Kim Kardashian doesn't visit Versailles. She is Versailles.
December 29, 2014 9:10 AM   Subscribe

 
You know, after all this time, I'm still not entirely sure what this person, y'know, does.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:15 AM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


You know, after all this time, I'm still not entirely sure what this person, y'know, does.

Apparently she works hard at keeping the silicone and cosmetic surgery industries in the black.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:16 AM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


I don't dislike Kim Kardashian. I do dislike the inevitable comments that she's famous for doing nothing or doing a sex tape.

She's a founder of ShoeDazzle. She has a perfume and cosmetics line. She has that app game.
posted by discopolo at 9:16 AM on December 29, 2014 [15 favorites]


You know, after all this time, I'm still not entirely sure what this person, y'know, does.

Apparently she works hard at keeping the silicone and cosmetic surgery industries in the black.


Uh huh. See what I mean?
posted by discopolo at 9:17 AM on December 29, 2014 [26 favorites]


What does it say about our desires that Kardashian is soon publishing a hulking coffee table book of more than 300 of her selfies, entitled Selfish, with legendary art book publisher Rizzoli, and that the book is already a best seller in pre-sales?

/looks at MFA diploma on wall
/cries
posted by angrycat at 9:19 AM on December 29, 2014 [41 favorites]


Yeah- she created a brand based on her personality and used it to sell otherwise regular things. See Mrs. Fields, Martha Stewart, etc. etc.

90% of the reaction to her can generally be understood as slut shaming, really.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 9:19 AM on December 29, 2014 [64 favorites]


Kim Kardashian is the circle game of my youth. Every time I get tricked into glancing at that same stare from tv commercial or web ad or magazine rack I feel my arm getting punched. (Nothing against her nor her empire. But that PR machine is danged effective!)
posted by hal9k at 9:19 AM on December 29, 2014


She's a founder of ShoeDazzle. She has a perfume and cosmetics line. She has that app game.

And how much do you suppose she actually contributed to any of those endeavours? My guess is she just lent them her name and made appearances/posed for photos. I wouldn't go so far as to say that she does nothing. Maintaining an appearance of physical perfection and keeping to a fast-paced schedule of appearances is work, even gruellingly so. But in terms of actual worthwhile accomplishments, she's not making the needle on the scale rise very much.
posted by orange swan at 9:21 AM on December 29, 2014 [11 favorites]


Whether you liked it or not, whether you wanted to or not, you’ve spent a lot of 2014 thinking about Kim Kardashian.

Not really. This is like those articles/people that insist that I actually watch reality shows even though I don't.
posted by signal at 9:21 AM on December 29, 2014 [37 favorites]


90% of the reaction to her can generally be understood as slut shaming, really.

Well, that's an easy dismissal, but not really accurate. The reaction to her is largely along the lines of what EC expressed...She's famous (and continuously in the popular media) for no apparent reason that anyone can actually identify. She's a name and image with a huge marketing push around her. It's hardly slut-shaming. It's simply confusion as to why this person occupies so much media space.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:24 AM on December 29, 2014 [37 favorites]


And how much do you suppose she actually contributed to any of those endeavours? My guess is she just lent them her name and made appearances/posed for photos.

She's likely a harder worker than you give her credit for.
posted by discopolo at 9:25 AM on December 29, 2014 [9 favorites]


She's a founder of ShoeDazzle. She has a perfume and cosmetics line. She has that app game.

I'm not extremely familiar with her history, but isn't she kind of someone already born on third base, like Mitt Romney or Julia Louis-Dreyfus?

I don't dislike her either, and I do find the notoriety she receives a bit disturbing and sexist. Yet, I'm also mistrustful of wealthy people in general.
posted by FJT at 9:25 AM on December 29, 2014 [8 favorites]


She's a founder of ShoeDazzle. She has a perfume and cosmetics line. She has that app game.

All of which came about and were brought about because of her fame through doing nothing at all/ a sex tape. Shoedazzle was two years after the sex tape hit the public eye. So the criticism still stands. 'Celebrity' and celebrity worship as a concept is a shameful/negative/unpleasant part of our society, to many people's eyes. Gaining that status through absolutely no talent or worthy contribution is even worse.

And capitalising on that fame after the fact does not change that fact.
posted by Brockles at 9:25 AM on December 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


it's always amazing just how quickly the sexism comes out when kim kardashian is the subject. it's really fascinating (and depressing).

i also don't understand how people think doing various appearances at nightclubs, openings, events, etc and scripted reality isn't a job. she's not famous for nothing - she seems to actually work damn hard.

And how much do you suppose she actually contributed to any of those endeavours?

as someone who sorta follows gossip and is interested in the phenomenon of who gets labeled famous for being famous, it's actually my impression that she's far more involved in her brands than a lot of famous people.
posted by nadawi at 9:26 AM on December 29, 2014 [29 favorites]


As far as I know, she also founded/ran a successful line of retail stores and had a career as a stylist since a relatively young age. Just because she's rich, embraces a certain aesthetic and is identified with "vapid" and glamorous pursuits doesn't mean she doesn't work.
posted by mynameisluka at 9:30 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you were one of those people who assumed that Kanye and Kim Kardashian were able to relax on the honeymoon that followed their recent wedding in Florence, then prepare for disappointment. It turns out that Kim was "exhausted" during what should have been a romantic break, as the couple "spent four days" working on the wedding photo they later Instagrammed, "because the flowers were off-colour and stuff like that."

Can you bear it? Why can't life throw these two kids a bone just once?

posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:31 AM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


but isn't she kind of someone already born on third base

her Dad was an OJ trial lawyer. That's why anyone ever cared about her having a sex tape, as far as I can tell.
posted by thelonius at 9:31 AM on December 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


All of which came about and were brought about because of her fame through doing nothing at all/ a sex tape.

previous to the sex tape she was on one of the paris hilton shows - it's the reason there was interest in the sex tape, unless you think brandy's little brother was driving those clicks. and even is she is "famous from a sex tape" there are plenty of sex workers who become celebrities in their own right and then find "mainstream" fame. i don't really understand how that is a valid argument unless you are opposed to sex work.
posted by nadawi at 9:32 AM on December 29, 2014 [9 favorites]


She's a founder of ShoeDazzle. She has a perfume and cosmetics line. She has that app game.

But didn't all that happen after everyone started talking about her? What was the thing that started people talking?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:33 AM on December 29, 2014


Hey, internet! Are you suffering from the heartbreak of...Kardashianitis? Then take a tip from Mr. Paul Anka!

To stop those sisters, one-two-three,
Here's a fresh new way that's trouble-free,
It's got Paul Anka's guarantee... [winks]
(Guarantee void if you don't listen to meeeee!)
Just don't look! Just don't look! [repeat forever and ever and ever]
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:33 AM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


All of which came about and were brought about because of her fame through doing nothing at all/ a sex tape.

Nothing at all? She was a personal assistant to Brandy for awhile, stylist to other celebs. But believe what you want.

Brandy's brother, an aspiring musician and her boyfriend, released that tape. She didn't.
posted by discopolo at 9:34 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


She's not as bad as the guy she's married to.
posted by colie at 9:34 AM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


She's a founder of ShoeDazzle.

I interviewed at ShoeDazzle years ago. Nice people, not the right fit.

She has fuckall to do with ShoeDazzle. It was founded by the same guy that started LegalZoom. Much like LZ uses Robert Shapiro, they needed a name attached to ShoeDazzle.

It's beyond being born on third base, it's having someone else hit the home run, run around the bases, then letting you tap home plate.
posted by tallthinone at 9:34 AM on December 29, 2014 [17 favorites]


Yes, it's understood, you think you are too high brow to understand the appeal of the Kardashians. So it's easy to pretend you don't get it. But that's an easy dismissal as well.

You don't know me at all, discopolo. Defend Kim and her business acumen as much as you want, but stooping to a personal attack is uncalled for.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:37 AM on December 29, 2014 [8 favorites]


What was the thing that started people talking?

Some guy released a tape of him and her having sex. You know, the sort of thing that would usually make mefi say "what happened to this person was really shitty and it's interesting that they were able to turn it to their advantage" and not "lol why does anyone care about this dumb slut ".
posted by poffin boffin at 9:37 AM on December 29, 2014 [78 favorites]


most celebrities, and in fact most rich people, were born rich. there really aren't a lot of "i was a poor kid in nebraska who caught my big break!" it's interesting sometimes to look up respected artists/actors/what have you and see just how many other famous people they went to school or summer camp with or who their parents are. there's also a lot of people in those groups clamoring to get famous who don't manage it. like it or not, the kardashians have something that people enjoy watching and interacting with. even if you just start with keeping up with the karadashians (and the spinoffs), it's pretty amazing that they continue to put out a product that is enjoyed by their fan base - that's not nothing (evidenced by the fact that many far more famous families have tried and haven't been nearly as successful).
posted by nadawi at 9:38 AM on December 29, 2014 [11 favorites]


90% of the reaction to her can generally be understood as slut shaming, really.
it's always amazing just how quickly the sexism comes out when kim kardashian is the subject. it's really fascinating (and depressing).


It is neither slut shaming nor sexist to not give a shit about Kim Kardashian while being annoyed that I have to see her name/image in every media feed for no reason that is apparent to me.
posted by tunewell at 9:45 AM on December 29, 2014 [37 favorites]


there really aren't a lot of "i was a poor kid in nebraska who caught my big break!"

