Yesterday, Kim Kardashian West shared a video of a 40th birthday present from her husband / still technically a presidential hopeful, Kanye West. And look, we've struggled for some time to figure out the proper way to describe the thing, but there's really no way around it: Kanye gave his wife a creepy hologram of her long-dead dad, Robert Kardashian. If you haven't seen it yet, we apologize in advance.
Technical problems— First, a quick reminder that Robert Kardashian was football star O.J. Simpson's defense attorney during his infamous 1995 murder trial. He died of esophageal cancer in September of 2003 at the age of 59. Alright, now that that's out of the way, let's tackle this from a technological angle before we wade into the murky emotional waters of hologram memorials.
Right off the bat, this thing is weird. So very, very weird. Like all those recent Disney live-action / CGI remakes of its classic films, there's something incredibly off-putting about holo-dad's eyes. They're lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. Also, the makers presumably could have dressed this hologram however they wanted, but they went with the ill-fitting, '90s lawyer getup? It's not like dressing him period accurate makes him anymore realistic or lifelike.
And then there are Rob Kardashian's weird, tiny, semi-translucent hands. What the hell are they doing during that video? Are they supposed to be snapping in rhythm along to the song he's "singing" to his still very-much-alive daughter? Are they signing secret Illuminati messages? Is Robert Kardashian's soul accidentally trapped within the hologram, and he's begging for release?
Oh, and don't even get us started on the vocal audio. If that's some Deepfake wizardry, then the technology still is a long way off from convincing, which is somewhat comforting, we suppose. If it's simply a Robert Kardashian impersonator dubbed atop the hologram, then that's the best actor Kanye's money could buy? We really could dissect the technical details of this thing all day, but for the sake of what's left of our sanity, let's move on from the "How?" to the "Why on God's green Earth?"
As morally murky as it is visually— Every day, thousands of people find themselves cut off from sick loved ones quarantined during the COVID-19 pandemic. If they are lucky, they will see them again within weeks. The rest are forced to say their final farewells through video chats and phone calls. Meanwhile, the wealthiest among us get to pay for replicas of deceased family members to heap praise on them from beyond the grave and relive childhood memories.
"Remember when I would drive you to school in my tiny Mercedes every day?" Rob Holodashian reminisces at one point, impressively illustrating the limits of time, memory, and the soul-mutating effects of incomprehensible wealth within a single sentence. We could also spend another paragraph or two on the cheeky-but-not-really reference to Kim's husband as, "the most most most most most genius man in the whole world: Kanye West." But we won't, because we've all suffered enough already.
If there's one thing more macabre than paying God only knows how much for a half-assed hologram of your spouse's long-gone parent, it's the notion that this could bring any kind of comfort or joy to the average human being. But these aren't the average human beings we're talking about here. They're Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. And they spend thousands of dollars on each other to create soulless approximations of their unprocessed traumas while the rest of the nation burns.