Yesterday, mini-Kardashian Kylie Jenner tweeted, “I miss my black hair I’m so bipolar” and, obviously, the Internet erupted in a spitting volcano of incredulity (and not about the missing comma in that sentence). Kylie’s Tweet has been called insensitive and ignorant towards mental illness–which is completely accurate. Fact: Mental illness shouldn’t be treated so jocularly to describe one’s ever changing hair color.
However, the knee-jerk overreaction to Kylie’s Tweet is symptomatic of a wider trend in Internet discourse of naming and shaming. We accept that Kylie has offended–but is instant vitriol really the right way to approach her faux pas?
Kylie is a 16 year old girl, and if I had a penny for every time I called something “retarded” or “gay” when I was 16 (please, it was 2000), I’d be putting a down payment on a Malibu condo by now. I’m not saying that the behavior is right–I’m saying it’s the behavior of a 16 year old girl, and one that has been raised by the single worst tag team parenting duo in the history of celebrity pairing teams, Mrs. and Mr. Kris Jenner, at that.
It’s a wonder that Kylie hasn’t done worse, given that her own mother whored out her older sister for the fame of a sex tape. So instead of cracking out the pitchforks and torches, perhaps Kylie’s idiot Tweet can be used as a spring board for a wider conversation, and for opening up a public discourse about the way we treat mental illness in the public sphere.
The burden of the way mental illness is perceived doesn’t fall to Kylie Jenner–but she has raised an interesting point about the flippancy with which teenagers will bandy about such terms, and challenged us to broaden educative voices around the issue.