Plenty of people start from nothing and make it in the entertainment and sports industries... ironically OJ Simpson was one of them.
posted by colie at 9:45 AM on December 29, 2014


sports - yes. entertainment, far less so.
posted by nadawi at 9:46 AM on December 29, 2014


What was the thing that started people talking?

To persons sexually interested in women, she has very appealing features. She is generously endowed and she was in a sex tape. That's it. The media has done the rest.
posted by GrapeApiary at 9:47 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think it's important to understand that for Kim Kardashian, as for other reality TV stars, it's not that she has no apparent talent, skill, or ability and yet has gotten famous; it's because she has no apparent talent, skill, or ability and yet demands attention, that makes her famous.

Kardashian is the perfect icon for a country that thinks having money makes you more worthy of attention, but ability is elitist. She has taste in the sense of "I like this, I don't like that," but no particular context or history behind that taste, and she was born with enough money to treat her taste as everyone else's obligation.

She is an aspirational icon, Donald Trump for women, a symbol of hope for everyone who dreams of being rich without being obligated to anyone. And for extra 2014 zeitgeist, she can use gender identity to attack anyone who dares question her vast entitlement.

Kim Kardashian is the superstar we deserve.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:47 AM on December 29, 2014 [46 favorites]


She's not as bad as the guy she's married to.

What's wrong with Kanye?
posted by kmz at 9:50 AM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


All of which came about and were brought about because of her fame through doing nothing at all/ a sex tape.

Haha, read about it her app game thing. It's about how to get famous, she's not hiding it.

Hint: it involves dating a series of ever-more famous men and being photographed a lot.
posted by fshgrl at 9:50 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


She's playing the game on a level most of us don't even fully understand yet, as evidenced by this article. That's her daily work. I don't really know much about her, but I can tell her careful attention to her brand is incredibly difficult stuff. She works harder than me, that's for sure. But why do we insist on framing things in terms of "work", it's embarrassingly puritan and last century. Brand/aesthetic/attention is the blueprint for fame in the current era. She's a bellwether for what's to come. She's conquered the current zeitgest and has proven herself way smarter than her detractors.
posted by naju at 9:51 AM on December 29, 2014 [27 favorites]


Some guy released a tape of him and her having sex.

Well, the tape was "leaked." Some cynical folks think Kim leaked it herself.
posted by smackfu at 9:52 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


This discussion reminds me of that part in Big where Tom Hanks raises his hand in the toy meeting, "I don't get it". It actually happens twice- later John Heard pulls the same move to get back at ole Tom. Depending on which side you're taking here, you can pick which one applies to you.

Edit: here
posted by stinkfoot at 9:53 AM on December 29, 2014


I bet Dick Cheney worked really hard as well, and he conquered the zeitgeist and was smart and was a bellwether too.
posted by colie at 9:53 AM on December 29, 2014 [10 favorites]


I'm over being annoyed at celebrities who are rich for "doing nothing."

Honestly, I admire a lot of them. I think people forget that the steady job, 9-to-5 reality is coming to a screeching halt for millions of people. It's becoming more and more apparent to me that I'm probably going to have to invent my next career, possibly out of thin air. The Kardashians have done that, in a way that is really annoying to a lot of people, but they have. And they are successful. Many people are doing similar, or trying to, on a smaller level.
posted by girlmightlive at 9:53 AM on December 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


the game is really weirdly fun - and you can date men or women, which i thought was a nice touch. i might have to reinstall it and see if the crashing/losing save info issue on android was fixed.
posted by nadawi at 9:53 AM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Brand/aesthetic/attention is the blueprint for fame in the current era.

This is correct, and this is why I don't relish her ubiquity.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 9:54 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Mrs. Kardashian reflects our own culture back at us, which I believe is why so many people hate her. She is a grotesque of self-promotion and materialism, and it's irrelevant whether you or I personally bought into it. When she passes from this earth she will make her exit in a million-dollar designer coffin, surrounded not by paid mourners but by throngs of sycophants who will fight like dogs at a garbage fire for just a little bit of that warm glow. The next day there will be nothing, just like the day before it.

So we can keep on with this banal criticism of her inanity, or we can try to create something better. We might even do well to mimic some of her strategy.
posted by The White Hat at 9:57 AM on December 29, 2014 [22 favorites]


like it or not, the kardashians have something that people enjoy watching and interacting with.

Well, I don't know about "enjoying". There are definitely people who hate-watch/follow the Kardashians. And "interactions" would include (even here) all the arguments and controversies that surround the Kardashians themselves.

I don't want to get pulled into that, and I don't like celebrity stuff either. I don't think I'm better than celebrity gossip either. I think it was Jim Gaffigan (another celebrity) who says that everyone kind of has their guilty treat/fast food that they binge on.
posted by FJT at 9:58 AM on December 29, 2014


I'm surprised at the Kim Kardashian hate. I never would have pegged you all for Willow Pape fans.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:59 AM on December 29, 2014 [10 favorites]


i know plenty of people who like the kardashians (or some of them). if you think it's all hate watching, you're mistaken.
posted by nadawi at 10:01 AM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Either way, threads about her here are always very illuminating.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:02 AM on December 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


The linked article is a pretty fun read and well-done, here's a nice bit from it:
"Anyway, high/low, camp/class, feminism/exploitation: It’s all breaking down. The digital revolution has made our hierarchies diffuse, and in some cases, defunct. So while Kim may be seen as a sign of end times to those who feel they must protect some temple of good taste, she has become something of a folk hero to a new generation that doesn’t see old-guard institutions as anything but obstacles to disrupt and shatter. She is in essence the actualization of what digital culture has lulled all millennials into thinking they can achieve. Kim perpetuates the myth of gaining fame (the only currency a born-digital person of limited means can hope to quickly gain) by logging screen time: that if you post enough pictures, updates, and statuses, then your own status will rise. That you can cheat the game of life just by feeding the beast with endless content."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 10:02 AM on December 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


i know plenty of people who like the kardashians (or some of them). if you think it's all hate watching, you're mistaken.

I didn't say that. I'm just saying not all people are "enjoying" it in the conventional and positive sense. Which, as I stated earlier, is a little disturbing.
posted by FJT at 10:03 AM on December 29, 2014


The saddest thing to me is the narrative that seems to have been crafted about her relationship with her mother and how her mother is I guess nurturing her youngest into a similar relationship with the media at a young age. I have no idea if this is true or if it's purely fabrication, but I always get a bit sad at seeing these relationships aired before us.
posted by Carillon at 10:03 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Who the hell is Brandy?
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 10:04 AM on December 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


I really have no reason to, but I like Kim Kardashian. She is a genuinely nice person. And say what you will but she is basically a genius at leveraging fame.
posted by pwally at 10:05 AM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


And all this time, I though Kim Kardashian was just a porn star...
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 10:05 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think that Kardashian and Paris Hilton's manner of fame is the historical norm, and the idea of "being famous for something" is a recent exception. In the past, the public used to follow the comings and goings of socialites in the Society Pages, and these were profiles of people whose only claim to fame was that they were the scions of wealthy families who showed up to socially important events.

What they recognized is how a "brand" has tangible value that can generate revenue. Even when there are tangible products being sold, what is actually going on is that a corporation contracts with manufacturers to produce or simply purchase pre-made items and the brand owner attaches the brand and logo to it and provides the marketing and advertising.

Likewise, Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton created "brands" that had value and could generate revenue. Tinsley Mortimor seems to have tried a similar thing back in the early to mid 00s, but it turned out not to be as lucrative for her, consigning her to one of the lesser-known brands.

Her Armenian immigrant ancestors to the US found success realizing that they could start successful businesses providing tangible goods and services. Similar, she seems to have realized that the current path to success is in shrewd brand management of an aspirational image (wealthy LA resident whose social life revolves around being with entertainment celebrities and sports stars).
posted by deanc at 10:06 AM on December 29, 2014 [16 favorites]


Which, as I stated earlier, is a little disturbing.

I think that's the nature of all of "reality" tv, though, isn't it? It's billed as "real people doing real things" but we all know it's just the new culturally acceptable bloodsport; this time it's housewives or hoarders or singers instead of murmillo and thraex and retiarii.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:07 AM on December 29, 2014 [7 favorites]


Who the hell is Brandy?

grammy award winning singer and actress, brandy
posted by nadawi at 10:08 AM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


What's she famous for? She's famous for, essentially, being a very pretty girl. A very pretty girl who managed to grab onto a moment of potentially humiliating exposure and use it, with an enormous amount of skill and hard work, to leverage herself a position where she is well known not for being someone's wife, daughter, or mother, but for being herself. She's done it in a way that illuminates America's ugly attitudes about gender, race, and class, and yet profits by them. I say well done, lady.
posted by KathrynT at 10:08 AM on December 29, 2014 [46 favorites]


Whether you liked it or not, whether you wanted to or not, you’ve spent a lot of 2014 thinking about Kim Kardashian.

BREAKDOWN OF TIME SPENT BY RICOCHET BISCUIT PONDERING VARIOUS SUBJECTS IN 2014

1. Work (1,659 hours)
2. Insomnia/sleep (924 hours)
3. Food (744 hours)

...

