Warning: I have included the picture under discussion in this post, please don’t scroll down if you are under 18 and/or are offended by images of a sexual nature.
I love gossip magazines.
One of the best things about being a media scholar is that I get to buy and read them with impunity and the more letters I accumulate the less anyone can say anything about it – it’s definitely a perk! But the fact is that I love the landscape of popular culture, I also happen to think that popular culture provides a platform for discussions about culture and society, beliefs and values and considerations about what we as an audience believe to be important in our day to day lives. Often this is a feminised space that has particular focus on relationships, feelings and appearances – the good stuff – and it is for that reason that it is so often vilified and ridiculed. There have been many celebrities or celebutantes who have never really done anything other than be famous for being famous – the first was Paris Hilton et al and now of course – the Kardashian Krew and it is through their representations that the most fervent discussions occur.
I had never watched “Keeping up with the Kardashians” until earlier this year when I decided to do a reality tv program with my year 10 group. I knew who they were and in fact, they were the reason I stopped buying my much loved gossip magazines for almost 2 years – I did not care what these girls were up to and (unlike Paris) I couldn’t even hate them, they were rather .. insignificant. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth semiotically speaking, this family was/is the most famous family in the Western hemisphere and like it or not, everyone was talking about them, whether they had seen the show or not.
The actual series is innocuous enough – the girls are whiny, spoiled, rich and beautiful and the parents are pushy, overbearing and apathetic respectively. Watching the process of momager (love that term!) Kris Jenner push eldest daughter Kim to attend every single event she can and to take off just a little bit more clothing in an effort to accelerate Kim’s inevitable fame is captivating stuff. Tether that to the already privileged lifestyle that the family enjoys and it is difficult to look away, even if it is to find a barf bag.
The fact that Kim’ initial fame comes from a sex tape is touched upon but never really interrogated and the word ‘classy’ is thrown around often enough by the girls for it to be evident that they consider themselves to be exactly that even while their fame is built upon being about as far removed as one can get (do they even realise this?). The two younger sibs are not quite as glamorous as Kim but make up for it in sass (Khloe) and in having a psychotic BF (Kourtney). In season 1 Kendell and the other one are too young to be having much of an impact other than to provide 2 more bodies to attach a ‘K’ to – but as we all know, that changes pretty quickly and as soon as you can say ‘training bra’, young Kendall (or is it Kylie?) was up on the runway and following in big sister’s corset, classy indeed.
Fast forward several seasons and a failed, suspected fake marriage and the tide has turned for Kim. I don’t think the family were ever well loved, but there has been a fascination with them that they have been only too happy to perpetuate but watching Kim develop into a full blown diva has been too much for some – the attempt to smear Kris Humphries (seriously, did she choose him for the K?) while backing out of her 70-odd day marriage seems to have been the final nail in the coffin. The viewing public have a limit (again, think Paris) and the time-frame of any celebutante is finite and Kim’s time it appears, is up (and that means every Kardashian’s time is up).
And all of this is absolutely fine.
Absolutely. Except that after she has tried tantrums and tears and pleading and fake-pregnancy claims, Kim has gone back to basics and released a brand new sex pic. It is meant to be a ‘is-it-or-isn’t-it?’ type scandal where the head is missing from the uhm … body but, given the fact that Kimmie’s booty is perhaps the best documented in history it’s not too difficult to come to a conclusion that it is indeed our girl who is getting the most bang for her publicity buck. The photo shows her with Kanye West (seriously, another K?) in a brightly-lit room (perfect for photographs m’dear) and while Kanye is giving our heroine a canine-style rogering, he has a camera to his face, taking pictures at the same time, yep .. classy. Six months ago, this would have been all over the internet and the print media but is raising far less fuss than if Paris had been the girl in question – mildly interesting but not really a discussion point. And that dear reader is the popular culture kiss of death. Nobody seems to care.
So, my take is that it is bye-bye Kardashians and a small wait before the next-big-thing happens. Given the lengths that this family has been willing to go to to gain and maintain their fame, it is difficult to imagine what there is in store for us. Paris’s fall was due to the fact that Kim & Ko were willing to do so much more for the camera, to allow us access to every single aspect of their bizarre and often repulsive search for fame and celebrity. What or who will capture the popular imagination next remains to be seen but we can be sure as hell that it will be entertaining.