What happened to Kim Kardashian in Paris has all the trappings to be sensationalized. Here’s one of the world’s most famous and visible—if not also most polarizing—women subjected to a horrific crime seemingly ripped out of a Hollywood thriller I’d have to watch between my fingers while covering my eyes.
In the middle night of the night during Paris Fashion Week, five men masquerading as cops held up the security guard at the luxury apartment building where she was staying and forced him to let them into her room.
Kardashian was reportedly ambushed by men wielding guns and shouted out while one was held against her head. TMZ reports she was bound and gagged and thrown into a bathtub, where she was reportedly left pleading for the gunmen to spare her life because she has babies at home. After the thieves ran off with $10 million in jewelry, Kardashian managed to free herself of her restraints and call for help.
Every detail about this incident is disturbing. No person, famous or otherwise, should be force to live through the terror of an event like this. And, certainly, no one should be mocked in the press and online after the fact, which is shamefully happening in the wake of the headline-making robbery.
There’s a level of mockery that simmers under any public discussion of Kim Kardashian, an attitude that became exhausting years ago but which somehow still persists even as the reality TV star becomes a formidable businesswoman, fashion icon, and cultural provocateur. But for there to be such sharp level of snark, dismissiveness, and even victim-blaming after a trauma like this is rather deplorable—even for the rancid junkyard that is the universe of Kardashian commentary on the internet.
On Twitter and even in mainstream news outlets, there are those who couldn’t resist their instincts to turn the latest Kardashian news into material for their ho-hum amateur comedy. The worst of this, naturally, came from the NRA, which used Kardashian’s hold up to mock supporters of stricter gun control laws.
We won’t link to the anonymous trolls making light of the incident or suggesting that Kardashian deserves it—they don’t deserve the recognition—but a simple Twitter search will yield a flood of them, should you desire to wade through the internet’s sewage water.
There’s an undeniable level of sexism and shaming, insinuating that Kardashian somehow had this coming, whether for generally living a life of unabashed opulence—and sharing that opulence for all to see on any number of social channels—or more specifically for Instagramming a photo of a massive diamond ring several days before the burglary.
There is skepticism that any of this really happened, with Kardashian’s status as an upwardly mobile reality TV star offered up as conjecture that she manufactured this whole drama in order to receive more attention. And there’s the kind of victim blaming that follows our repulsive cultural reflex to do this in any case when a woman is subject to harrowing personal trauma—that because she chose not to stay in a more secure hotel, because she shared that photo of the ring, because she chooses to document every instant of life that she somehow had this coming.
Given the vile things that people tweet, post, and write about her on the internet at every turn of her life, not to mention this particularly dramatic one, it’s no wonder that she thought she might be killed while in that bathtub. The misogynistic, evil, and often violent rhetoric that surrounds her every day became manifested in five men carrying guns in a room that was supposed to be a sanctuary from that kind of relentless scrutiny.
Even when not actively calling for harm to Kardashian—something she is subject to daily—there’s a flippancy to discussing her life that, in its own way, excuses such dialogue.
A wryly written, dismissive Daily News essay calls the heist "too good to be true." A Hollywood Reporter dispatch from Paris Fashion Week, where what happened to Kardashian was all the buzz, found attendees cracking skeptical jokes at the victim’s expense more often than expressing any sort of sympathy.
One British journalist shrugged off the news: “Where did they get the gun? Sounds fake.” A nearby American journalist apparently agreed that “the whole thing sounds made up.” Another fashion editor ventured that “she was probably drunk after the L’Oreal party and let them in accidentally.” (Kardashian famously is not a drinker.)
And if it did happen, it was probably her fault for Instagramming too much, other journalists ventured. “Well, she should stop Instagramming pictures of herself in her hotel bathroom,” said one. “Or she tagged herself there. Criminals can have Instagram too,” said another. You know, the old “if you post on Instagram you should probably get robbed at gunpoint” theory.
Sure, they probably thought they were being funny, and who knows if the comments reflect any actual ill-will towards Kardashian. But to treat the news with a roll of the eye and a raised eyebrow only perpetuates our misogynistic tendency to blame the victim in cases like these, not to mention a cold willingness to reduce a mother and wife’s life to a thriller film’s throwaway plot point just because she is famous or controversial. Internet joke fodder trumps respect and dignity, as always.
When Kardashian’s husband Kanye West stopped a concert early after his assistant rushed on stage to tell him the news of what had happened to his wife, he was booed, mocked online, and trashed for canceling his show, even after details began to emerge about the emergency nature of the cancellation. And when Kardashian and West reunited in New York amid a battalion of security guards, that too was mocked as overkill.
Truth be told, The Daily Beast’s original report on the heist, which I did not write, contained a paragraph at the end that reflected this instinct to discuss events like this with a bit of cruel rhetoric. Even when any ill-will or cruelty isn’t intentional, the impulse has become intrinsic.
“For those familiar with Kardashian and her attention-seeking antics, the incident carries with it a hint of cruel irony,” the kicker reads. “Her decision to seek more discreet lodging away from the spotlight seems to have come back to bite her.” Is it a fair observation? Arguably. Is it tinged with shaming and victim blame? Yes.
Meanwhile internet voice of reason Chrissy Teigen, who is also a close friend of Kardashian and West’s, posted a series of tweets last night as the news and its ensuing mockery unfolded, attempting to shame those making light of the crime while also providing insight into what it’s like to be a celebrity attempting to appease fans while also being aware of how quickly your humanity can be devalued by them.
The takeaway lesson of her tweets: “Please do not think that I think celebrities are special snowflakes. I just miss empathy, in general, for everyone.” More of that, please.