“…in the context of viral media content, “breaking the Internet” means engineering one story to dominate Facebook and Twitter at the expense of more newsworthy things. (Like, for example, the fact that humans have landed a probe on a comet for a first time in history.) So perhaps a more accurate term would be “hijacking the Internet,” since really these stories seem to be manipulating online fervor rather than shutting the whole thing down.”— TIME’s “What Does It Mean to ‘Break the Internet’?”
Paper Magazine set out with the deliberate intention of breaking the internet with the cover of their Winter 2014 issue. It featured a photo of Kim Kardashian balancing a champagne glass on her rear-end and a simple, bold headline: Break The Internet / Kim Kardashian. This image was released online on November 11, 2014.
It’s bold of them to call out Breaking the Internet on the cover of the magazine, no? What if nobody had cared? Oh, if only...
If your goal is to #BreakTheInternet, it’s a good idea to enlist someone with a humongous social media following. As of the writing of this post, Kim Kardashian had the fifth most Instagram followers of any account worldwide. She has over 65M Instagram followers, over 42M Twitter followers, and over 28M Facebook likes.
Kim’s posts helped hijack the internet:
Guys Recreate Kim Kardashian’s Butt Photo // Try Guys
The conversation wasn’t just limited to “Wow”. Nobody could agree whether the image had been doctored. (And this wasn’t the first time people doubted the authenticity of Kim’s curves.)
Many who had been blissfully ignorant of the dimensions of Kim Kardashian’s physique and/or her stranglehold on the potentially useful time of millions lost their innocence that day.
This was the question asked on the cover of Complex’s February/March 2007 issue, for which Kim posed in a bra, underwear, and heels.
Around the same time as this issue hit newsstands, in February 2007 a sex tape from 2003 with Kim Kardashian and her then-boyfriend Ray J was leaked, catapulting Kim into the public eye. Note: A new book allegedly confirms that this “leak” was orchestrated deliberately.
This was followed by a December 2007 Playboy cover and spread.
Kim posed nude, with her skin covered in silver paint (perhaps a slightly more modest precursor to oil?), for the November 2010 issue of W Magazine.
And, just one month before she broke the internet, Kim’s booty and more graced the pages of GQ UK. She had been named their 2014 woman of the year.
Oh, don’t forget about her TV show…if any of you still watch TV…Keeping Up With the Kardashians just finished its 11th season on E! in February and is one of the longest-running reality TV series in America.
Kim wasn’t the first person to #BreakTheInternet, but she was the first to put the phrase—and the hashtag—into wide use.
The IT Crowd - Break the internet (credit: athaz697)
In December 2013, Beyonce dropped a new album without a formal release, using social media to make the announcement.
Variety claimed that she broke the internet.
In September 2014, Taylor Swift wore a “no its becky” shirt in reference to a tumblr post, and BuzzFeed said she broke the internet.
And earlier in November 2014, just before the Paper magazine cover wreaked havoc, Alex from Target was a thing. Is anybody else still confused about this one?
Obama’s tan suit...OK, maybe not.
As TIME’s Charlotte Alter wrote, “Apparently, the Internet is about as durable as an 87-year-old hip.
Paper Magazine is based in New York City and was founded in 1984, before there was much of an internet to break.
They haven’t forgotten about November 2014, either—they still have a section on their website for all things Break The Internet.
Their online feature on Kim Kardashian, complete with photos and a well-written profile of the star, received over 34M unique views in about a month and a half.
“Social media has created a new kind of fame, and Kardashian is its paragon. It is a fame whose hallmark is agreeable omnipresence, which resembles a kind of evenly spread absence, soothing, tranquil and unobjectionable. There's an argument to be made that Kardashian has been recorded and viewed more often than any other personage in history, and while she has certainly had her awkward moments (posting a vampire facial on Instagram, announcing that she wanted to buy a stroller that complemented her unborn baby's skin color), she has also never made a truly ruinous gaffe, been caught in a Britney Spears-style public meltdown or sallied forth looking less than photogenic. As she puts it, ‘There's nothing we can do that's not documented, so why not look your best, and amazing?’"— In a prescient excerpt, the writer, Amanda Fortini, addresses social media’s role in Kim’s fame
“She's not performing, that is -- at least not visibly. She is being, and being is her act…’I love sharing my world with people,’ Kardashian tells me, and I detect no hint of falseness. ‘That's just who I am.’ No more, no less.”
