Why are we assuming Kylie Jenner and Timothée Chalamet are intellectually incompatible?

The surprise celebrity couple that is Kylie Jenner and Timothée Chalamet (Getty/iStock)
The surprise celebrity couple that is Kylie Jenner and Timothée Chalamet (Getty/iStock)

So Kylie Jenner and Timothée Chalamet are official. Cue internet outrage, disgust and delight, depending on your social media algorithm. Rumours of pop culture’s most unexpected romantic pairing have been circulating since April. But now – thanks to a series of videos and photos of the duo aggressively snogging at Beyoncé’s latest LA concert – the couple is all but confirmed. And people seem set on expressing their shock.

After the evidence broke the internet on Tuesday afternoon, Twitter erupted into a series of memes and snide remarks. “It wasn’t a prank?” tweeted one person. “So Timothée and Kylie is a real thing omg,” another quipped. One added that they’d “never seen a more random celebrity pairing than Timothée and Kylie”.

Highlighting the internet’s shock was a now-deleted British Vogue article that poked fun at the pairing and how they might spend their time together. “Does he hold her make-up brushes while she contours?” the writer asked, referring to Jenner’s eponymous beauty empire. “Does she help him sift through Wes Anderson scripts? Does he give Stormi French lessons?” she continued, naming Jenner’s five-year-old daughter, Stormi, who she shares with ex Travis Scott. “And how did they end up together, anyway?”

The piece was widely shared and quickly derided as sexist. But its sentiments have been reflected everywhere online. Because beneath every expression of shock at this pairing lies the same implication: that objectively, Jenner and Chalamet must be intellectually and professionally incompatible. It’s a narrative that, because of the scale of the pair’s respective fame, has become so furiously deconstructed and memed that it has seldom been questioned or interrogated. But as the response to the Vogue article illustrated, once you do start to dig a little deeper into where all of these assumptions are coming from, it unearths a rotten misogynistic core.

Let’s break the narrative down: where does this specific assumption of incompatibility come from? OK, so Chalamet is an Academy Award-nominated actor, an indie darling favoured by some of the most revered directors in the world, including Greta Gerwig and Luca Guadagnino. His films – among them Lady Bird, Call Me by Your Name and Bones and All – are known for subverting social boundaries and playing with genre.

Now jump to Jenner, whose public persona is arguably somewhat mired given she stems from one of the internet’s most polarising families: the Kardashian-Jenner clan. Evidently, to some, that’s all she is: the youngest in a family of spoilt, entitled reality TV stars with more money than sense. That’s certainly the implication from the way she’s been discussed online in relation to Chalamet, an actor who – we assume, because of the films he’s been in – must be of a superior intellect.

In fact, we know very little about the 27-year-old aside from the snippets of information he’s shared in interviews: he speaks French! He grew up in New York! He briefly pursued a career in rap! We do, however, know quite a lot about Jenner. At just 17, she launched Kylie Cosmetics, which became a multimillion-dollar business just a few years later. Sure, there were some doubts over the figures (Forbes Magazine would famously end up retracting its declaration that she was the youngest self-made billionaire in 2019), but there are no doubts over just how influential her business has been in shaping the beauty industry around the world. And although she is no longer the primary shareholder, given that she sold her 51 per cent stake to beauty conglomerate Coty in 2019, she is still the face of the brand and remains heavily involved.

The great foundation of a successful relationship, it’s been said, is emotional intelligence – who’s to say Chalamet and Jenner are incompatible there?

Alongside that, Jenner also has two children: Stormi, five, and Aire Webster, one. Don’t get me wrong, I hardly think the 26-year-old is struggling to afford childcare, but I do think being a single mother to two young children while overseeing a globally successful business is no mean feat, regardless of your financial stature.

With this in mind, why are we so quick to assume that these two people are intellectually incompatible? It’s a major indictment of how society views the achievements of women if someone with Jenner’s personal and professional credentials can still be so vastly underestimated, and reduced to little more than a vapid reality TV star with nice handbags. Meanwhile, Chalamet is automatically assumed to be someone of intellectual aptitude by dint of the films he’s been cast in. It’s misogyny at its most brazen.

But while there’s no evidence to support the theory that Jenner and Chalamet are intellectually incompatible (I highly doubt any of the online commentators know either of these celebrities), would that even matter? There are so many different types of intelligence – academic, spiritual, visual – but the only one that really matters in a romantic relationship is one that can’t be taught.

A successful relationship is not built on two people making the same literary references at dinner parties, or trading Proust quotes over flat whites. It’s about connection. And that’s something that can materialise as a result of so many things besides intelligence. Think communication, ideologies, ambitions, sexuality, shared value systems and attachment styles. To a degree, some of that can be influenced by intelligence. But it isn’t always.

The great foundation of a successful relationship, it’s been said, is emotional intelligence – who’s to say Chalamet and Jenner are incompatible there? And whatever it is that’s bonding them, it seems to be pretty strong given that the duo have now been linked for more than five months – and according to those Beyoncé concert photos, they appear pretty into each other.

We live in a culture that is obsessed with scrutinising and analysing every facet of celebrity life, particularly their relationships. And even though that is often unwarranted and based on a warped societal view that refuses to allow anyone in the public eye to maintain a modicum of privacy, I suspect that won’t come to an end any time soon.

What we can put an end to, I hope, is the assumption that women who fit one certain societal mould can necessarily not fit another. That women can’t be successful and conventionally attractive. That women can’t be reality TV stars and also have brains. That women can be more than just one thing. It’s 2023: why is this still something we’re fighting against?