The camera cuts to Kim’s facial response to her mother’s banter in that opening scene. Frozen by injectables, the facial skin makes no discernible change that is expressive. The surface bears no feeling. She’s, most likely, a businesswoman, a white entrepreneur of contemporary blackface. Her sex will not compromise her chops that are capitalist.
Episodically viewing the siblings and their buddies gossip and perform banal, highly financialized shenanigans—hair braided into corn rows, occasional Black buddy in view—brings to mind the century that is 19th. Particularly, the benefit of both intimate novels and sentimentalist abolitionist literature, genres particularly appealing to 19th-century white-lady readers, for whom their “parlors had been the face of the house.” 12
KUWTK is a reality show that, like 19th-century abolitionist and intimate literature, conveys white sentimentalism for Black objecthood. Plus it conveys this under the narrative guise of freedom, repackaged for sundry, multiracialized topic jobs.
The Kardashians have not innovated any such thing in this respect. They have stepped as a categorical place well prepared for them by 19th-century US, middle-class white womanhood. This era’s notion of womanhood (as African American studies and art history scholar Jasmine Nichole Cobb contends) ended up being obsessed with self-styling, posing, and selectively arranging Black people and Black objects visibly in spaces set for entertaining. The Kardashians make the historic eeriness of white womanhood while the artifice of white feminism explicit. (Recall how Kris, Kourtney, and Kim function as constantly emotionally and financially stable, in comparison to their variously hystericized male partners). 13
Audiences of the Houghtons-Kardashians-Jenners are bound to your empire of white domesticity. This empire’s omnipotence is really a lie. But its virtual omnipresence overpowers the truth: the anti-Black violence of the Kardashian enterprise’s effect. 14
The Interracial Sex Tape
KUWTK’s fundamental success is due to sentimentalizing your family fame’s origins, which lie in the interracial intercourse tape. This infamous tape contains a scene of Kim sex with Ray J, that is the cousin of her former manager, the singer Brandy. Kim’s big break can be traced to her relationship with Paris Hilton. But it is a famous Black woman whom engenders Kim’s first viral documented performance, alongside a less famous man that is black.
That sex scene enthralls the (white) dream of interracial sex while the desirous results of racism. Plus it does so in a country created (in its institutions and imaginary) on slavery and white men’s lawfully protected rape of Black women.
Kardashian wide range comes from the sex that is interracial regarding the scale of bucks. Meaning that their wealth and popularity is the direct effect of racism (as well as its division of the types into events thus the fiction of interracial sex) and, simultaneously, of anti-Blackness (which both fantasizes concerning the sex work and fears the Black hereditary outcomes from it).
Which means that the Kardashians must over and over sentimentalize the intercourse tape to be able to perhaps not appear simply racist. And, additionally, to never risk showing up like Black women do whenever visibly fleshed: not merely scandalous, but threatening. (Think right back, quickly, to how Justin Timberlake emerged unscathed [if such a thing, with erotic credit that his corny ass didn’t have] after previously tearing off Janet Jackson’s top at the XXXVIII Super Bowl halftime performance, whereas her job had been derailed for some time.)
The maiden episode of KUWTK throws an exclusive party for Kris and Bruce’s sixteenth wedding anniversary. Even so, that ongoing party is but the prequel for Kim coming to terms publicly ( in the Tyra Banks Show) because of the intercourse tape.
Settler Fantasies, Televised
A motif that is domesticated of, sex tapes reappear through the entire show. Khloe makes a sex tape for Lamar Odom in Season 4, episode 9. Scott and Kourtney—the white couple—make a “spoof” sex tape of Bruce and Kris in Season 8, episode 14, after Kris tells the tale of some other intercourse tape that she and Bruce made in days gone by.
But each one of these sex tapes are knockoffs of Ray J and Kim’s initial. Just What the knockoff tapes repeatedly convey is the fact that interracial sex tape—again, a racist psychosexual imaginary—is not a moral impasse because of this foundationally non-Black family members’s public life. It really is constitutive of their profitability and visibility, which can be their morality.
Certainly, the interracial-sex-tape popularity ontology follows the script that US Black studies scholar and critical theorist Jared Sexton locates in the logics of modern multiracialism in america, where “racism is not a barrier to interracial closeness but its condition of possibility.” 15 The “‘superstitious imagining of this pornographic nature of interracial sex’ is, contrary to sense that is common not just what stops healthy interracial relationships from flourishing, tarnishing their general public standing. It really is, rather, ab muscles thing that allows them to be conceptualized in the first place.” 16 Rape and racism beget the fantasy that is reparative of closeness.
But we diverge through the lyricist’s underscore and logic: it is their since it is hers (Kim’s). (this is simply not a feminist intervention! If any such thing, it really is written with anxiety about Kanye’s carceral relationship to white womanhood.) And it’s also hers (Kim’s) since it is hers (Kris’s). And it is hers, more over, because it is their (the invisible whitened patriarch). No Black woman’s visibility on a sex tape would run along these genealogical lines of sanction.
White Girls, Black Parts: Playing “Mulata”
Every one of these intercourse tapes circulate in the same space that is domestic imaginary as an archive of home videos for the young Kardashian children. Components of the pre-KUWTK, ’90s house videos appear in various episodes. They’re also spliced in to the opening credits of season 17 with early footage of the Jenner kiddies, made to match the ’90s camcorder visual, emitting a nostalgic, baby-making aura.
Thirteen years and 18 seasons later, much has changed. For example, you can start to see the difference between Kim’s face in Season 1 and her face in period 9 ( after the outbreak of Instagram) in contouring makeup products, injectables, skin “tanner,” and a cheeky manipulation of an abundance of selfhood. But I see is a white girl now openly, sadistically playing mulata for myself, the difference. This isn’t the mulata as tragic, nonwhite figure that is femmeone that the US literary, cinematic, and televisual traditions repeatedly render as being a whore and cultural traitor, or drive mad and kill down). Rather, I see her playing the mulata as a hemispheric synonym for sex (as Caribbean literature and art scholar Dixa Ramirez D’Oleo identifies the mulata’s artistic semiotics). 17