The Shameful Bliss of Kim Kardashian’s Selfie Book
Why has Kim Kardashian catalogued an extensive collection of her selfies? To you and I, the answer is obvious: she’s in love with herself.
I think I want to be like Kim Kardashian. I’m not even sure if I should be ashamed about that.
I just spent days staring at 352 photos of Kardashian, contemplating her life, contemplating my life. I saw her as a child. I saw her as a mother. I saw her butt. We’re both intimately acquainted now, and not acquainted at all. I’m in love with this beautiful stranger. I want to be her.
Her life, as told through hundreds of self-selected photos in full hair and makeup, seems nice.
In what is perhaps the most egregious and also the most inspired act of narcissism our culture has ever been unwittingly assaulted with, Kim Kardashian has curated a collection of selfies for a new book, titled Selfish.
As Kardashian writes, it is “only a small fraction of the thousands of selfies we considered for publication,” spanning from 2006 to her wedding day to Kanye West.
At a grand total of 444 Kardashian-filled pages, the thing is a doorstopper. God, it’s beautiful. (And probably more interesting and provocative than you’re giving it credit for.)
Why do I want to be like Kim Kardashian? Dat ass, of course. I think I would quite like to be on a beach as often as she seems to be in this book. I have yet to be photographed with Beyoncé or Jennifer Lopez, by selfie or any other means. Both living saints make appearances in Selfish.
And call me a sentimental schmuck, but there seems to be so much love around Kardashian at all times. Family. Friends. People at da club. Children named after a point on the compass rose. (But not 72-day husband Kris Humphries, R.I.P.)
As much as a collection of selfies is an undeniable exercise in self-love, Selfish also exudes love from those who happen to share the frame with her.
It’s intriguing to see so much outside love in a project rooted in self. I would like to have that much love around me, and for those people to love me so much that they don’t smack me on the side of the head for asking to take selfies with them all the goddamned time.
But more, it takes, I imagine, a certain amount of confidence to be this kind of person.
This is a person who sees a mirror and doesn’t run screaming from the goblin staring back at them, and instead whips out her camera to take a photo of the reflection because she believes it’s beautiful.
This is a person confident enough to publish these photos in a book despite being well-aware that people are going to mock that idea for how utterly ridiculous it is. No one incites a thinkpiece like Kim Kardashian, #breaktheinternet hashtag hero.
I would like that confidence. Kim is the one who is shamelessly but also calculatedly driving the conversation about our obsession with celebrity culture, and I am merely the one participating in it. Perhaps the grass is greener on the other side of the selfie lens.
Oh, the Kim K. debates. The sheer number of conversations we manage to have about her is astounding. To some, I’m sure it’s infuriating. These are the “she’s nothing but a sex tape star and now she’s a reality TV whore so who cares” people. Those people are the worst.
The truth is that Kim Kardashian is an endlessly interesting person, or at least an endlessly interesting phenomenon.
We’re all brands now, as much or maybe even more than we’re people. You’re a brand. I’m a brand: Kevin Fallon™. I have a photo of Oprah as my iPhone case and I constantly complain about my weight even though I know I’m not fat. It’s my brand! It’s annoying and lovable--just like Kim Kardashian, who it must be said deserves all credit for being the person-as-a-brand pioneer.
Hers is a more complicated one (though I imagine she also likes Oprah, duh).
She’s one of the #mosttalkedaboutpeople in the world, but a person we all hate or can’t believe we’re talking about. What is it about her? I just studied 352 selfies of her, taken over the course of decades and curated to specifically say something about her, and I still can’t pinpoint it.
In Slate, Laura Bennett does an admirable job of sussing out the seemingly incongruous aspects of Kardashian’s image that she’s able to project without coming off contradictory: “wholesome (family values) and scandalous (sex tapes), self-aware (jokes about her own materialism) and oblivious (carrying a Hermès bag painted by her 1-year-old child), highbrow (Vogue covers) and gauche (photo shoots of her butt).”
It’s a more vapid version of the “having it all” trope that society is obsessed with. Hers isn’t as much achieving a balance of professional and personal bliss, but looking like she has—and what that makes people think of her.