Unfortunately, even Paper insinuated that few people were likely to read the article:
A month after the internet was broken, one of Paper magazine’s editors, David Hershkovits, wrote an editorial for The Guardian about the reaction to the photos. In it, he confesses that they didn’t expect such an overwhelming response and explains that the first rule of creating a pop phenomenon is to be polarizing. He goes on:
“If that’s what it takes to shake the world, so be it. Guilty as charged. We had an idea that worked for this specific issue. To claim that we can keep replicating this level of attention, or act as if there was real strategy or prophecy behind it wouldn’t be true. We’re enjoying our 15 minutes – but we’ve been here holding court for 30 years.”
Other media entities took notice.
“Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes.”— Excerpt from Tina Fey’s 2011 book, Bossypants
Not only were the images of Kim Kardashian’s body problematic for those with personal body image concerns, critics also noted photographer Jean-Paul Goude’s history of creating images that suggested the subjugation of black women in particular.
Kim Kardashian wasn’t the first woman to be photographed balancing champagne on her rear. The #BreakTheInternet photo was a recreation of Jean-Paul Goude’s 1976 “Champagne Incident”, an image of Carolina Beaumont in the nude. It was published in 1982 as part of a collection of the photographer’s work titled Jungle Fever. You read that right.
On The Grio, writer Blue Telusma drew the comparison to a woman from the 19th century, Saartjie Baartman, “whose large buttocks brought her questionable fame and caused her to spend much of her life being poked and prodded as a sexual object in a freak show.” She goes on:
Interestingly, Kanye’s ex, Amber Rose, posed for recreations of a couple other Jean-Paul Goude originals, including a photo of Goude’s then-lover Grace Jones for the cover of her album, Island Life. Here are all four photos, with the recreations on top and their respective inspiration beneath.
The Kardashians haven’t stopped trying to #BreakTheInternet since the Paper magazine close call.
Shortly thereafter, sister Kourtney Kardashian’s posed nude for DuJour while pregnant. (photo )
Then there was Kim K round 2: her own nude pregnant selfie:
First they said I'm too skinny so I have to be faking it...Now they say I'm too big so I have to be faking it...SMH! Some days I'm photographed before I eat & look smaller, some days I've just eaten & I look bigger. It's all a part of the process. I think you all know me well enough to know I would document the process if I got a surrogate. Everyone's body is different, every pregnancy is very different! I've learned to love my body at every stage! I'm going to get even bigger & that's beautiful too! I'm blessed to even be pregnant & even luckier to not have preeclampsia as far as I know, so I don't have the swelling issue this time! They also say your body carries a boy different than a girl! Whatever the case may be I'm grateful to God for this miracle & no matter what rumors or comments you throw my way this time they truly don't affect me! #NoFilter#NoPhotoShop #GoodLightingKim Kardashian West
And Kim K round 3: a recent nude selfie taken in a bathroom mirror.
For some reason, this bathroom mirror selfie stirred the pot once more, with all sorts of confusing celebrity responses.
Maybe we can forgive Kim K, who doesn’t seem to have many tricks left up her…nether regions. But Paper, did you really have to try another butt sensation with John Stamos??
When Kim isn’t trying to #BreakTheInternet, she’s still everywhere, doing things like publishing a book of selfies, called Selfish (it hit the New York Times Bestseller – Celebrity List) and contributing to the creation of sigh-inducing terms like belfie.
As if this—all of this—weren’t enough, in December 2015, Kim Kardashian launched a line of autobiographical emojis. They’re called Kimojis and they can be downloaded in the App Store for $1.99.
Many of the kimojis depict tiny illustrations of Kim’s now well-known body, including her infamous butt.
And the app was popular: it quickly became the top paid app in the App store.
She even recently added some Easter-themed Kimojis, in a free update that also happens to be free of any semblance of significance.
Thankfully, there have also been spinoffs to kimojis, including the “Kimunji” series, a free set of North Korean themed illustrations that includes an icon of Kim Jong-un crying and an illustration of Dennis Rodman’s head.