Why we should stop worrying and start loving the Kardashians
We cannot ask whether the armed hold-up of Kim Kardashian is newsworthy in a time and a place when the Kardashians are, in fact, the news
US reality television star Kim Kardashian (centre) with her husband Kanye West, at the presentation of the Spring/Summer 2017 collection by Off-White during the Paris Fashion Week, in Paris. Photograph: Caroline Blumberg/EPA
News channels interrupted their schedules on Monday morning to break the news of Kim Kardashian’s Parisian trauma (she was held at gunpoint and robbed of millions of euro worth of jewellery), pushing “real” news such as Theresa May’s Brexit plans, Hurricane Matthew and Syria down the schedule.
A dyspeptic Greek Chorus had it that a “talentless”, “vulgar” “vain”, “nobody” was elevated to Breaking News status on the back of a media world getting high on its own supply of celebrity fetish. This is not News was the wounded wail.
This is a category mistake. We cannot ask whether the armed hold-up of Kim Kardashian is newsworthy in a time and a place when the Kardashians are, in fact, the news.
In Kim’s natural habitat of social media, her ordeal was played out in its full sturm und drang glory. Chat show host, James Corden, appointed himself moral arbiter, solemnly warning that
“People making jokes about Kim Kardashian tonight would do well to remember that she’s a mother, a daughter, a wife, a friend. Be nice or shut up”. Well said James. Here, have a halo.
Kim Kardashian with diamond ring
We need to learn how to stop worrying and love the Kardashians. The only thing worse than the fans this morning who were actually in tears at Kim’s ordeal in Paris last night is those who believe that the attention afforded the Kardashians “illustrates our moral, spiritual and cultural decay” (the Washington Times).
If this is indeed the case then you can only observe that if our moral, spiritual and cultural realms are being brought down by “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”, then they are hardly that robust in the first place.
Arguing that the Kardashians are corrupting our media and diminishing us as a society is dysfunctional virtue signalling and marks a failure to understand and engage with some of the most dynamic forces at play today.
The study of popular culture is vital to our understanding of the world. The Kardashians are dominant in this protean category because, as Rolling Stone magazine noted, “They are endlessly amused with themselves, endlessly oblivious to one another – their vanity is impervious to the outside world. Their gargantuan egos, their petty jealousies, their catty feuds, the effort vs eye-roll they put into reciting their lines, their commitment to frivolity at all costs – these are seductive qualities in a reality TV star, however repugnant they might be in real life”.
Meredith Jones of Brunel University who organised a symposium about the Kardashians last year, says, “Popular culture, from hip-hop to reality TV, can enhance political and sociological discussions. At the ‘Kimposium’ we talked about labour, death, respectability, the digital world, trauma and democracy as well as the more predictable themes of body image, beauty and race”.
You can blue-stocking it a bit far though: it’s of considerably more importance that Kim came to fame on the back of a leaked sex tape than the fact that the family first arrived in the US to escape the Armenian genocide of 1915.
Author Leigh H Edwards in The Revolution in American Television notes that “The Kardashians show is polarising, not least because of its obvious profit motive and manipulation but the engine that drives it is the storytelling”.
That their story has bled out from the E! Cable network (which, tellingly, was once a national barker channel) all over social media and into the Most Read columns of broadsheet newspapers means opinions and attitudes inimical to the Kardashians are a failure to understand the basic meaning of News.
You’re too cerebrally developed to care about the Kardashians? Here, have a halo.