7904. Chuck Berry's current touring schedule (7 seconds)
7905. Welsh sheep-shearing techniques (7 seconds)
7906. Suitability of "Hugo" as a name for a goldfish (6 seconds)
7907. Wondering why Brits were marketed boardgame Clue as Cluedo (6 seconds)
7908. All things Kardashian (6 seconds) [includes 4 seconds working on Star Trek-based Cardassian/Kardashian pun]
7909. Yetis (6 seconds)
7910. Pondering why 'fungible' seems to be a funny made-up word but is not. (5 seconds)
7911. Recalling names of all the stars in constellation of Orion. (5 seconds)
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:09 AM on December 29, 2014 [37 favorites]


That article was pretty clever, I thought - especially the part about how when everything else is becoming more specialized/bubbled-off/etc, Kim Kardashian creates herself as a subject about which we can all talk. Which is nicely illustrated here, since no one is talking about the article and everyone is talking about KK.

It seems like one could assume both that someone works pretty hard and is relatively clever and that they are the creation of handlers - all these super-famous people probably are, if only because, as has been noted, it's work, and no one can be Martha Stewart, etc, without a lot of people helping her. Presumably one has to be fairly intelligent and talented to work well with handlers, if one is doing a lot of different stuff over a long period.

I get sad when I reflect that basically there are tons of people who are just as talented as most of the actors and musicians and so on who will never get to make a living by their art because they are not rich and connected.

But it's really just intellectual gentrification - in 1890, being most types of artist, actor, etc was not respectable, so poor people were allowed to do it and some of them got rich, just like in 1975 it was not desirable to live in the core of the city, so poor people were allowed to do that. But hey, it's fun to be an artist! It's fun to live in the city with all the walkability and public transit and so on...so rich people decide that from now on they will be the artists and live in the city and so on - enclosure, gentrification.

Kim Kardashian seems pretty innocuous, though - that's what I don't get about any of this. She's very lovely, she's very famous and she really only talks about trivialities. It's not like she's Sarah Palin or that blond right-wing commenter woman and is trying to leverage her looks to do evil. And if we're going to come down on her for selling things, we should ultra double plus come down on any marketeer - Steve Jobs, for instance - who devotes time and attention to stoking public demand for more and more stuff.

I mean, seriously, she's really, really pretty. I was very surprised, because I'd read about her long before I actually knew what she looked like, and I figured she'd be some generic blah-looking person with an expressionless face and no real distinguishing features. But she is actually quite striking and seems to make funny expressions a lot.
posted by Frowner at 10:12 AM on December 29, 2014 [22 favorites]


It's a portmanteau of "Clue" and ludo, the Latin for "I play." Those British will buy anything if you slap an opaque classical pun on it.
posted by theodolite at 10:12 AM on December 29, 2014 [10 favorites]


But in terms of actual worthwhile accomplishments, she's not making the needle on the scale rise very much.

And you are?


Uh, yeah, I am, actually. I lead a productive life. But even if I weren't, my point would still stand. I don't need to be a firefighter to point out that someone who wears a firefighter's gear isn't actually putting out any fires.
posted by orange swan at 10:13 AM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Louis XIV was not married to Marie Antoinette, as if anyone cared.
posted by Segundus at 10:16 AM on December 29, 2014 [7 favorites]


"And for extra 2014 zeitgeist, she can use gender identity to attack anyone who dares question her vast entitlement."

Is this actually a thing she's done regarding her detractors?
posted by Selena777 at 10:16 AM on December 29, 2014


I think that's the nature of all of "reality" tv, though, isn't it?

Well, I don't like this "TV", reality or otherwise.

And isn't MMA the new accepted bloodsport?

Reality TV is more like the new mythology. Kardashian and the Duck folks and the hoarders see themselves as the new Hercules or Monkey King.
posted by FJT at 10:16 AM on December 29, 2014


the sort of thing that would usually make mefi say "what happened to this person was really shitty and it's interesting that they were able to turn it to their advantage" and not "lol why does anyone care about this dumb slut ".

Pull a single quote from this thread where a poster called her a slut, or called her dumb. Until then, stop with this supposed slut-shaming. The only "dumb slut" kind of comments in this thread are from people defending Ms. Kardashian against attacks that have not happened in this conversation. Stop projecting your fights onto the rest of us.

It's entirely possible to have a negative opinion of Kardashian and her work, or to be tired of having to see her image or hear her name over and over and over for years and years (like that neighbor who's plenty chipper but you just can't stand but they're always outside, ready to chat whenever you leave home) without having any opinion about her sexuality or intelligence.

It's also possible to be tired of her sound and fury, signifying, well, not much, and not be a snobby, high-brow cultural elitist. We aren't all sipping brandy and puffing cigars while fuming about the loss of real culture to the unwashed masses. Some of us are just sick of hearing about someone we find boring.
posted by LooseFilter at 10:17 AM on December 29, 2014 [38 favorites]


If we're on the subject of celeb gossip, her marriage is widely rumoured to be a piece of pure business as well. I wonder if her popularity will survive if all that alleged dirty washing gets done in public? The public does like to play a game around 'who's in control' with their chosen celebs.
posted by colie at 10:19 AM on December 29, 2014


the repeated mentions of her sex tape, as if she didn't "earn" fame, are slut shaming.
posted by nadawi at 10:20 AM on December 29, 2014 [20 favorites]


I love BuddhaInABucket's comparison to Martha Stewart. I think that is it exactly! What does Martha Stewart sell? An idealized lifestyle. What does Kim Kardashian sell? An idealized life. And, you know, she really works hard at it, too! Those constant daily selfies in her over-the-top couture outfits? Those outfits are then in-app purchases later on in her app. And it is pretty quickly after the fact, keeping her in the eye of her fans and keeping her fans closely up-to-date with her.

The lady is very good at what she does!
posted by jillithd at 10:22 AM on December 29, 2014 [7 favorites]


Kim Kardashian is famous because she's cool.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:22 AM on December 29, 2014


it'd be weird if their relationship is a sham since they were both been side pieces for each other for years before they actually got together.
posted by nadawi at 10:23 AM on December 29, 2014


Obama is widely rumored to be a lizard person. I wonder if his popularity will survive being revealed as a lizard person?
posted by kmz at 10:24 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


yeah i mean that's probably an animatronic baby right
posted by poffin boffin at 10:24 AM on December 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


I would also suggest that a big part of our president's election strategy has been from being cool, just like Kim Kardashian.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:25 AM on December 29, 2014


I'd like to see a Venn diagram of people who think Kim Kardashian is not deserving of fame and people who think top tier professional athletes are overpaid. I'd bet there's some heavy overlap.
posted by cmfletcher at 10:25 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


She is just the latest, tightest spiral of the vortex that is rapidly drawing society's head up its own ass. Mass media (and its descendant social media) has enabled the vast wealth funnel from real people to entertainers,and she is an entertainer, she just doesn't entertain with fictional constructs but her life in general. She's a reality TV superstar with her own Truman Show, but this time she's in on it and the audience isn't. I don't think you can even come up with that many famous people who aren't entertainers in one respect or another, and I am including so-called politicians in that category.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:25 AM on December 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


Are rumours that Obama is a lizard really all that similar to the rumours that Kanye West is gay? Elton John was married to a woman for years. It's not all that big a deal, and gossip is the currency I'm told that these people deal in.
posted by colie at 10:27 AM on December 29, 2014


There's a lot of money in freemium games, and kudos to her for being the first celeb to take advantage of their fame to get some of that.

Plenty of other celebs out there got into other products or apps that are nowhere near as lucrative.
posted by smackfu at 10:28 AM on December 29, 2014


It's a portmanteau of "Clue" and ludo, the Latin for "I play."

Okay, that makes sense. The time spent considering and analyzing this answer bumps that topic up to spot # 4951, just below "What, if anything, Gary Larson has done since The Far Side ended (19 seconds)" and just ahead of ""Name of Marvin and Wendy's dog on Super Friends (18 seconds)".
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:30 AM on December 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


"Heap scorn upon my grave, and you but point the way to it." —Elvis "the Gipper" Presley
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 10:31 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, I think ThatFuzzyBastard's comment upthread is most perceptive: this is what many, many people aspire to now. Kardashian is culturally ubiquitous because she is our fondest hopes: I am famous because of how awesome I am; I have good taste because my opinions are just better than yours. She is us, or who many of us apparently hope to be.

It's the natural product of three generations of people born and reared with an incessant media onslaught that conditions us all to believe that we are special, that we are each important, and that each of us should have our desires fulfilled and our needs catered to. It's the essential message and technique of advertising, and we have all been steeping in it for more than six decades now, and I'm not surprised this is how we are, honestly.

(Many folks here do not suffer from the worst of this conditioning, some very little, and it's one of the biggest reasons I love participating in this community. But this site is a tiny bubble oasis of sober, less self-obsessed cultural thinking floating on a raging sea of ME and MINE.)
posted by LooseFilter at 10:31 AM on December 29, 2014 [9 favorites]


people say kanye is gay because he wore a kilt and sometimes repurposes women fashion for himself. it's obviously born out of homophobia.
posted by nadawi at 10:32 AM on December 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


Mass media (and its descendant social media) has enabled the vast wealth funnel from real people to entertainers

Eh, entertainers can be pretty rich, but the actual wealth funnel is aimed higher at the CEOs and such whose net worth is measured in billions. Kim Kardashian isn't close to their level, wealth wise.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:33 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Uh, yeah, I am, actually. I lead a productive life. But even if I weren't, my point would still stand. I don't need to be a firefighter to point out that someone who wears a firefighter's gear isn't actually putting out any fires.

