HOW DID KIM KARDASHIAN STUFF UP THE WORLD? She just did. And we don’t want to talk about it. And if we have to explain this one, you’re possibly reading the wrong book. The end.
Okay, so we need a little more here. Well, then, if we must, here’s an exercise. Take out your phone and type the two words ‘Kim Kardashian’ into Google. Doing so towards the middle of 2017 we get:
KIM KARDASHIAN SHARES INTIMATE PICTURES FROM TRIP TO JAPAN.
KIM KARDASHIAN WEST SPENDS $379,000 ON JACKIE KENNEDY’S CARTIER WATCH.
KIM KARDASHIAN WEST THANKS ‘GOOD DAD’ KANYE WEST.
Now, to the uninitiated, this would appear to be a series of news stories about somebody important, somebody who had presumably achieved something of quite notable significance or, perhaps, been born into some great purpose. But no, in this case don’t go looking for it. Save yourself the baffling rabbit hole of inexplicable, pointless banality, a distant and strange culturally interstellar vacuum of absence – neither here nor there, when both here and there account for naught.
There is less than nothing that should matter about Kim Kardashian. Her family and some of her friends probably quite like her, and we imagine her children love her a great deal. But if your test is artistic or political or literary or philosophical, or indeed any of the usual measures by which society lifts onto pedestals those who have contributed positively to the human condition, then she doesn’t move the needle. Not a wobble. Kim Kardashian is a great deal of nothing, an enormously celebrated irrelevance, a storm that leaves the trees unmoved.
Kim Kardashian, therefore, is a very modern phenomenon, a living example of the power of media – in her case, first internet pornography then reality TV and today increasingly social media – to deliver news without newsworthiness, to create copy without a story and to summon consequence from the headlines you read above. It is nigh-on miraculous.
It began, in 2007, with that egregious modern addition to the PR repertoire for those who have the talent to produce little else: a sex tape, in which our daughters’ future role model had sex on camera with a rapper of passing consequence known as Ray J. This particular route to stardom had been successfully forged by Paris Hilton and others, and the speculation has long been that it was carefully managed to launch the Kim Kardashian career. Even as her mother Kris Jenner vehemently denied this on the ten-year anniversary of the tape’s release – 200 million views and counting – the sense that she doth-protest-too-much-as-she-clutcheth-her-designer-jewellery-to-herfake- bosom is hard to shake. Whatever the sordid details, Kim was reported Kim Kardashian to have secured a multimillion-dollar deal for the tape and by year-end her new-found fame had ballooned into Keeping Up With The Kardashians, a humourless show that had to be pitched as ‘reality TV’ because a soap opera would not have been able to accommodate the ludicrous plotlines.
Fast-forward a decade and there’s a megabucks business empire driven by the ongoing TV show and its spin-offs and the Kardashians’ enormous following on social media. Kim alone has more than 100 million followers on Instagram and 50 million on Twitter, and if there is a sine qua non of having made it in the millennial age it is, tragically, probably that. In the meantime, she managed, to no-one’s surprise, to marry a very famous person (Kanye West), who could afford to buy her not one but two engagement rings, valued at a combined $6 million, which she can show off on Snapchat.
Before you dry-heave onto the page while considering your sisters’, daughters’ and granddaughters’ future prospects, we are obliged to present the argument for Kim. Apparently, it goes something like this. In a world in which women must still battle prejudice and the odds to rise to the top, Kim is a hugely successful businesswoman – a self-made entrepreneur, no less – who has created her own dedicated fanbase by keeping herself interesting, on trend and desirable…
Not only is that the sum of what’s positive about the carefully curated my-perfect-life image that she projects, but there are people who find great inspiration in her success, who admire it and watch it closely. Not in an ironic, car-crash kind of way, but as something wonderful to aspire to – as a role model. And not just any old role model; she is, as the marketers put it, an influencer, someone who moulds the behaviour and opinions of others. That is, someone who can get them to buy whatever she’s shilling – at $500,000 for a single Instagram post – and behave the way she behaves.