Lordy, lordy, Kim K’s forty! As the days of honking car parades fade, COVID-19 birthdays have become the norm rather than the exception in the year 2020. Certainly, Kim Kardashian West took the idea of a socially-distanced birthday to a new level. The pop culture icon rang in her 40th birthday on a private island with her star-studded posse of family and friends consisting of an estimated thirty people.
“After 2 weeks of multiple health screens and asking everyone to quarantine, I surprised my closest inner circle with a trip to a private island where we could pretend things were normal just for a moment in time,” Kardashian West wrote in her Instagram caption after posting the first batch of selfies and swimsuit shots from the trip. The reality star continued the post describing her and her ensemble’s endeavors. From swimming with whales to dancing the night away on the beach, the crew indulged in all of your typical private-island-getaway activities. (At least I imagine them to be your typical private-island endeavors).
Normally this time of year, the Kardashian-Jenner family is busy decorating their homes and transforming venues in order to celebrate Halloween and four familial birthdays. It appears that, despite the rates of COVID-19 infections surging across the globe, the family’s celebrations persisted, albeit in new locations (such as a private island in Tahiti). The KKW Beauty founder rang in the festivities with her October 21 birthday. Caitlyn Jenner, born on October 28, kept her 71st birthday celebrations more mild with a dinner gathering consisting of her five daughters and friend, Sophia Hutchins. Kendall Jenner dressed as Pamela Anderson’s character in Barb Wire (1996) for her Halloweekend-birthday bash prior to her Election-Day birthday. And rounding out the Libra-Scorpios of the family is Kris Jenner who hit 65 on November 5.
Of all the celebrations, Kardashian West’s getaway sparked the most coverage from fans and even news writers from CNN and The Washington Post. Fans quickly reposted the glamorous photos from the trip including bikini pictures, cocktails with a side of bright blue water, and a Scott Disick and Kourtney Kardashian selfie moment. Despite the excitement that the trip gained from fans, the criticism it received was far louder.
In particular, much of the backlash Kardashian West received surrounded the statement that she and her circle were able to escape COVID-19 and pretend that life was normal. While jetting off to a private island is not normal during the most normal of times, it is certainly insensitive to the millions of people infected and impacted by COVID-19 worldwide.
The reality star was mocked on social media for her birthday celebration, especially for the caption accompanying the photos she posted from the getaway. Social media users posted parodies of Kardashian West’s post accompanied by screenshots from favorite movies, artwork, and even the video game Among Us. While some of these posts lightheartedly poked fun at the celebrity’s birthday trip, others dug deeper into the crass implications of the getaway. Critics compared Kardashian West to Marie Antoinette, dubbing the birthday trip to be the star’s “Let them eat cake!” moment. Backlash from the getaway deemed the events to be tone-deaf and out-of-touch with reality given the raging global pandemic. Despite Kim’s attempt to find a sense of normalcy on her birthday, the star was criticized for just how privileged the endeavor was.
Prior to the trip, Kardashian West’s family went above and beyond by throwing her a surprise birthday experience that recreated events from various milestone birthdays in her life. From purchasing a white BMW E36, the exact car the star received on her sixteenth birthday, to building her very own version of Las Vegas’ famous Tao Nightclub, the Kardashian-Jenner family certainly pulled all the stops to celebrate Kim’s 40th. Kanye West even gifted his wife a “Hologram from Heaven” with a special message from her late father, Robert Kardashian. While the guest list shrunk, Kim’s birthday celebrations remained larger than life even before jetting off to her private-island getaway.
The star acknowledged her privilege in being able to celebrate in such an elaborate fashion in her initial Instagram and Twitter posts. “I realize that for most people, this is something that is so far out of reach right now, so in moments like these, I am humbly reminded of how privileged my life is,” wrote Kardashian West.
Respondents to the posts appeared unconvinced by the star’s acknowledgment of her privilege. Adversaries found the recognition to be shallow, responding with personal anecdotes of how their lives have been gravely affected by COVID-19. These critics spoke out in an attempt to represent the millions of people whose health, economic situations, and lives have been jeopardized by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the acknowledgment of her privilege in the original social media posts, Kardashian West has yet to respond to the backlash her birthday bash received.
As an avid fan of the Kardashian-Jenner clan myself, I love to watch the stars thrive, especially on their famous family vacations. I was particularly excited to see Kim’s brother Rob, who often steers clear of the public eye, participate in the trip. Despite my love for the seasonal family-vacation episodes of the reality show, this getaway was highly irresponsible. As deaths, hospitalizations, and rates of infection due to COVID-19 surge, a trip to a private island with dozens of people is inconsiderate to the millions of people all over the world that remain impacted by the virus.
Given that the star’s life is anything but normal, Kardashian West’s private-island birthday celebration would likely raise many eyebrows in a year without a deadly virus circulating the globe. However, the typical critiques of the Kardashians’ privilege do not always hold the weight they do now. The criticism that Kardashian West’s birthday trip received carries significant substance given that the endeavor poses potential threats to people’s physical and economic well-being. While the star’s “typical” birthday bash would be a luxury for most, its occurrence would not jeopardize the lives of others. As much as critics love to hate the elaborateness of Kim Kardashian West’s daily ventures, the backlash against her 40th birthday getaway is rooted in sound reasoning.
As socially-distanced birthdays become the norm rather than the exception in the year 2020, a honking car parade is certainly not how fans expected Kim Kardashian West to celebrate her 40th birthday. Nonetheless, the star’s private-island getaway undoubtedly came as a surprise and sparked much-warranted conversations surrounding its ethical implications. As much as I wish Kim well in the coming year, I hope she takes the lessons learned from this experience to heart so that, eventually, the world will be on track to operate normally for longer than “just a brief moment in time.”