Vanity Fair, I love you. My mom loves you. A lot of people love you. You’re one of the few remaining publications that perfectly combine entertainment, lifestyle, and impressive investigative journalism. Sure, sometimes you’re essentially doing what is a ten-page fluff piece about C.Z. Guest’s seating arrangements, but other times you’re breaking a Bernard Madoff story. Like a pretty girl with brains, you are a wickedly awesome combo. The perfect unicorn. So why, oh why, did you have to succumb to the Kate Upton Thing?
For their 100th anniversary issue, Vanity Fair put Kate Upton on their cover, choosing to go the Marilyn Monroe route, shooting her with the (more commercial and palatable) insistence that this is a classy woman, not just the genesis for a YouTube search query that results in such matches as “Kate Upton FULLY TOP LESS [sic] Riding a Horse” and “10 Hours of Kate Upton Bouncing Boobs.” No, she’s not just a brainless sex thing that Terry Richardson loves to Cat Daddy with; she’s the closest thing we have seen to one of America’s most recognizable icons in history.
Upton, of course, has all the right parts for the job: the bleached blonde hair, the beauty mark, the boop-oop-a-doop buxomness of the good ol’ days. The same went for Anna Nicole Smith, who, as everyone well knows, became the consummate ‘90s Guess pinup.
For whatever reason, America is on the constant quest for this archetype, which, I suppose, is always going to be a look. None of these women will ever be revered for their contribution to humanity, their wit, their intelligence – because, frankly, none of these are requisites. They are remarkable only in their measurements and how they look in photographs. C’est la vie. Get over it.
I probably shouldn’t be hating on Miss Upton so hard. Ultimately, she really isn’t that different than Monroe or Smith, neither of whom I look up to in any real capacity. But there is something to be said of their struggle, the work it took to put themselves smack in the annals of pop culture – the strategic marriages, the pill problems, the plastic surgery. Behind their batting eyelashes was a lot of darkness that would one day make them the subject not just of a Vanity Fair feature spread, but of a back page obit. The same cannot be said of Upton, who grew up riding horses, an expensive hobby easily made accessible by a grandfather who cofounded Whirlpool.
And I think that’s what irritates me most — this sense that Kate Upton doesn’t appear to work very hard. Sure, her schedule as a famous person must be fairly grueling, but as a person she is soft, both physical and mentally. There is no sense of struggle, no stringent definition of personhood. She is an ascendant star of the YouTube era, a medium with the ability to transcend all the dogged, icky, time-consuming hustle of yore. Call me old fashioned, but if you’re going to be the icon of my generation, you better work for it.