Zsofia Paulikovics on the Kardashian super celebrity
Though it didn’t #breaktheinternet, Kim Kardashian’s cover story in Paper Magazine – or rather, the images accompanying it – did generate slightly larger than average turmoil, with responses ranging from celebratory to dismissive and downright creepy (cue image of Kim K as giant hot dog). But then, of course, the controversy and difference of opinions regarding the owner of perhaps the most famous backside of the century is hardly new.
In fact most people, bar a handful of individuals who make an active effort to shield themselves from the realities of 21st century pop culture, will have, by now at least, heard of the infamous family of alliterative names. But in case you don’t consider yourself much of a Kardashian connoisseur (konnoisseur?), let’s take a closer look at the phenomenon that is: Kim Kardashian.
We live in a culture where image is status and status is power, and Kim Kardashian is reigning queen.
As reported by the Paper Magazine article, she currently has 25 million Twitter followers – 5 million more than CNN Breaking News – and she is Instagram’s third most popular user (after Instagram itself and Justin Bieber, in case you were wondering). She is currently editing a collection of her selfies to be published in book form, entitled Selfish and recently launched an app called Kim Kardashian: Hollywood in which players climb their way up the social ladder with assistance from Kim herself. Alongside her sisters, she collaborates with fashion and beauty brands under the name Kardashian Kollection and runs a chain of stores called Dash, selling, among other things, Kardashian-brand water. And then of course, there’s the eponymous reality show Keeping Up With The Kardashians, which is, according to some, basically a glorified spin-off of the sex tape that propelled Kardashian from rich socialite to celebrity status in 2003.
You might notice a distinct lack of recognisable talent, at least one that explains the astounding size of her following. However, in Kardashian’s own words: “a bear can juggle and stand on a ball and he’s talented, but he’s not famous” – and therein lies the heart of the matter. In this post-Warholian world, Kardashian represents a new type of celebrity: one whose talent is nothing other than self-marketing. We live in a culture where image is status and status is power, and Kim Kardashian is reigning queen.
Kardashian represents a new type of celebrity: one whose talent is nothing other than self-marketing.
Whether or not we consciously recognise it, social media has turned us all into our own marketers. Every hashtag, every filter, every carefully placed “like” reveals a specially selected aspect of ourselves. No matter how much we would like to believe otherwise, we all worry about our digital footprints, represented through a myriad of outlets: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and indeed even one’s absence from social media is a political statement nowadays. Whether what you’re expressing is your interest in Chaucer or Made in Chelsea, they are all fragments of ourselves that we hold in high esteem, and therefore make a – sometimes unconscious – effort to present it to the outside world.
Of course, unlike Kardashian, not everyone has the time, or desire, to dedicate sufficient effort to the business of self-promotion, but whether we can really blame her for recognising and riding the wave of self-commercialisation all the way to stardom is debatable. You don’t have to condemn it, nor subscribe to it, but Kardashian’s oeuvre is essentially based on the fact that she has mastered what we all try and fail to do: create and then present a polished, perfected version of herself, and convince everyone that there is no behind the scenes. What you see is what you get.
Yet with this perceived closeness comes a sort of collective social entitlement. We believe that since we are obviously part of this person’s reality, we have the right to scrutinize every inch of their being. It is interesting to consider that just a few days before the release of Kardashian’s nudes, images of a very similar nature featuring Kiera Knightley flooded the internet. Now Knightley may not mobilize a following even remotely similar to Kardashian’s in its numbers, but nor does she get her ass photoshopped onto Homer Simpson’s face. Mrs Kanye West might have been called anything and everything under the sun: narcissistic, shallow, talentless, a shameless profiteer, and some – or all – of that may be true, but she is as much a product of our society as a facilitator of it.
Image source: papermag.com