The per­fect celebrity for the out­rage age

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE - ALYSSA ROSENBERG

LAST week a friend asked me, apro­pos of the new is­sue of Pa­per mag­a­zine – which put Kim Kar­dashian and her most fa­mous as­sets on prom­i­nent dis­play on the cover and inside – why Kar­dashian is fa­mous. It’s a good ques­tion.

How is it that Kar­dashian, who was once an as­sis­tant stand­ing a pace be­hind early re­al­ity star Paris Hil­ton, hasn’t only be­come more fa­mous than her for­mer em­ployer, but a gen­uinely sig­nif­i­cant cul­tural icon, all with­out do­ing any of the se­ri­ous artis­tic work that it nor­mally takes to make some­one such a prom­i­nent sub­ject of dis­cus­sion?

In hawk­ing per­fume, beauty prod­ucts and clothes, Kar­dashian is not so dif­fer­ent from the ac­tresses pro­filed in the New York Times this week­end who have turned to life­style busi­nesses to bol­ster their in­comes be­cause the qual­ity of avail­able parts has de­clined, along with the salaries that come with those roles.

But un­like other women with sim­i­lar busi­nesses and sim­i­lar pro­files, Kar­dashian isn’t an ac­tress, a showrun­ner, or a di­rec­tor.

And while Kar­dashian makes enor­mous amounts of money from her fam­ily’s show, the in-game pur­chas­ing func­tions of Kim Kar­dashian: Hol­ly­wood and all her li­cens­ing deals, none of this life­style brand­ing feel like her real job ei­ther, as it might be for Martha Ste­wart.

What Kar­dashian is sell­ing us isn’t episodes of tele­vi­sion or sheath dresses or shiny hair, but op­por­tu­ni­ties for so­cial po­si­tion­ing. By putting her life on dis­play in a 24-hour, glob­ally ac­ces­si­ble gallery and by guar­an­tee­ing that we’ll have plenty to say about it, she has fash­ioned her­self into the per­fectly op­ti­mised celebrity for the out­rage era.

“She is var­i­ously seen as a fem­i­nist-en­tre­pre­neur-pop-cul­ture-icon or a lat­estage symp­tom of our so­ci­ety’s myr­iad ills: nar­cis­sism, op­por­tunism, un­bri­dled am­bi­tion, unchecked cap­i­tal­ism,” Amanda For­tini writes in the Pa­per pro­file of Kar­dashian. “So­cial me­dia has cre­ated a new kind of fame, and Kar­dashian is its paragon. It is a fame whose hall­mark is agree­able om­nipres­ence, which re­sem­bles a kind of evenly spread ab­sence, sooth­ing, tran­quil and un­ob­jec­tion­able.”

But if Kar­dashian is a pleas­ant blank, that smooth ex­panse makes for a won­der­ful pro­jec­tion sur­face. At a mo­ment where ev­ery­one has opin­ions and tech­nol­ogy lets ev­ery­one cre­ate their own con­tent, she is a savvy busi­ness­woman to keep hand­ing her au­di­ence plenty of in­spi­ra­tion.

The re­sponse to the Pa­per photo shoot is a per­fect ex­am­ple of the in­fi­nite pos­si­bil­i­ties that seem to spin out from any ac­tion Kar­dashian takes.

There is what Heather Cocks at Go Fug Your­self de­scribed as the “GIRL. YOU ARE SOME­ONE’S MOTHER” school of re­ac­tion, and the equally heart­felt re­sponse that moth­er­hood need not be the end of a woman’s erotic life and en­joy­ment of her own body.

Blue Telumsa at the Grio, an African-Amer­i­can news com­mu­nity, notes the sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the Pa­per shoot and images of Saartjie Baart­man, “whose large but­tocks brought her ques­tion­able fame and caused her to spend much of her life be­ing poked and prod­ded as a sex­ual ob­ject in a freak show”.

After the cou­ple went vi­ral with the video for Bound 2, fea­tur­ing Kar­dashian top­less on a motorcycle, did we think West had lost his mind and judge­ment as an artist? Or did we see them as clever, self­aware op­er­a­tors who knew how to drive a con­ver­sa­tion? Are we above chas­ing fame in Kim Kar­dashian: Hol­ly­wood? Or unpretentious enough to recog­nise the plea­sures of mass cul­ture? Crit­i­cis­ing or prais­ing Kar­dashian has be­come a way we can ex­plain our ap­proaches to sex, to parenting, to money, to our own fam­i­lies.

“Break The In­ter­net” may have seemed like an over­reach­ing claim for a pro­file of Kar­dashian. But there is a sly point to the way Pa­per phrased it – not as a de­scrip­tion of what Kim Kar­dashian has done, but as a com­mand to the rest of us. Kar­dashian gives us the fuel, and we go ahead and set the in­ter­net on fire, all on our own ini­tia­tive. – The Wash­ing­ton Post

BOT­TOMS UP: The im­pact of Kim Kar­dashian’s Pa­per shoot has been likened to Saartjie Baart­man.

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