I am both a workaholic and insecure about my work, and I have not yet completed my planned transformation into Kim Kardashian, so my personal life is still none of your business, thank you very much. I can say with much certainty that I will never “have it all.” But I would still like to give the impression that I do.
There are allusions all throughout Selfish to the hard work that Kardashian has put in to curating her brand—and it has been hard work. There are family pics and fashion pics and ‘let’s fuck’ pics, and they all coexist seemingly with each other.
In fact, there’s an entire section, delineated with black pages, of risqué selfies. Lingerie. Boobage. Butts butts butts. She even, in a very cool and you-better-believe-shrewd move, includes the nude selfies that were hacked from her iCloud during “The Fappening.”
There’s so much to ponder about this collection, and what she’s trying to say about Kim Kardashian—if anything at all. I mean, the choice of cover alone. Tits. There they are. That’s the cover of this book. Kim’s tits. But what are Kim’s tits saying? Can you believe we’re asking that question? I can’t. I love it!
There’s been so much cultural conversation—the most annoying kind of conversation, and the one I make my living on, yay!!!—about what releasing this book of selfies says about Kim Kardashian.
The phenomenal thing is how an entire book of selfies spanning Kardashian’s days clubbing with Paris Hilton, spending time with her family, having her own daughter, and become a megawatt celebrity actually says not one damn thing about her. Nada.
Selfish is almost transfixing in its sameness. Camera angled from above. Fuck-me eyes intensely engaged. A rotating cast of celebrities and family members cheesing next to her. There’s the occasional “silly face”—look, I’m sticking out my tongue!—or change in perspective—look it’s my gorgeous ass!—but there’s a slog to the repetition that is almost poignant. Look how much has changed over the years, but also look at how nothing has changed.
If trying to parse out meaning from the sporadic captions she provides leaves you even more clueless, it also leaves you endlessly entertained. (Clueless + entertaining = Kim Kardashian.)
“The car is the best place to take a selfie before you step out to the madness,” she writes. (I don’t have a car :(. Do you think the M14 bus has the same effect?)
“I had one drink and I was wasted LOL,” she captions one photo. At one point she spells Snooki’s name wrong.
The words, in general, are ridiculous and needless, often just saying where she was at the time or reiterating the obvious fact that she loves makeup. But then again, there’s also something almost Dadaist about the whole endeavor.
“I took a selfie at a red light while driving. I think that’s illegal now.” It’s on a page next to with a gigantic selfie of a woman in ungodly amounts of makeup. It’s really funny to read. Is it supposed to be funny? Is Kardashian trying to be humorous? I don’t know. Imagine being as public, as much of a personal exhibitionist as Kim Kardashian, but still being so mysterious.
She never, not once, looks bad. There is not one photo in which she is not sexy as hell. Of course there isn’t. The act of taking a selfie is perhaps the next most masturbatory act to actual masturbation. It’s a public form of pleasuring yourself. The only time a person is more self-absorbed is when they are focusing on manufacturing their own orgasm. The release in this case: unapologetically displaying your vanity, and getting positive reinforcement in return.
Selfies, in general, have become a punchline, the focus of an entire screed about why millennials are so awful, and how far society has fallen. How brilliant of Kim Kardashian to seize control of that punchline, turn it into an even more insufferably self-absorbed act (putting her selfies into an entire book, curated as if they are art), and then drop the mic, knowing that we’re going to congratulate her on yet another despicably genius extension of that aforementioned “brand.”
Why has Kardashian catalogued an extensive collection of her selfies? To you and I, the answer is obvious: she’s in love with herself. To hear her say it, over and over and over and over in the book, it’s because she likes memories.
“Photos are memories to me,” she says on page 25. “I love doing photo shoots and having memories and so many different vibes,” she reiterates on page 61. “All of our show shoots really represent where we were at that time in our lives and I love that we have these memories,” she clarifies on page 66. Oh, what’s that she says at the end of the book? “These pics bring back so many memories.” Do they? I was confused!
I like memories, too. I actually have a pretty bad one.
I should take more selfies.
© Kim Kardashian West: Selfish by Kim Kardashian West, Rizzoli New York, 2015. All images are © Kim Kardashian West.