I think she leads a productive life. Objectively maybe even more than yours. I'm not sure why you think she doesn't. Especially if you think whatever you're doing is worthwhile. Why is her work not as worthwhile as yours, if neither of you are curing diseases, fighting fires or doing anything that tips whatever scale that determines what is worthwhile? Surely you get that there's someone out there that thinks/thought you could do more/be more than what you are, be it a parent or a sibling or a friend. So who are you to say she's not?
posted by discopolo at 10:34 AM on December 29, 2014


Are rumours that Obama is a lizard really all that similar to the rumours that Kanye West is gay?

I'd say they're way more similar than say, Dick Cheney's crimes compared to KK's "crimes".
posted by kmz at 10:34 AM on December 29, 2014


It's not like she's Sarah Palin or that blond right-wing commenter woman and is trying to leverage her looks to do evil. And if we're going to come down on her for selling things, we should ultra double plus come down on any marketeer - Steve Jobs, for instance - who devotes time and attention to stoking public demand for more and more stuff.

I think we actually do that here. Aren't there posts and articles about Steve Jobs the egomaniacal jerk and also about all the foreign contract labor used to make Apple products?

And, well, you don't have to be "evil" to do evil things. I mean, there's that phrase "banality of evil" and the "road to hell is paved with good intentions" and a number of other sayings which basically don't preclude competent, well-meaning folks from directly or indirectly doing some bad or outright terrible things.

I don't know, it's weird that we're talking about this, because as I said I don't think that much about Kim or really dislike her. But I think everyone famous, powerful, and/or rich probably deserves a bit of criticism. I mean, The Global Elite probably have more similarities with each other than you or me. They network, gather fans, and construct the most elaborate and airtight echo chambers. The question then isn't "Who watches the watchmen?" because everybody watches them (and has an opinion on them), but more like an exclamation of "Jane! Stop this crazy thing!" (end ramble)
posted by FJT at 10:35 AM on December 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


ricochet biscuit, on which side did you eventually fall in the goldfish named Hugo debate?
posted by winna at 10:36 AM on December 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


Or what about thinking of it like in James Tiptree's "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" - absent KK, the wheels of production would cease to turn, or at least turn less, demand would decline, jobs would decline, GNP would decline. KK is sort of a goddess figure, right? An organizing persona whose image provides a way to organize impulses, ritual and production?
posted by Frowner at 10:36 AM on December 29, 2014 [11 favorites]


the repeated mentions of her sex tape, as if she didn't "earn" fame, are slut shaming.

Again, not necessarily--that's projection (note the conditional "as if" in your statement--that's where you're inserting your own bias). To me, mentioning her sex tape is more incredulity, as in 'that's all you have to do get famous? I CAN DO THAT RIGHT NOW, I HAVE GENITALS AND A CELL PHONE.' It's a charlatan reaction, and doesn't necessarily have anything to do with moral judgment of the act itself.

Put more bluntly: we all can fuck, what can she do that I can't? It's a reaction of resentment, not of sexism or slut-shaming.
posted by LooseFilter at 10:37 AM on December 29, 2014 [9 favorites]


people say kanye is gay because he wore a kilt and sometimes repurposes women fashion for himself. it's obviously born out of homophobia.

Several gay people I know think he's gay, and the rumours are based around his relationship with a dude called Ricardo Tisci. It's often mentioned and as I said, it is gossip.
posted by colie at 10:37 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Wondering why Brits were marketed boardgame Clue as Cluedo

Other way around: it's a British game renamed to Clue for the US. (And from Ludo, yes: British board-game players were already familiar with it.) I spend more time wondering why you lot couldn't handle the -do ending.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:37 AM on December 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


(By which I meant, if you're tired of conversations about people like Kanye and Kim occurring with this frequency and volume, the solution to that problem is to refuse to participate in the conversation: adding to the noise by complaining that they get talked about as much as they do is literally how they became as ubiquitous as they are.)
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 10:38 AM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


But this site is a tiny bubble oasis of sober, less self-obsessed cultural thinking floating on a raging sea of ME and MINE.

This is a brand too. A less honest brand, probably. Now I'm just worried I'm in a community of people who think they're somehow better than all those damn selfish kids taking selfies and building instagram fanbases. Yelling at cloudsfilter.
posted by naju at 10:38 AM on December 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


to refuse to participate in the conversation

For articles like this one, it's basically do-not-feed-the-trolls, but we all know how hard that is.
posted by smackfu at 10:40 AM on December 29, 2014


Okay but what is the correct pronunciation? I have heard brits say both clue-doo and clue-dough.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:40 AM on December 29, 2014


ricochet biscuit, on which side did you eventually fall in the goldfish named Hugo debate?

"Not bad, but inferior to Hobart."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:41 AM on December 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


Put more bluntly: we all can fuck, what can she do that I can't? It's a reaction of resentment, not of sexism or slut-shaming.

which is evidence of her having a skill not everyone possess. resentment and sexism make pretty grotesque bedmates fairly often. isn't it even a tiny bit interesting that it's always women who are "famous for being famous" and women being torn down for doing nothing other than fucking and being pretty (even when there is ample evidence that they do a hell of a lot more than that)?
posted by nadawi at 10:43 AM on December 29, 2014 [9 favorites]


the repeated mentions of her sex tape, as if she didn't "earn" fame, are slut shaming.

Not at all. That is you projecting your own assumptions onto it. The discussion was why or what she became famous for - it was the sex tape, not her subsequent businesses based on that fame. The fact that it was a sex tape does not make it slu shaming. It's just.. what made her famous. She certainly wasn't 'known' for being an assistant to a pop star. That's ridiculous.

It's no judgment on her, personally, but I find it immensely sad that we as a society make someone a household name just because we saw them fucking and we weren't supposed to. I'd rather hear about less celebrity as a whole not whole reams of 'news sites' that just report what socks some nominally famous person is wearing or whether their latest social outing means they are breaking up/getting back together with AN other person. It's... stupid.
posted by Brockles at 10:44 AM on December 29, 2014 [9 favorites]


I personally know maybe a half dozen people in my life who regularly watch her/her family's reality show(s), and they pretty much don't ever talk about her and you wouldn't even know they were fans if you didn't see their list of Tivo recordings.

I know a couple of guys who dislike her, and holy shit will they not shut up about how awful she apparently is every time there's the barest mention of her or the smallest opening to shoehorn her in to any conversation about tangentially-related topics. It's the kind of vitriol that takes effort.

And that kind of split really seems to be what I see on the web as well. People who like her: eh, it's just something they like. People who don't: jesus christ did she kill a puppy? I mean, if she's apparently famous for "doing nothing", it follows that she didn't really do anything to earn such a shitty response either.

I don't really care that much about her, I guess? There are like a million pop culture things that I just never paid attention to for some reason or another that are just background noise. But the more personal experience I have with her fans and detractors the more I side with her.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:45 AM on December 29, 2014 [22 favorites]


isn't it even a tiny bit interesting that it's always women who are "famous for being famous" and women being torn down for doing nothing other than fucking and being pretty

You seem to only see this one way and refuse to see it any other. James Deen is famous for fucking. He's a guy. Kim Kardashian *became* famous for being seen fucking. She continues to be famous because (from what I can tel) she is Kim Kardashian and she is dating X famous person. She is not famous because of anything other than being her or who she is with. It doesn't need to mean people hate the fact she is famous for no tangible reason because she is a woman. Maybe people just object to the 'making people famous like it's an achievement' entire concept (which is my perspective).
posted by Brockles at 10:47 AM on December 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


Several gay people I know think he's gay, and the rumours are based around

I think that's kind of where the linked essay breaks down - it seems to suggest that there is this utopian now, where there's perfect transparency, that KK is famous for being KK, that she has a charmed life full of magical objects and that is what gives her fame, and that this is what she wants...and the essay seems to me to suggest that this really is a possibly utopian way of being, that being the kind of person who is famous for being famous can be...that it can be sort of transparent, that if you are lucky and wise you can create a self which is both authentic/satisfying to be and massively popular, that you can be totally "inauthentic"/self-created and be happy with yourself. Which is a nice SFnal concept.

So basically, KK could in theory be totally happy being Artificial Kim because that's fun! And you can make a lot of money! And the "authentic self" doesn't exist anyway. All very Web 2.whateverwe'reatnow, etc.

But then you bump up against some political realities - that there are limits on the fake self and there's still some kernel of authentic self left, and that in order to be Fake Self, you might have to give up something that is difficult to give up and actually important.

Also that as much as new media and celebrities are these powerful cultural organizing forces, there are other equally important organizing forces - racism, nationalism, various hierarchies and hatreds. Capitalism can't just function with the "this is fun, buy it! look at the shiny people" part; it also needs the gun. And that means that the Shiny Parts are always going to end up in tension with the Hurty Parts; there is no utopian capitalist performance that can reconcile everything.
posted by Frowner at 10:48 AM on December 29, 2014 [13 favorites]


I mean, if she's apparently famous for "doing nothing", it follows that she didn't really do anything to earn such a shitty response either.

