Kocks in Kardashians

So over at IMDB today someone helpfully edited up Kim Kardashian’s bio to include some more… realistic (?) insights into the starlet’s life. Assuming it would be taken down almost immediately, I helpfully took a screenshot.

It kind of loses track of itself towards the end, but it’s a pretty amazing rant and one which I kind of find myself in two minds about.

On the one hand, the idea the Kim Kardashian and co are “emblematic of the shallowness of American culture” is something that I agree with. I don’t think you can really argue when its pointed out that she is simply “famous for being famous.” She doesn’t have any discernable talents. (I haven’t seen the sex tape but I’ve heard that’s pretty average as well.) She is well groomed and very good at making slick public appearances. Does that count as a skill? I don’t know. But I would argue that the most interesting person in the whole Kardashian affair is the mother, Kris, who displays an uncanny ability to translate her daughters into dollars without having them turn into some sort of Lindsay Lohan-style train wreck. Not only has Keeping Up with the Kardashians produced a number of spin off shows, but the sisters have fragrances, work out tapes and clothing, jewellery and handbags lines.

This kind of shallow fame makes me sad because it detracts from some excellent plot/performance driven shows that could be happening instead. When a network willingly (enthusiastically) shells out $40 million for four more years of a show that celebrates the rich for their wealth and capitalises on a “ditzy rich girl” image, it knowingly redirects $40 million away from other potentially amazing television. The show airs on E!, which is owned by NBCUniversal – so that’s $40 million that could be doing something really cool on NBC right now.

On the other hand, I feel like there’s a really bizarre dynamic going on in this bio with regards to the treatment of Kim Kardashian’s sexuality. Rather than criticising the network for committing to four more years of a really average show, the author has chosen to turn Kim’s sex tape into a metaphor for the “amoral prostitutes” in Washington. To me, that smacks of slut-shaming… which I have a problem with. Just because a woman (or her mother) chooses to capitalise on the fact that intimate videos of her leaked on the internet, does not make her any less of a person. It’s actually kind of impressive. Making a name for yourself in mainstream media, when the odds are that for the first few years of your career the only people that will recognise you have sizeable internet porn habits, is phenomenal. The fact that you can translate the essentially very boring and unsurprising fact that you have sex into a career and several million dollars is undoubtedly weird… but impressive, nonetheless.

Interestingly, all the criticism quoted in the article comes from working, white, male actors. Not that I’m not a fan of these men (Jon Hamm is a national goddamn treasure) but none of them criticise the broader social/economic mechanisms at play that allow people like Kim Kardashian to become famous. They all criticise her for acting like an “[expletive] idiot” rather than directing that criticism at people who might actually deserve it… like the television networks, who have so little faith in the intelligence of their audiences that they’re willing to cancel shows with a plot arc and replace them with ‘reality’ TV.

In short, I do think that Kim Kardashian is emblematic of things that are wrong with American television. This is not because she fits as broad social metaphor for amoral politicians, or because she made a sex tape that launched her career. It’s becauseĀ  shows like Keeping Up With the Kardashians require are so mindless – they reflect the complete lack of faith network television bosses have in the intelligence of the population at large. They won’t take risks with shows that might be a little kooky or interesting. Hell, they won’t even play shows that are just well-written. They are going to keep rehashing the same ‘reality’ crap over and over again because it’s a formula that works for them. To me, Kim Kardashian symbolises a generation of T.V-makers who have no interest or belief in their audience. That is what upsets me most.

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