Emily Jashinsky: The Met Gala is mostly an opportunity for our vanilla celebrity class to LARP as real, transgressive artists for the sake of generating clickbait. That’s all Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) was doing with her “Tax The Rich” dress. She knew it would rile up the right, so why let ourselves be riled? I actually think it’s entirely fair to balk at the stunt. Her lifestyle has never really matched her politics, but the media fawns over her anyway, and the effect is a real build-up of undue power.
In that context, Kim Kardashian’s much-mocked Met Gala look was actually much more transgressive and much more useful as a political statement than AOC’s banal red-on-white bumper sticker dress. Don’t you think? What did you take from Kim’s look?
Madeline Osburn: Totally agree that AOC’s look was so banal and expected that it’s not even worth talking about, while Kim’s is the exact opposite. There are so many messages her all black, no logo, no face, but distinctly Kim Kardashian silhouette had me thinking about all night.
When I first saw Kim’s look I was disappointed because it was not what I wanted to see from her. I wanted to see her in glamourous hair and make-up and an over-the-top dress. And then I realized I think that’s exactly her point. She is defiantly not what we want her to be, but also a blank canvass to be projected upon, just as we have done to her whole career. She is just a shadow of the Kim we created.
It is also iconically Kim in that we recognize her distinct silhouette, but with a Kanye-inspired twist. It sends a resounding message about their relationship, which has been hyper-scrutinized since their divorce, and his influences on her. Kanye was the one who introduced Kim and Balenciaga’s creative director Demna Gvasalia, who designed her look and appeared with her on the red carpet (and whom many people mistook for Kanye). Only Kanye could give Kim both the inspiration and the confidence to pull off such a polarizing statement.
EJ: It’s definitely an indication of how different she is exiting their marriage than entering it. The libertine symbol of aughts paparazzi fervor matured into a completely self-aware and judicious mother of four. In some ways, the tight fit of the black outfit is more revealing than one that shows skin, hugging every curve to create a smooth, monochromatic contour of her body that really shows its shape. We didn’t need to see her face, her body is that recognizable on its own. So I think her covered face intentionally made that point, but it might have also been commenting on whether we’re entitled to see her face and see her skin. Or maybe that she’s commodified her body beyond her control, but she can control how much access we have to her deeper life, something I’m sure is on many celebrities’ minds as our culture reevaluates its treatment of Britney Spears in particular.
Even for the Met Gala, I think it’s rare for an outfit to actually be so arresting, but this one really was. She looked scary. It was an incredibly provocative statement. What am I missing?
MO: The one element to all this I find the most puzzling is that this is the second or third time in the last month that Kim has donned the all-black, faceless ninja look. Starting with an appearance at one of Kanye’s “Donda” listening events, she wore basically the exact Balenciaga unitard that she wore to the Met after-party, and just two days ago, she posted photos of her wearing another all-black leather faceless look on her Instagram.
The Met is all about debuting this unexpected surprise ensemble so this feels like Kim just gave the plot away. I suppose by intentionally giving us a prelude to her look, it only reinforces the statement she is making, but the fact that we had already seen it several times is why it was so disappointing to me at first.
EJ: That’s a really, really good point. But I think you’re right that it might also be her very intentionally signaling that she’s entered a new era. It’s probably also worth noting that we’re 18 months into a pandemic, so there’s something about the politicians gallivanting around the gala maskless while servers wore face coverings that makes for an interesting juxtaposition with Kardashian.
I just think her brave and subtle look made AOC look like an unsophisticated schoolgirl with her loud, faux radicalism. Basically nobody is against “taxing the rich,” the president is working on it right now with the support of plenty of rich people who know they’ll just find other loopholes to exploit in our complicated tax code. I think the contrast says so much about the modern left and so much about Kim Kardashian’s surprising influence in our pop culture.
MO: That’s why when Kim finally passes the Bar exam, it’s over for basics like AOC.