It could be that in some cases the virulent "but she didn't do anything" reaction could be coming from a place of jealousy ("it's not fair that I'm busting my ass trying to actually do something and I only get 500 customers/fans/followers/readers/etc., and this chick gets a million retweets just by sneezing").
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:49 AM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


I thought debating whether Tom Cruise or Kanye West are gay (and hence protecting their careers with fake marriages?) is just standard chat for modern people, who are fascinated with the idea of the 'fake real self' as Frowner mentions above. I will leave it now though and apologies.
posted by colie at 10:50 AM on December 29, 2014


Claiming that the sex tape is what made Kim famous is like claiming that his time as an Illinois senator was what made Barack Obama famous: he was in the public eye before that event, and he was a lot more famous for things that happened afterward. It's incorrect because of its specificity.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 10:50 AM on December 29, 2014 [13 favorites]


why her sex tape over the million sex tapes that come out? why did anyone care about a "leaked kim kardashian sex tape!" it's because her name was already somewhat known. and the fact that she parlayed that into raising her whole family and anyone who ever crossed their paths to stardom is a marker of her abilities which have really nothing to do with her sucking dick. i don't really know what to say to people who think she doesn't work - do you also think people who work in marketing don't work? models don't work? spokespeople don't work?

and i do think they're are legitimate critiques about kim kardashian, but if they involve her butt or her fucking or how she does "nothing" i absolutely think that is always tinged with sexism.
posted by nadawi at 10:52 AM on December 29, 2014 [13 favorites]


It could be that in some cases the virulent "but she didn't do anything" reaction could be coming from a place of jealousy ("it's not fair that I'm busting my ass trying to actually do something and I only get 500 customers/fans/followers/readers/etc., and this chick gets a million retweets just by sneezing").

Yeah but she's hardly alone or exceptional in the group of people who got a lucky roll in life and can leverage fame/money/power to achieve in a second what the rest of us scrape a lifetime for. I guess I can see the jealousy angle but dang, if that's the case for someone I think perspective would be useful for them. She is after the public's attention, not their mortgages and 401ks.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:54 AM on December 29, 2014


and i do think they're are legitimate critiques about kim kardashian, but if they involve her butt or her fucking or how she does "nothing" i absolutely think that is always tinged with sexism.

And what are these legitimate critiques?
posted by feste at 10:55 AM on December 29, 2014


Regarding the FPP, I found the essay clever but wish it focused more on the essential aspects that Kardashian-obsession, her game, etc., reveal about ourselves collectively. Maybe I'm an inveterate academic, but the more interesting story is what Kim Kardashian tells us about us, not what Kardashian herself does. (I admit that's my bias: I don't find fashion or style or fame or glitz & glamour interesting at all. It is too temporary.) The analogy to Versailles is appropriate: white-hot important issues in their day, utterly insignificant once tastes moved on.

As synecdoche for us all, considering Kardashian can be fascinating; Kardashian herself, not so much.
posted by LooseFilter at 10:55 AM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


why her sex tape over the million sex tapes that come out? why did anyone care about a "leaked kim kardashian sex tape!" it's because her name was already somewhat known.

But how?

I still don't know, I've asked, been scolded for it, claimed that it was a sincere question, and watched the back-and-forth, and I still don't have an answer to How The Kardashian Family Entered The National Consciousness For The First Time.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:55 AM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Ray J came out with a song and video called I Hit It First. That alone makes me root for her.
posted by girlmightlive at 10:55 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


On the misogyny front: I think a lot of people are really bothered that a woman can be sexually attractive and basically in control of her image. Partly because women are not supposed to do that - women are supposed to be either naively sexy or evilly sexy, but they definitely are not supposed to leverage their sexuality in a sort of "here I am, this is how I look, now I am on a magazine cover" way. And partly because, I think, a lot of men resent women who are sexually compelling to them but neither naive, ashamed, nor easy to dismiss as evil - because that means that women's sexual appeal grants them power over men, and that power is not paid for by secretly being a lonely bitter old harpy or being killed in the last reel.

I don't like that women's fame is always about their bodies and they always have to negotiate whether they are too plain, too beautiful, too sexy, etc, regardless of what they are trying to do. I think that's awful. And on a personal level, I would prefer a world with much, much less fame in general.

But honestly "I am really hot and therefore you should buy things I recommend" at least has the virtue of simplicity, rather than the usual song and dance that women are expected to put on about their looks.
posted by Frowner at 10:57 AM on December 29, 2014 [20 favorites]


The kardashians first became famous because Paterfamilias Kardashian was OJ's lawyer.
posted by KathrynT at 10:59 AM on December 29, 2014 [8 favorites]


and I still don't have an answer to How The Kardashian Family Entered The National Consciousness For The First Time

Her dad was Robert Kardashian, one of OJ Simpson's lawyers. That by itself put him in the public eye as others have said. But what other people have not mentioned is that the Kardashian family has been fairly well known and influential in the Los Angeles area Armenian community, itself a moderately influential thing in the entertainment industry.

And who makes people famous? Hollywood.
posted by Justinian at 11:01 AM on December 29, 2014 [8 favorites]


Look, let's be honest here: the sex tape is pretty terrible. Really, it's The Ray J Sex Tape with occasional guest appearances by Kim Kardashian. If you were trying to launch yourself to stardom on the strength of your leaked sex tape, that would not be how you do it.

This garbage earth is littered with countless useless celebrities who are only famous for mind-wreckingly trivial reasons. Whether you find its light dazzling or painful, that Kim Kardashian's star shines so brightly in the hideous firmament of our present age can only speak to her cleverness, instinct, and tenacity.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:03 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Eh, entertainers can be pretty rich, but the actual wealth funnel is aimed higher at the CEOs and such whose net worth is measured in billions. Kim Kardashian isn't close to their level, wealth wise.

Certainly, but the roots of that long predate mass media.

The kardashians first became famous because Paterfamilias Kardashian was OJ's lawyer.

Yeah, like a huge number of people in entertainment, it seems to be a case of standing on the shoulders of parents.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:03 AM on December 29, 2014


EmpressCallipygos - she was in the same social circle as paris hilton - bounced around there for a while, got a couple appearances on camera as a stylist, etc. the sex tape got leaked, she and her family signed up to do keeping up with the kardashians (which wasn't terribly weird - that was peak everyone gets a reality show time), and from there they have all gotten countless shows, spokesmodel and business offers, as well as appearances at things like openings and clubs. it's easiest to think of her as a type of soap opera star (since reality shows like hers are scripted) who spends a lot of time marketing her brand. martha stewart isn't a bad comparison either.
posted by nadawi at 11:04 AM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


So she's kind of like the reality show version of Rhoda?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:05 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I admit that's my bias: I don't find fashion or style or fame or glitz & glamour interesting at all. It is too temporary.

I think this is a naive way of looking at the world. All those things are part of the human condition, and it will be difficult to understand the 00s and 10s without the understanding the phenomenon of all those "famous for being famous" people.

Language is temporary too, in a long term sense, but you can't really understand and communicate with people without speaking their language.
posted by deanc at 11:05 AM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Maybe the emperor really has no clothes (no pun intended) but I really find it hard to buy the complaints that Kardashian is only famous for being famous or that she's only famous for a sex tape, so her fame wasn't "earned".

I just think it is impossible to stay as enduringly popular as Kardashian has proven to be and to keep the public's attention for close to a decade without having some form of talent. A lot of people have had sex tapes leaked, a lot of people are good-looking, a lot of people come from wealthy, well-connected families, but very few reach the height of fame Kardashian has achieved. Even if her fame is chalked up to natural born talent like her beauty and off the charts charisma (and the drive and intense motivation to use those attributes to build a wildly successful career), how it that different/worse than someone becoming famous as a model or using your natural physical gifts to become a star athlete or something similar? She makes a product people enjoy ("Keeping Up With the Kardashians" and its off-shoots may not be my cup of tea, but they haven't been on the air for as long as they have as charitable work by E!) and seem to buy willingly.
posted by The Gooch at 11:08 AM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


, she and her family signed up to do keeping up with the kardashians (which wasn't terribly weird - that was peak everyone gets a reality show time),

True. And produced by Ryan Seacrest, which helps a bit.
posted by discopolo at 11:12 AM on December 29, 2014


Her dad was Robert Kardashian, one of OJ Simpson's lawyers

Bob Kardashian wasn't just one of O.J.'s lawyers, like Johnnie Cochran or Alan Dershowitz or whoever, he was O.J.'s lawyer buddy.

Before the murders, they'd known each other socially since the '70s. After the murders, O.J. stayed at the Kardashians' house. And when O.J. didn't turn himself in to the LAPD at the agreed-upon time, Kardashian read a letter from O.J. to the assembled media.
posted by box at 11:12 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I just think it is impossible to stay as enduringly popular as Kardashian has proven to be and to keep the public's attention for close to a decade without having some form of talent.

Possibly a talent for hiring good PR and brand managers? I mean, her talent may just be "grabbing people's attention," which many people don't think is a worthwhile talent that should be rewarded, but then very little about the way rewards are parceled out works the way I think it should. C'est la guerre.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:13 AM on December 29, 2014


I guess her cheerleaders can say she is a success, and laud her mad self-promotion skills, and spokesmodeling hard work, but I hate everything her success stands for, so I'm not going to cheer her on, ever.
posted by feste at 11:14 AM on December 29, 2014 [7 favorites]


Bob Kardashian wasn't just one of O.J.'s lawyers, like Johnnie Cochran or Alan Dershowitz or whoever, he was O.J.'s lawyer buddy.

Well, he'd let his law license lapse because he was in the record business and came back specifically for OJ.

This is one factor that led to the divorce between him and the girls' mom. Kris was BFFs with Nicole Brown. She was on Nicole's side.
posted by discopolo at 11:15 AM on December 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


On the misogyny front: I think a lot of people are really bothered that a woman can be sexually attractive and basically in control of her image.

My only objection is that none of that has been expressed in this thread. This conversation wasn't about that, until a couple of posters jumped in and started forcefully defending Kardashian against things that were not said here.

