Nothing can ‘break the internet,’ of course. The phrase—as voiced by a desire of Paper magazine when it ran pictures of Kim Kardashian with her bum out last year—is a piece of aspirational grandstanding, and like many such phrases, any original power it has lessened with overuse. It’s been used to hype Justin Bieber’s penis, and the disputed color of that dress.
If only anything could “break the internet,” we might just be happier. Imagine: reading books, having thoughts all your own, a new, healthier, saner FOMO.
The prediction returned this morning with the release of pictures of another member of the relentlessly sell-sell-sell Kardashian-Jenner entertainment dynasty.
Just as with big sister Kim, Kylie Jenner is modeling within the pages of the latest Interview, an ass-revealing set of shots, this time clad in a pair of leather chaps. Just like her sister, a drinks tray is a key part of the design.
Steven Klein’s pictures hark back to the ’60s sculptures of Allen Jones, which incorporated women dressed in bondage gear wedged into, or as, pieces of furniture.
Naturally, feminists were as pissed off about that—setting off stink bombs at his shows, and defacing his work—as people will surely be that an 18-year-old women is willingly objectified, as Jenner is in these pictures.
Allen, 78, maintained recently to the Guardian that he is a feminist, and his work is “about human interaction—and, I suppose, about sex in a funny way—but really it is an attempt to make a personification of the human condition.”
In Klein’s updated, racy pictures (ass and no ass), as is the vogue this days, Jenner looks quite literally unreal: frozen, doll-like, servile, able to be carried about without voicing objection, utterly without agency.
Assless chaps and bondage boots, meanwhile, are the new khakis and sneakers.
There was a time when these things were worn by hardcore fetishists in clubs on the more interesting side of town. These days, not so much: You’d be shocked if a young starlet had, say, gone for a mid-length skirt and white T-shirt, and sensible flats.
The Mail rightly calls Kylie Jenner’s look a “femmebot.” She is a mannequin, though one—dolled up in fetish gear—who has a vibe of sexual danger about her. As well as assless chaps, she is in other fetish-wear—tiny bra and knickers.
Chris Wallace’s excellent interview with Jenner probably won’t get the attention it deserves, yet it should because it reminds you that beyond the peekaboo ass pics, Jenner is still a teenager, and quite a nice, balanced one it seems.
Jenner says that if she were not famous and in the bubble she exists within, she “would probably just never dress up. I would never wear makeup, because I honestly hate wearing makeup. Lately, I've just been so over it. I feel like I’m way too young to wear such heavy makeup all the time. It’s just bad for your skin, but I’m always doing photo shoots or red carpets and events, so I just obviously want to look good.”
There’s no doubt about that: She does. But to what end?
She also talks about waking up early every morning, terrified of finding something bad written about her online. But this state of siege is surely in no small part self-generated—she and her family go after viewers and clicks hungrily and concertedly. It can’t be any surprise that critics and worse gather to kvetch and bitch.
“I’m just trying to not lose myself through this process, because I feel like I’ve already lost parts of me, like, my youth,” Jenner says. Which is depressingly honest—especially in light of being said alongside a series of shots where she has consentingly allowed herself to be pictured as a sex doll.
There are whole valleys between generations on the acceptability and desirability of encouraging young women and young men to see these kinds of pictures as something to emulate—but modern childhood is so much more adult than it once was.
The pictures and interview, in their own moving way, speak of a young celebrity at a show-and tell crossroads. She knows she has to shock to keep the brand fresh, and yet—at 18—she eyes that brand with more than a glance of mordancy and regret.
Ever since she started appearing in the Kardashians’ TV show, Kylie Jenner has already been in the public eye for nine years. And, already, to stay abreast of the pack, she’s selling herself visually as a mute, fetishized sex object.
If you are in any doubt the pictures are for shock value only, bear in mind the cover shot of Jenner in a blinged-up wheelchair. The controversy generator is calculatedly primed to blow. When its defenders call it art, permit yourself a luxuriant side-eye.
Still, any feminists of such a persuasion, or anyone bemoaning an 18-year-old girl being made to look like a passive sex object, might consider one shot which inverts Allen’s typical model of female passivity.
In one of Interview’s covers, it is the male model who forms the main part of the ‘table,’ and Jenner sits in control on top of him. She has the power—and perhaps that’s one of the best things young women clicking on the image could take away from it…even if the unshockable internet stays intact.