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Opinion: Kim Kardashian West’s clueless birthday party

And, now, it appears sharing may be how she undoes it, too.

Not surprisingly, the reality star and mogul is facing considerable backlash (“Your life seems taxing. @KimKardashian People are struggling in our country and you parade your wealth. Enjoy your cake,” wrote one person on Twitter) for what many have considered a cruel and insensitive display of privilege during a time of global crisis.

It’s not so much that the party seemed unsafe at a time when Covid-19 infections and deaths are rising in many parts of the world. Kardashian made a point to note that her friends were asked to quarantine for two weeks before the event. Nor was the event even accidentally ill-timed — one’s birthday is, after all, a fixed date.

The problem is that she chose, apparently without much awareness or acknowledgment, to share the extravagance of that birthday while so many millions around the world are sick, out of work and going nowhere. Mental illness is at a high; countries are once more closing down.

It’s maybe a little easy to understand how Kardashian West — a woman who lives a rarified life — could be so very tone deaf, so slow to grasp this larger reality. In pre-pandemic times, her “fans” would have gobbled up with delight such details as her dancing on the beach and swimming with whales. They would have expected her “closest inner circle” to be bigger than the average American’s Facebook friend list. Kardashian’s fame, after all, was built on the public’s appetite for seeing how the other half live, even if how they live is often fairly unfathomable to most.

Now, however, as desperation and fear have grown exponentially and there seems to be no end in sight for a global contagion that will affect lives for decades to come, Kardashian West’s display is akin to Marie Antoinette’s famous declaration, “Let them eat cake.”

Sure, she recognized her advantages, writing in a Twitter thread that, “I realize that for most people, this is something that is so far out of reach right now, so in moments like these, I am humbly reminded of how privileged my life is.” But such words ring pretty hollow against the backdrop of Kardashian West and her sisters posing beneath a palm tree in tiny bikinis, flaunting bodies made perfect partly by pricey nonessential medical procedures.
The perfect metaphor for Trump's treatment of his loyal supporters

Those fans who perhaps delighted in her ridiculous levels of extravagance before may now have had quite enough.

And yet Kardashian West, evidently, didn’t see this coming. Which is surprising, if not for a human being then for a heretofore savvy businesswoman. To willfully alienate those who have made you seems unthinkable. A far better bet would have been to donate to a charity in honor of her 40th in lieu of, or even in addition to, a (more modest) party.

Or, how about this? To have kept the private island party private.

Everyone deserves some moments of happiness right now. We should not all be forced to suffer at all times and in all ways just because others are suffering. But a famous person flaunting privilege in this way, right now, is not necessary.

But like it or not, Kardashian West may be one of the world’s most recognized people; at the very least part of a short list that also includes President Donald Trump, Bill Gates, and a handful of other major celebrities. As such, she has a responsibility to think about her messaging.

Instead, she has shown that her need to be known and envied can’t be tamed even in a pandemic — final proof, perhaps, that her identity does not exist without validation. Which, ironically, might be the most relatable thing about her. The problem is, it may turn out that far fewer people after this will be willing to care.



 

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