But what other people have not mentioned is that the Kardashian family has been fairly well known and influential in the Los Angeles area Armenian community, itself a moderately influential thing in the entertainment industry.

This is exactly where people remain confused: the Kardashian family was known within a small, exclusive community that also happened to be composed of people who work in mass media. So Kim was well-known to a small but exclusive community, and when her personal notoriety spiked, the message in the media was suddenly 'oh, everyone knows Kim,' and most people sort of accepted that, because if the elite (read: entertainment content generators) know who she is, she must be important or something. But the rest of us didn't already know.

So there is a fuzziness to most of us outsiders about the beginnings of her notoriety and cultural ubiquity, and the question "this started with a sex tape?" is the only one we know how to ask, because usually people become famous for doing a specific thing or set of things. So that question should not only be read as sexist or slut-shaming.

Also, the work she has done since is beside the point relative to this initial question, especially because her work since has been predicated on being famous. It's not hard to see how people are confused about how all her fame actually started. A sex tape seems like a pretty mundane thing to have triggered all this.
posted by LooseFilter at 11:16 AM on December 29, 2014 [25 favorites]


So Kim was well-known to a small but exclusive community, and when her personal notoriety spiked, the message in the media was suddenly 'oh, everyone knows Kim,' and most people sort of accepted that, because if the elite (read: entertainment content generators) know who she is, she must be important or something. But the rest of us didn't already know.

The difference between mainstream culture and MeFi culture is that the rest of the world doesn't take pride in claiming that they have no idea who some entertainment personality is. So when the public is expected to "know" who someone is because the media seem to know who she is, the public generally makes and effort to find out more so that they, too, can claim that they know this important piece of cultural knowledge.

I am even tempted to argue that her lack of accomplishment makes her more of an "everywoman"-- she was an upper middle class woman raised in LA, and without having to dedicate her childhood and education to being an acting or musical star, managed to become famous because she was well known and well liked amongst other well connected people. It's the American Dream!
posted by deanc at 11:23 AM on December 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


If the American Dream is about the rich getting richer, than Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian are living embodiments of the American Dream.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:25 AM on December 29, 2014 [7 favorites]


the rest of the world doesn't take pride in claiming that they have no idea who some entertainment personality is.

Nah, that's everywhere. Go to www.dailymail.co.uk and read a showbiz story and people are queuing up to say 'WHO?'
posted by colie at 11:27 AM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


If the American Dream is about the rich getting richer, than Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian are living embodiments of the American Dream.

Except nobody cares about Paris Hilton anymore.
posted by discopolo at 11:27 AM on December 29, 2014


Except nobody cares about Paris Hilton anymore.

Is this the same as 'Who?'
posted by colie at 11:30 AM on December 29, 2014


Somebody up here in the comments compared Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Mitt Romney as having been born on third base and hit a triple.

Seriously, sure to Mitt but JLD is clearly extremely talented. I can't imagine why anybody would slight her like that. That's messed up! And one of the dumbest things I've ever heard here.
posted by discopolo at 11:30 AM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


So Kim was well-known to a small but exclusive community, and when her personal notoriety spiked, the message in the media was suddenly 'oh, everyone knows Kim,' and most people sort of accepted that, because if the elite (read: entertainment content generators) know who she is, she must be important or something. But the rest of us didn't already know.

This is right on. I will add to this (having been there at the time) that Kim was well known from the age of 14 on to be extremely hot. She was an object of desire among High School kids at the elite schools in LA (even though she went to a girl's school so no one ever saw her that much except at parties), and she networked even in High School to have the most exclusive and famous friends. So take the hotness combined with the sons and daughters of celebrity friends, combined with the fact that her last name was already well known because of OJ and you have a young socialite in a town that produces a lot of media, especially celebrity media.
posted by cell divide at 11:31 AM on December 29, 2014 [10 favorites]


I am even tempted to argue that her lack of accomplishment makes her more of an "everywoman"-- she was an upper middle class woman raised in LA, and without having to dedicate her childhood and education to being an acting or musical star, managed to become famous because she was well known and well liked amongst other well connected people. It's the American Dream!

I think "the American Dream" has always been a pernicious load of balls, but it's still sad/hilarious "do jack shit and become rich and famous" is what "the American Dream" has apparently come to mean.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:32 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


The difference between mainstream culture and MeFi culture is that the rest of the world doesn't take pride in claiming that they have no idea who some entertainment personality is.

Another strawman: no one in this thread has claimed to not know who Kim Kardashian is. The complaint, in fact, has been that we hear too much about her.

So when the public is expected to "know" who someone is because the media seem to know who she is, the public generally makes and effort to find out more so that they, too, can claim that they know this important piece of cultural knowledge.

And some of us do that, and then decide that what "the media" think is important cultural knowledge is just trivial stuff we don't really want to engage with. What is popular is not always what is important. It's not elitist to think so, nor to question what the machine feeds us.

(Also, some of "the public" are busy, and/or have other priorities, or narrowly specific tastes, or a whole bunch of other reasons that don't fit the 'Metafilter is full of elitists' false dilemma. Most posters also don't comment on a site to express disdain with the culture of the site they're helping to create by their own participation.)
posted by LooseFilter at 11:32 AM on December 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


Except nobody cares about Paris Hilton anymore.

Paris Hilton is probably the highest paid DJ on the planet and was voted "Female DJ of the Year" in 2014. Someone must care.
posted by malocchio at 11:32 AM on December 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


Paris Hilton is probably the highest paid DJ on the planet and was voted "Female DJ of the Year" in 2014. Someone must care.

She's not a real DJ and is made fun of for that. Clearly the title was bought.

Except nobody cares about Paris Hilton anymore.

Is this the same as 'Who?'


How could it be? Clearly I know who she is and that she's made fun of as a DJ.
posted by discopolo at 11:34 AM on December 29, 2014


She's not a real DJ

There's only one measure of that and it's the fee. As Kim would probably concur.
posted by colie at 11:35 AM on December 29, 2014


Everyone who writes 'WHO?' on a comment about celebs knows who the person is.
posted by colie at 11:37 AM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Paris Hilton gets paid $350,000 an hour to DJ.

My going rate for being made fun of is much, much less.
posted by malocchio at 11:37 AM on December 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


She's not a real DJ

There's only one measure of that and it's the fee. As Kim would probably concur.


Come up with the money figure and we'll see. But her most recent reality show got cancelled, and she doesn't have Kim's many opportunities anymore, so that's not the same at all.
posted by discopolo at 11:38 AM on December 29, 2014


Ooh, just give me a subsidy enabling me to get care from Ms. Kardashian's dermatologist.

I have seem many of her photographs, and if the make-up free pics of her are not altered, then I need to see her dermo and use whatever s/he recommends. I haven't had clear skin since I was 10, and her facial skin is truly enviable. I don't even need that poreless, pulled look she's got going on, just the no spots and the even tone.

ETA upon preview: And her networking skills. Boy, I could really use those about now, too, and I'm sure those are much more valuable than her looks.
posted by droplet at 11:38 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Kim K. bootstrapped fame. I think that's sort of amazing.

Yeah, she had some of her own capital to get her going, but she leveraged what early success she had (sex tape) into something much bigger. That takes a lot of work!*

* Tho also agree re: our excessive attention paid to 'work'! Esp. as we keep this train moving into a post-work economy, where work may only be accessible to the already wealthy (knowledge workers) and the terribly poor (service and manufacturing). I hope in the future we have people who are famous merely for being lovely, generous people.
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:40 AM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


I have seem many of her photographs, and if the make-up free pics of her are not altered, then I need to see her dermo and use whatever s/he recommends. I haven't had clear skin since I was 10, and her facial skin is truly enviable. I don't even need that poreless, pulled look she's got going on, just the no spots and the even tone.

Lasers, my friend, and I just saw Swoosie Kurtz and she looks incredible at 70. You want to take a trip to SoCal? We'll let them blast our faces off, I'm in, MeMail me!
posted by discopolo at 11:40 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


wish it focused more on the essential aspects that Kardashian-obsession, her game, etc., reveal about ourselves collectively. [...] the more interesting story is what Kim Kardashian tells us about us, not what Kardashian herself does.

But then the indissociability of the two kind of is what Kim Kardashian tells us about ourselves: the way her #brand is "herself," the two are coextensive and no discussion like this is ever able to distinguish between them, even though one of the things designated by the name is a multimillion-dollar brand-marketing conglomerate and the other a human person. This is what leads both to empty articles like this one — which is basically there to produce the "thoughtful," not-too-"gossipy" version of the Kim spectacle, allowing a different demographic (which we might call Metafilter for short) to engage in guilt-free consumption of the spectacle while the article too rides on the coattails of the fame — and also, calculatedly, to absurdities like the "feminist" defense of a brand entity against slut-shaming (because the brand entity functionally encourages you to confuse it with the person, for purposes of discursive/ideological positioning).

She is a fully commodified, spectacularized self, and this makes her either, if you're feeling cheerfully nihilistic, a harbinger of the posthuman future or, if you're feeling critical, perhaps a still-useful reduction of the workings of the late-capitalist culture industry. The contentlessness of articles, and discussions, like this one about Kardashian is the same thing as the purported contentlessness of her fame, and both of these are at root the contentlessness of the commodity form. The endless circulation of Kim Kardashian is the social meaning of Kim Kardashian.
posted by RogerB at 11:41 AM on December 29, 2014 [13 favorites]


Paris Hilton gets paid $350,000 an hour to DJ.


