s role as an ally in the LGBT community when her first major single “I Kissed a Girl” was a queer politics nightmare. Or maybe you just hate their music and think they’re annoying. Nothing wrong with that either. We’re all entitled to our opinions.
What do I think about Kim Kardashian? I think she’s a mostly obnoxious reflection of a celebrity-obsessed culture that values exposure above all else. I don’t feel sorry for her. I don’t think comedians should stop making jokes about her. But give me something new. I’ve told you why I defend Kim Kardashian—now tell me why you hate her.
Crossposted to Huffington Post Culture here.