Another day, another day *check notescheck notes againsatanic panic (!?). This week, the Internet lost its mind at Balenciaga, accusing them of condoning and even glorifying sexual violence against children. Let’s recap the melee as briefly as possible for anyone who unplugged their router last week. An ad for Balenciaga’s gift shop, photographed by Gabriele Galimberti, depicts children holding bags (leather straps, padlocks, fishnets) tied with teddy bears. The second ad, starring Nicole Kidman and Bella Hadid, shows a $3000 bag littered with Documents about child pornography laws, scattered on the table. All of this is the spark that ignited an internet-wide backlash.
Balenciaga has apologized, but is seeking 000 million dollars in damages from production company North Six and set designer Nicholas Des Jardins. Stylist Lotta Volkova (who hasn’t worked with the brand since 2018) was forced to go private on Instagram after being trawled for evidence of satanic behavior behind the Balenciagan wall. Even ambassador Kim Kardashian is “re-evaluating” her working relationship with the brand. The right-wing oil at Fox News also fueled the outrage, furthering a conspiracy that a group of satanic cult elites who run child sex rings are trying to control our politics and media. It’s very Pizzagate, but make it stylish.
Discussion peaked, although I’m not sure what we were all arguing about? Oddly, I feel the need to state the obvious and say out loud that child abuse is wrong and absolutely evil. It’s a no-brainer at Balenciaga, not a casual sarcasm. Child abuse is serious and disgusting, and protecting children should be paramount. It is the truly heinous horror of pedophilia that fuels this frenzy with such insane ferocity.
But the idea that a group of pedophiles are trying to manipulate the mainstream media and normalize the sexualization of children through the Balenciaga campaign feels — dare I say — a bit far-fetched? It’s a theory you’d immediately dismiss, but online it’s given legitimacy that rarely lends itself to such outrageous claims. This all feels ridiculous because it’s being ridiculous. It’s extreme and expansive, beyond critical thinking. It feels out of proportion.
I suspect (and I have no insider knowledge) that the bear and the child were staged on purpose to elicit a reaction. It’s the hallmark of a brand like Balenciaga — a brand built on unwavering confidence and certainty that, er, a certain deviation from mainstream notions of beauty — pushes the envelope. But to me, the juxtaposition is just a very unimaginative way to argue. I’m more bored than offended, but I understand how offensive this can be to other people. I have to say, though, that there is no doubt that the leap of the “pedophile cabal taking their ideology into the mainstream” is a range.