That's what she and her people claim. I honestly doubt it.
posted by discopolo at 11:42 AM on December 29, 2014


The endless circulation of Kim Kardashian is the social meaning of Kim Kardashian.

She is a pure mind virus created by Marshall McLuhan.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:44 AM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Kim Kardashian is famous for being hot. That's fine! Lots of people are. This is a valid and time-tested road to fame. I am not sure she needs as many long-winded defense pieces as she seems to garner. I think she is doing okay.

I think for some people, their issue with her is gendered, and for other people it's class-based, but more than anything I think she lays bare the lie of American meritocracy for a lot of people both because a) She is rich and hot and famous (even when she wasn't FAMOUS she was KINDA famous) and that, with very little pretense, seems to be the nexus of her continued hotness, richness and fame and b) Even with her wealth, fame and hotness, she found certain barriers to total cultural domination that I am not sure most people were totally familiar with. Like, it had never occurred to me that Vogue wouldn't just slap whoever was beautiful and famous on their cover. That there was still so much emphasis on, you know, PROPRIETY and behaving WITH CLASS. So, from there you get a lot of the backlash to the backlash where it's like, "Poor Kim! She's just a girl with a dream!" Which is not exactly right but, do you really want to be rooting for Team Old Money?

So while it is frustrating when Kanye (who is great and a genius) says stuff like the treatment of celebrities is just like the civil rights struggle, I kinda get how once you become The Most Famous Couple In America and start hanging around these pretty serious halls of power and wealth, you might get a little pissed off and defensive (and others might be on your behalf) that there are somehow still doors closed off to you because you're "declasse."
posted by StopMakingSense at 11:48 AM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Quick derail about Paris Hilton:

I keep hoping that she'll show up in 10-20 years as a philanthropist who has spent most of her years out of the spotlight working with homeless teenagers or feeding the impoverished in New Dehli or something. "Creating micro loans so that Indian women can have a sustainable, environmentally friendly business…THAT'S HOT."
posted by pxe2000 at 11:50 AM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Kim Kardashian is famous for being hot. That's fine! Lots of people are.

Yes, lots of people are. That doesn't make it "fine" to me, but nobody cares what I think.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:51 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


That's what she and her people claim. I honestly doubt it.

But now you have fully shifted the goalposts from "nobody cares about her anymore" to "she's not making as much as she claims."
posted by malocchio at 11:52 AM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


But now you have fully shifted the goalposts from "nobody cares about her anymore" to "she's not making as much as she claims."

How is that shifting the goalposts? She simply doesn't have KK's popularity or choice of opportunity.

Dude, I'm sorry if she's your favorite DJ and you like her music. You go do you. You go listen to your Paris Hilton stuff and do what you need to. Maybe she is that popular. I mean you like her so, I could be wrong about her skills.
posted by discopolo at 11:53 AM on December 29, 2014


Dude, I'm sorry if she's your favorite DJ. You go do you. You go listen to your Paris Hilton stuff and do what you need to.

This is eyerollingly condescending and in no way a conversation in good faith.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:56 AM on December 29, 2014 [15 favorites]


This is eyerollingly condescending and in no way a conversation in good faith.

How? I thought she was washed up but apparently he knows all about her and said her DJ skills were worth an award and $350K per hour. He probably knows a lot more about DJ-ing than I do. All I know is that I never heard anything good about it, maybe from bitter DJs. But he probably knows more about it. And if he's a fan, that's ok by me.
posted by discopolo at 11:58 AM on December 29, 2014


Probably not, but I do have the Googles.
posted by malocchio at 11:59 AM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


If you haven't read Kevin Fanning's "Kim Kardashian: Trapped in Her Own Game", it's a delight. And I say this as someone who deliberately avoids most pop culture hype and hand wringing (including most of this thread, sorry).
posted by jimray at 11:59 AM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sincere question: What's wrong with being famous for being hot?

Maybe it is a generational thing but I just do not care. I don't see the point in assuming that fame has to be related to a greater good or worth or cultural value.
posted by StopMakingSense at 12:00 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I just do not care.

Yes, this seems to be the problem with lots of things these days.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:02 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised her mother hasn't been mentioned in this thread as she rather famously pushed the family into the spotlight. I don't think Kim would be 1/10th as famous without her mother. I doubt we'd even know who she was.
posted by fshgrl at 12:05 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Even if we lived in a world where the only celebrities allowed were, like, astrophysicists and violin prodigies, there'd still be tons of people who'd be all "Who? And why am I supposed to care?" whenever they got mentioned in whatever media those people were voluntarily consuming
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:10 PM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]




and it will be difficult to understand the 00s and 10s without the understanding the phenomenon of all those "famous for being famous" people.

While it arguably has become a much bigger thing in the last fifteen years, the famous-for-being-famous thing predates this century. I was a kid in the seventies, and even with only six or so channels on our TV, I am sure I could have found Charo or Bert Convy or Charles Nelson Reilly at least four times each in any given week.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:14 PM on December 29, 2014


Charo or Bert Convy or Charles Nelson Reilly

What these people did apart from appear on Match Game or Love Boat is an enduring mystery to me.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:16 PM on December 29, 2014


deanc: "I think that Kardashian and Paris Hilton's manner of fame is the historical norm, and the idea of "being famous for something" is a recent exception. In the past, the public used to follow the comings and goings of socialites in the Society Pages, and these were profiles of people whose only claim to fame was that they were the scions of wealthy families who showed up to socially important events. "

I came in to make this point and you made it much more nicely! Yeah, this sort of "famous for being famous" has always existed, whether it was courtesans who started from nothing and became the king's paramour or socialites or Beau Brummell, who was the male Kim Kardashian of Regency England -- the personality, the fashion, the self-promotion, the networking-with-elites -- and is still so famous people reference him today. He had no apparent actual skills beyond "being Beau Brummell" but he parlayed that into an incredibly influential place in society. (Although Brummell wasn't as good at managing his money as Kardashian so far seems to be; he ended up in debtor's prison and died penniless from syphilis.)

Brockles: "She certainly wasn't 'known' for being an assistant to a pop star. That's ridiculous. "

Ca Cee Cobb begs to differ. (I'm not sure I've ever heard a Jessica Simpson song -- I probably have, right? -- but the trivia of her assistant's name is apparently lodged in my brain because, hey, that is a way people can get famous!)

I'm not totally sure I "get" Kim Kardashian, but it seems pretty obvious she works extremely hard, and she is very good at what she does. (Actually I think probably the issue is that I don't like reality shows where you just watch people living their lives -- I want to see them cooking or trying to live a Victorian lifestyle or something -- so whenever people come forth from that sort of reality show I'm always like, "Wait, who? Why? I don't get it.")

jsnlxndrlv: "Claiming that the sex tape is what made Kim famous is like claiming that his time as an Illinois senator was what made Barack Obama famous"

Wait wait wait, are you trying to tell me that NOT EVERYONE follows Illinois statehouse politics with the same breathless fascination as I do???? LIES.

posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:17 PM on December 29, 2014 [7 favorites]


Another strawman: no one in this thread has claimed to not know who Kim Kardashian is.

But somebody has claimed to not know who Brandy is.
posted by kmz at 12:17 PM on December 29, 2014


I think the critique should be "we, as a society, objectify women" and not just "this particular woman has reaped more success from that than she deserves." I don't know her talents or what she does all day, but there's no way she'd be as famous if she were average-looking. I'd rather see society reward women for things they do, rather than the genetics they were gifted.
posted by desjardins at 12:18 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh man, I'd much rather be defending Charo than Paris Hilton.
posted by malocchio at 12:20 PM on December 29, 2014 [7 favorites]


Except nobody cares about Paris Hilton anymore.

Dare I say, "I expected better of you"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:20 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Charo is a flamenco guitarist and singer. Not a 70's KK, by a long shot. Charles Nelson Riley was an actor, as was Bert Convy.
posted by feste at 12:21 PM on December 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


The comparison to Martha Stewart doesn't work. Ms. Stewart had a pre-fame career as a caterer, and she got famous based on that career.

she was in the same social circle as paris hilton - bounced around there for a while, got a couple appearances on camera as a stylist, etc

If we take it as given that this is the sum total of Ms. Kardashian's pre sex-tape activities, I think it is perfectly accurate to say she was not famous prior to the tape, and was famous after it. I don't think this is an arguable point, and I also don't think it's a strike against her. People become famous for all sorts of reasons, including singing terribly on TV shows or crying about Britney Spears on YouTube. Ms. Kardashian has, thanks in early part to her connections and money ("same social circle as Paris Hilton") and in later part to her own savvy and hustle, done an amazing job translating that early infamy into her current mega-fame. I think it's all ridiculous and don't understand why anyone cares, but I'm way outside the target demo.
posted by schoolgirl report at 12:21 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


And hey despite being a F2P clicker game, KK:H is really well-written. Definitely introduced the best (worst) video game villain of 2014, at least

From hell's heart I throw shade at thee, Willow Pape
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:22 PM on December 29, 2014 [10 favorites]


Yes, this seems to be the problem with lots of things these days.

I asked a sincere question and this is not an answer. This is glib handwringing.

I think the critique should be "we, as a society, objectify women" and not just "this particular woman has reaped more success from that than she deserves." I don't know her talents or what she does all day, but there's no way she'd be as famous if she were average-looking. I'd rather see society reward women for things they do, rather than the genetics they were gifted.

