After turning on the TV this morning, I saw the familiar a.m. news setup of a newscaster with a graphic over her shoulder, and the words “ROBBED AT GUNPOINT” underneath a close-up picture of a woman’s face. I didn’t recognize Kim Kardashian West at first, but when I did, my first thoughts were along the lines of, Oh no, what happened? Is she OK? I hope she’s OK.
The newscaster said little more than just those three words with some vague details and a location, Paris, so I did what most of us do these days when TV isn’t enough — I hit the internet. I started to search, and I think I had typed out K-I-M K-A before the search bar autocompleted to “Kim Kardashian robbed.” What happened next was bizarre.
That search turned up more results about people making fun of Kim Kardashian and other celebrities clapping back at those people on social media as it did about the actual incident.
Now, I’m no fan of Kim Kardashian. It just needs to be said. I don’t care for that genre of entertainment, and I don’t enjoy celebrity contributions to society that center persona and lifestyle over artistic endeavors. When I’ve been around her in person (entertainment makes for strange bedfellows or something), she has come across as sweet but not someone I’d be interested in being close friends with. (Which is fine; it’s not like she’s asking.)
It bears mentioning, though, because if there are any two celebrities in the world who I’ve gone on record as really not enjoying, it’s Kim and her husband, Kanye West. I don’t think my negative assessment of anyone for reasons that are more about taste or personal experience, as opposed to detrimental affect on society, put any good into the world, so I generally keep them to myself. So for me to have publicly bemoaned what Kim and Kanye put forth is a big deal for me.
And yet. AND YET. Not for one second would I mock this woman in this moment. I was genuinely shocked to see that enough people made enough shitty jokes and memes (which I will not share here) that that became news itself. It's a rare moment when social media still manages to surprise and disappoint me; I really didn’t get it. I would say, What kind of monsters…etc., but I don’t think such hand-wringing serves us at this moment.
“Monsters” are imaginary, or at least rare. People who would hear news of Kim Kardashian being robbed at gunpoint and not feel empathy for her are all too common.
Of course, we are each allowed to draw our own personal boundaries (and it’s imperative that we do), so if hearing of an attack on someone that you don’t know personally doesn’t move you, I can’t relate, but I can certainly understand. Perhaps hearing that it is this particular woman led you to register that she appears alive and safe but ultimately you still wish you weren’t seeing another Kardashian headline. Kardashian Media Fatigue is real.
However, none of those responses would naturally culminate in publicly mocking the victim of a violent crime. No; to do that, you’d have to either think you’re the funniest person in the world and/or also have a livelihood that depends on you saying the worst thing at every possible turn. Or, perhaps you know you’re no comedy pro and you’d just like to throw your hat into the ring anyway, popping off your one-liner from underneath your comfortable cloak of online anonymity in the hopes that your tweet will garner attention, negative though it may be, and you can bask in the meaningless glow of retweets.
Far more likely, however, is the possibility that you don’t see Kim Kardashian West as a person at all. It sounds pretty dreadful when I lay it out like that, but the cult of celebrity can take hold in even exceptionally intelligent and reasonable minds, with its most insidious residual damage taking front and center at a time like this.
Some people are tempted to say that Kim herself has been complicit in putting forth a multi-tiered image of herself as “Kim Kardashian,” a name, a product line, a triumph in the art of makeover and styling, a walking image. That’s what pays her bills and earns her living, and it’s also all part of a lifestyle that she has carved out as a career path. And none of that negates her humanity.
The details of the crime have not been corroborated in detail as of this writing, but Reuters and the Associated Press are confirming that Kim was held up at gunpoint by two individuals in a private residence at the Hôtel de Pourtalès in Paris, where she was staying while visiting the city for fashion week. Two individuals dressed in police uniforms, who are believed to be part of a larger group of five people being sought in connection with this crime, reportedly held her up, stole her jewelry, and left her tied up in a bathroom.
A spokeswoman has said that Kim is “badly shaken but physically unharmed,” which is a blessing and a relief, as is the apparent absence of her two small children from the scene. These are true whether you’re a fan or not. Making the choice to make a joke or a meme about this situation is base and callous.
It also displays a kind of schadenfreude at its worst. Since Kim is SUCH a celebrity whose persona includes SUCH ostentatious displays of wealth, there’s a unique conflation here of multiple reasons why otherwise balanced people find that they cannot scrounge up empathy for her.
Approximately $10 million worth of jewelry was stolen from Ms. Kardashian West’s room. To me, that doesn’t change the fact that she was ambushed by people in what was meant to be a private space, at gunpoint, and tied up. The jewels were likely insured, and even if they weren’t, that even such a massive financial loss would nowhere near bankrupt Kim. Which also doesn’t give anyone the right to make fun of a victim of a violent crime.
Perspective is a real thing, so of course the theft of expensive jewels from a rich celebrity might not tug at your heartstrings as much as the loss of money or a home from someone who is left with nothing. But if you feel no tug at all, or somehow feel that she deserved it, you can absolutely stay silent about that and maybe think about what that says about you.
Also, this was a theft in a violent manner, not just a “loss.” I shudder to think how much worse it could have been is Kim was also attacked with intent to do bodily harm or assault. People already feel a certain entitlement to her body, and just one member of the heist crew having more depraved intent than robbery is all it would have taken to make today’s headlines about the incident entirely different.
Cheers also to the aforementioned Mr. West, who abruptly ended a performance at The Meadows music festival in New York, announcing “I’m sorry, there’s been a family emergency.” As an actor, I’ve performed mostly on stage in theatrical productions, where the number one and number two rules of Broadway Fight Club are THE SHOW MUST GO ON. I’ve seen stage managers withhold information of personal or worldwide news from performers until the final curtain falls. However, in the context of Kanye performing as part of a larger multi-day music festival, I think it’s noble that he left the stage and rushed to his wife’s side.
I was at The Meadows festival last night; it was the closing of a massive three-day event. Yes, Kanye was a headliner and a huge draw, but him walking offstage during his set for an emergency is not the same as, say, being a no-show when he was headlining Madison Square Garden or part of a large cast of a play that would have had to come to an abrupt end mid-show.
Given that someone on his team chose to tell him at least some part of the information while he was performing, I applaud Kanye’s decision to leave. I can only imagine the questions he had and the fear and frustration he faced, hearing that his wife was attacked and being a continent away.
In coming to the defense of Kim today against those who mock her or say she deserved it/brought it on herself, I’ve seen many people saying she’s someone’s wife, etc. That common “defense” of women falls apart when we face the fact that we deserve recognition as our own people, not through our roles as filtered through others in our lives, no matter how valuable those roles may be. When it comes to Kim Kardashian West, we famously know exactly whose wife, daughter, sister, mother, and even goddaughter she is (as much as I’d like to forget about OJ Simpson).
That doesn’t matter right now as much as it does that Kim Kardashian West is a human, a woman who was attacked, and I’m very glad she wasn’t physically assaulted, shot, or worse. It’s a slippery slope picking and choosing who deserves our sympathy — one that I’d just as soon not set foot on. Mockery following a trauma is a fate no one deserves. Kardashians included.