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

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.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.