A head’s up: this article is NSFW because of nipples. Also, racism.
If you were aware of the existence of the internet yesterday, you probably had a hard time avoiding Kim Kardashian’s ass. Whether you thought her photo spread in Michael Scott’s favorite magazine was great, was gross because she’s a mother, gross for various other reasons, or you really couldn’t care less, one thing is for sure. Those who were calling it original, groundbreaking, or history-making (and yes, you dismayed highbrow delights, many people are saying that) are flat-out wrong. There’s nothing original about Jean-Paul Goude’s photos, especially that one depicting the worst way ever to pour champagne. It’s an homage to Goude’s favorite photographer (himself), recreating one of his most famous works:
So what’s the problem in
ripping off giving a nod to one of his old works? Well, despite the fact that it’s f*cking lazy, that first image comes from a book of Goude’s work called Jungle Fever. Yup. Jungle Fucking Fever. Goude was goddamn obsessed with black models. In a 1979 People Magazine article about Goude and his then-girlfriend Grace Jones, he himself says that he was “captivated by ‘ethnic minorities—black girls, PRs. I had jungle fever.” He now says, “Blacks are the premise of my work.’” It’s one thing to be inspired by a culture, a race, a gender, an anything. But it’s quite another to reduce that group to its basest stereotypes. Goude seemed less interested in exploring black culture or black people, and more interested in digging up shameful, hateful, centuries-old (one would hope centuries-dead) images of the sensationalized, hyper-sexualized, animalistic black woman. Take for example this photograph of Grace Jones (yup, his girlfriend at the time), which is probably his most famous work.
As the incredible The Grio wrote up yesterday, that original champagne pic is immediately evocative of a centuries-old symbol for black erotic exploitation: The Hottentot Venus. If you’re not familiar, Hottentot Venus was the stage name of Saartjie “Sarah” Baartman, a Khoikhoi woman who was kidnapped and taken to Europe as a sexualized early-19th century freak show exhibit. How sexualized, you ask? After her death in 1815, her skeleton, brain, and genitals were displayed in Paris’ Musée de l’Homme until 1974. For a huge number of Western Europeans at the time, Baartman stood in for all African people, and she was depicted as nothing but a sexual, barbaric savage. Here are just a few disgusting examples of how she has been depicted.
The problem (or maybe I should say a problem) with these new Kardashian images is that there is no irony, no reclaiming. She doesn’t even seem to be in on the joke that Goude isn’t making anyway. It’s just shameful, and not because she’s a mother.
H/T The Grio