This year’s Met Gala theme was Gilded Glamour, harkening back to “the grandeur—and perhaps the dichotomy—of Gilded Age New York.” Vogue’s annual costume party had a big ask for today’s celebrity class, which is constantly stooping to lower brow displays in a competition for the top spot on the Trending page. This was the first year that Vogue ice queen Anna Wintour invited the entire Kardashian-Jenner clan to the fundraising event. As per usual, Kim Kardashian led by example, injecting pedestrianism into the one sacred place elitism should belong: the world of art and high fashion.
Marilyn Monroe is a permanent fixture in the pantheon of Old Hollywood glamour. In donning her bejeweled floor length gown, Kim sent the bold and presumptuous message that she can lay claim to the same prestigious status in the contemporary era. This “passing of the torch” moment makes sense only on the surface level.
Marilyn Monroe posed nude for fifty dollars per photograph before she rose to fame (an origin story that was far more scandalizing to the sensibilities of her own era than those of today). On the contemporary side, Kim Kardashian entered the limelight on Keeping Up by playing off of the PR crisis she faced following her leaked sex tape with Ray J. Even the sultry birthday tune Monroe sung in 1962 while wearing the coveted gown nodded to the seedy undertones of her rumored affair with the 35th president.
That is the crux of the issue: Monroe’s scandals occurred behind a veil, and her image was consumed via a curated selection of elite gatherings and silver screen appearances. Her success could be owed to real talent in acting and singing, not an outcome of nepotism. She was shrouded in mystery, and the most compelling element of her stardom stemmed from what was not known about her. Kim Kardashian, along with the rest of her reality TV personality-turned-social media influencer hybrid ilk, possesses no such mystique. While Kim deserves credit for her savvy marketing skills, turning herself and her family name into a brand has clearly come at a great spiritual cost.
The outrage that Kim’s Met Gala look instigated from anti-diet culture body positivity advocates was merely a distraction from the critique that should have come her way: She wore a gown that was originally worn by a woman with dignified secrets, feminine wiles, and genuine star power, and in doing so made a mockery of Monroe’s life in the public eye and its tragic ending.
To double down on that offense, Kim somehow managed to make the historic piece look like it could be purchased from a generic fast fashion retailer. One Twitter user said, “kim kardashian got to wear THE marilyn monroe dress and somehow she still managed to make it boring, this should be studied.” Another quipped, “Whoever allowed Kim to even breathe near Marilyn’s dress deserves jail. She managed to make it look like it came from Ali Express.”
— ivy (@ohhhhherewego) May 3, 2022
Whoever allowed Kim to even breathe near Marilyn’s dress deserves jail. She managed to make it look like it came from Ali Express 💀
— 🕊 𝕷𝖆𝖉𝖞 𝕱𝖗𝖔𝖒 𝕿𝖍𝖊 𝕸𝖔𝖚𝖓𝖙𝖆𝖎𝖓𝖘🌙 (@_wingsofastorm_) May 3, 2022
The Kardashian clan’s notoriety is cheap and meticulously contrived by public relations professionals. Kim’s sex appeal is digitally and surgically altered, clinical, sterile, algorithmic in nature. You can dress it up however you want, but she won’t obtain the same power wielded by the likes of Monroe. Maybe next year, Kim.