You’re In My Story Now: On Snaps And Other Autobiographies

In September, mumblecore master Joe Swanberg made his television debut with the Netflix original series, Easy. While there’s occasional overlap in storylines, each episode focuses on a different group of characters grappling with their interpersonal relationships. The anthology is chock full of examples of how technology is shaping our lives and how we relate to one another, but none more interesting than in “Art and Life.”

Marc Maron plays Jacob, an aging, belly-aching graphic novelist who made a name for himself chronicling the rise and fall of his romantic relationships. After befriending a group of MFA candidates who were among the few attendees of a Q&A event for his latest book, he sleeps with one of them. Alison, played by Emily Ratajkowski, is a photographer whose primary medium is an iPhone and a selfie stick.

“She sees herself as an autobiographical artist,” he swoons the next morning to his friend Annabelle. The afterglow of their philosophical and physical bond is short lived, however. Jacob attends a group exhibition Alison’s work is featured in and is horrified to see his sleeping, half-naked body is in the background of one of her prints. He becomes irate after confronting her and realizing she’s every bit as unapologetic about including her lovers in her work as he is in his graphic novels.

Quick to point out the hypocrisy, she asks if he’s already drawn their encounter, which he has. No leg to stand on, he attempts to claim, “There’s no story to that. There’s just sort of like– ‘Look, I fucked this guy, and he’s sleeping.’” Steadfast, she repeats that her art draws on her life, in a way no different than his own, save for the speed with which she can share it with the world: “My privacy is public, and I think you were one of the first people to do that.” The scene climaxes as Jacob’s fury shifts from Alison to the crowd of onlookers who are recording him with their phones, which turns into a viral video of his rant that is ultimately a PR boon.

The episode on its own is a fantastic exploration of privacy in 2016 and how, as more of us join and actively participate in social platforms, we are becoming an entire culture of visual storytellers, driven by the push of a “post” button to create a curated snapshot of our lives. And while privacy settings may offer a sense of security, ultimately the idea that we forever have control of our own content, or any content we’re featured in, is an illusion.

As soon as Alison was introduced as a character, I was blown away by how similar her look and proclivity for selfies as a means of personal expression was to Kim Kardashian West. Once I realized that she was played by Emily Ratajkowski, something that escaped me initially because of the bleach blonde hair, the episode theme of “art imitating life” began to feel intensely meta.

Earlier this year, Kim posted what was arguably her most controversial selfie to date, launching Twitter beefs with Bette Midler, Chloë Grace Moretz, and Piers Morgan. Completely naked, but with black bars covering what Instagram would no doubt consider a violation of their community guidelines, she sports the exact same bleach blonde hairstyle that Alison has, as well as the same unapologetic attitude for how she chose to represent herself. Kim had no trouble shooting back at her haters, but Emily was among those who publicly supported her:

Weeks later Emily and Kim posed together in a reenactment of that contentious selfie, both of them topless with black bars covering their nipples and flipping the bird.

A veteran of Instagram, Kim was relatively late to the Snap game, joining days after her nude selfie ruffled the Internet. To the delight of fans, she embraced the medium full force, offering daily snap stories by the dozens. While they’re designed to disappear after 24 hours, there are a number of fan accounts on Instagram dedicated to saving and sharing all of them.

For many years, Kim has built her brand by making her privacy public. Early last week, while in Paris for Fashion Week, masked men broke into the luxury apartment she was staying in and robbed her of millions of dollars in jewelry. They duct taped her hands and ankles together and, after pleading with them not to kill her because she is a mother, duct taped her mouth. She told police she feared they were going to rape her.

Many have speculated that Kim’s Instagram posts and Snap stories enabled a coordinated attack by the robbers. And while it in no way makes acceptable the crimes they committed against her, it does elevate concerns about what any of us might be risking when we choose to share our stories publicly and in real time.

Understandably, Kim has not posted on social media at all since the robbery. I don’t follow Kim on Instagram or Twitter, but she’s the one person I don’t know IRL that I follow on Snap, and I’ve grown accustomed to her presence. While I do miss her stories and hope they return one day, first and foremost, I hope she finds peace and a renewed sense of safety after the trauma she’s been through.

Image description 1: Alison snaps a selfie on Jacob’s bed with him in the background

Image description 2: Jacob tells Annabelle, “She sees herself as an autobiographical artist.”

Image description 3: Kim Kardashian takes a naked selfie in a bathroom mirror. Caption reads: “When you’re like I have nothing to wear LOL.”

Image description 4: Emily tweets, “Love when a man comments on a woman’s decision to post a nude photo. Her body, her career. Sexist bullshit.”

Image description 5: Kim and Emily take a topless selfie in a bathroom mirror with their middle fingers raised. Caption reads: “When we’re like…when we both have nothing to wear LOL.”

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