This is an answer! Which I agree with mostly, and would only say that I don't think it has to be a zero sum game.
posted by StopMakingSense at 12:27 PM on December 29, 2014


Kim Kardashian is basically a modern day Horatio Alger story, because every possible instance to seize an opportunity has been seized, no matter how slim, and no matter how "undeserving" her critics claim she is.

I mean, the opportunities in our society are no longer hard work and education. They are embracing public humiliation without crumbling, building up an internet following, and selling an image rather than a concrete project. She has consistently realized this fact, and embraced it, and therefore thrived.

I'm not saying it is a path I envy or admire, but it is one of the few paths to success (or more success than being born rich into a prominent family) that currently exists, and I think it is weird when people condemn her for recognizing that fact. Lots of people have done grosser things on reality television (drink horse semen, marry strange millionaires, child pageants) for much smaller rewards, and without creative control over the final product.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 12:28 PM on December 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


[Please stop the interpersonal sniping. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:31 PM on December 29, 2014


(drink horse semen, marry strange millionaires, child pageants)

And that was just one contestant on one episode of Fear Factor. The '00s were a crazy time to be alive.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:32 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Is Paris Hilton not a good thing like Kim Kardashian?
posted by colie at 12:34 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't know, but "Stars Are Blind" is a jam.
posted by naju at 12:40 PM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Sincere question: What's wrong with being famous for being hot? ... Maybe it is a generational thing but I just do not care

Clara Bow's ghost just stopped by to say "Not generational."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:43 PM on December 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yes, this seems to be the problem with lots of things these days.

People have been famous for being hot for a long time. There is a Sherlock Holmes story from 1904 that ends with Holmes and Watson going and looking at a shop window displaying photos of society beauties who were famous for being the beautiful 1% in the society columns. And that's not even close to the start of it. Helen of Troy, anyone?

Generally, it's really amazing reading this thread and comparing it to, say, the discussions of Hillary Clinton. I'm not a fan of Clinton at all, but it's remarkable how the nouns and adjectives might be different, yet the patterns of criticism are really, really similar.
posted by joyceanmachine at 12:45 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is an answer! Which I agree with mostly, and would only say that I don't think it has to be a zero sum game.

Yeah, I may have been a bit too strident. I like to look at pretty people too. Women just get rewarded for prettiness far, far more than men do, and it leads to their skills and talents being devalued in favor of genetics. If things were equal - if there were more* pretty/handsome men who were famous for being famous - I wouldn't be so bothered.

* I can't think of any in the current zeitgeist.
posted by desjardins at 12:45 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think "the American Dream" has always been a pernicious load of balls, but it's still sad/hilarious "do jack shit and become rich and famous" is what "the American Dream" has apparently come to mean.

I am having a hard time figuring out how exactly to express this, but there is a certain fantasy among people that despite your otherwise unaccomplished life, there is a dream that you will somehow be "discovered" due to some innate trait about yourself that will make you successful (eg, your long lost aunt is related to royalty, making your rich and powerful, your real parents were wizards, or whatever), and that the world will suddenly admire you for this innate trait of yours.

Kim Kardashian's public persona is not one of someone working day and night, night and day to build a media empire from her office, but rather, as Kanye puts it, the person who just intuitively knows the answer or can get the person who knows the answers to do the work for her. Kim taps into that admiration we have for others and hope for ourselves that we have some inner spark that is just waiting to deliver success to us without the unglamorous grunge work that would otherwise be involved.

I am not even sure that's a bad thing when it comes to who our celebrities are. Tiger Woods has to spend most of his waking energy dedicated to practicing golf. Jennifer Lawrence is either on a set acting or getting ready for another acting job between media appearances. Oprah and Martha are very upfront about how their lives are consumed with running media empires. Kim, on the other hand, can provide public entertainment simply by being a fun fashionable person taking selfies and hosting social appearances.
posted by deanc at 12:45 PM on December 29, 2014


Clara Bow's ghost just stopped by to say "Not generational."

She was a really good actress in an era where all you had to work with was your physical expressions and in an era where few people had the training to be competent film actors. No, she wasn't as good as Louise Brooks, but she was really good at what she did.
posted by deanc at 12:48 PM on December 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


Frowner makes excellent points about Kim K's use of erotic power and how that fits with existing discourses.

She is gorgeous, she has a body that drives people crazy with desires both explicit and vague, and she controls the deployment of her sexuality in very, very careful ways. She also has no ideological commitments, no political agenda or philanthropic cause, and her place in the American kyriarchy is complex and subtle--as a non-White woman who's inarguably as hot as any White woman, she's another type again of blank slate. Why wouldn't people pay attention to her?

I don't know if American culture can be interpreted through her, as though she's a prism. But I do think that she's probably a nice person and a smart businesswoman, in addition to being really, really fucking hot, and some ostensible cultural commentators just can't understand how those can coexist in one person. I don't think we need to re-evaluate or newly interpret the whole social world or our world-historical moment in order to explain the existence of an unusually beautiful woman who markets her guileless, overtly-apolitical sex appeal smartly. Her lack of pretension probably makes her more appealing and relatable. What's more, she's never in the news for criticizing others or behaving badly. Her public image is one of effortless flawlessness, and of being totally above or uninterested in conflict, which lends her a type of almost transcendentally-pacific femininity.

Also, from the inside-Mefi perspective, "Empress Callipygos" would actually be a pretty perfect way to describe Kim K. But of course, speaking for myself, I feel loyalty our own Empress.
posted by clockzero at 12:50 PM on December 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


Ms. Stewart had a pre-fame career as a caterer, and she got famous based on that career.


I thought it was from her modeling career?
posted by poffin boffin at 12:52 PM on December 29, 2014


She modeled, but then moved on to catering/decorating/etc. It was that stage of her career that more directly led her to the fame she has now. Though I suppose in a sense she was a bit like Ms. K, in that she was known - if not "famous" - in certain circles prior to really hitting it big.
posted by schoolgirl report at 1:06 PM on December 29, 2014


Charles Nelson Reilly, really?
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 1:07 PM on December 29, 2014


Ms. Stewart had a pre-fame career as a caterer, and she got famous based on that career.


I thought it was from her modeling career?

She modeled, but then moved on to catering/decorating/etc. It was that stage of her career that more directly led her to the fame she has now. Though I suppose in a sense she was a bit like Ms. K, in that she was known - if not "famous" - in certain circles prior to really hitting it big.


I know it was probably unlikely from having graduated from Barnard or being a stockbroker at Morgan Stanley (which was her second career), which gets skipped over a lot, even though it shows she had experience in business and finance.
posted by discopolo at 1:08 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


as a non-White woman

How is Armenian "not white"? It's literally in the Caucasians.
posted by desjardins at 1:11 PM on December 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


How is Armenian "not white"? It's literally in the Caucasians.

People with literal Caucasian heritage don't necessarily belong to the White racial group. Though they might. In her case, I say she isn't White because she's no lighter-skinned than many Black Americans, though she doesn't have African heritage (as far as I know).

But your rhetorical question raises an interesting empirical question: do people perceive Kim Kardashian as White? I wonder, who does and who doesn't.
posted by clockzero at 1:20 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also, from the inside-Mefi perspective, "Empress Callipygos" would actually be a pretty perfect way to describe Kim K. But of course, speaking for myself, I feel loyalty our own Empress.

This is exactly the unique mix of "sweet but a little weird" that I like best.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:20 PM on December 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


I know it was probably unlikely from having graduated from Barnard or being a stockbroker at Morgan Stanley (which was her second career), which gets skipped over a lot

It must be sexism. I can't imagine another reason why a career as a model would gain more public notice than a career as a stockbroker.
posted by LooseFilter at 1:20 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: I CAN DO THAT RIGHT NOW, I HAVE GENITALS AND A CELL PHONE

anyhow, from the mixmag/P.Hilton article:
We're not really sure what the audience of NRJ were thinking or whether they know about DJs like Maya Jane Coles, Heidi, Nina Kraviz, Steffi, Magda, Annie Mac, Dana Ruh, tINI, Nightwave, Louisahhh!, Hannah Wants, Ellen Allien, Deniz Kurtel, Mary Anne Hobbs, Shanti Celeste, Nina Las Vegas, Tama Sumo and Cassy. But either way it's our job to educate.
Probably the most useful thing from reading this entire thread is having a new list of djs to investigate! whoooo!

also I'm totally gonna read that Trapped In Her Own Game fanfic
posted by mannequito at 1:24 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


I can't imagine another reason why a career as a model would gain more public notice than a career as a stockbroker.

Because it was literally the first thing she did that brought her into the public eye. Before that she was just another 16 year old kid in America. Since time travel does not exist, she could not have become publicly known for her career as a stockbroker before she was a teenage model.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:24 PM on December 29, 2014


How is Armenian "not white"? It's literally in the Caucasians.

I have noticed that the youngest generations of Americans now regard non-western/Northern Europeans as "non white" in a way that the public only did about 100-150 years ago. Whereas before, the national mainstream of the U.S. was regarded as "white," one could position yourself as white by "joining the mainstream" even if your ethnic background was middle eastern or armenian or something otherwise unacceptably swarthy. But now "white" is just one identity among many in the US and has become a signifier of a specific ethnic background, so a lot of people are more willing to call themselves "non white" while 30-40 years ago would have been regarded as whites or "ethnic whites."

KimK also seems to consciously reject the idea that she has to conform to cultural expectations of "whiteness" that, say, her father and grandfather would have (her father being so white that he was a well regarded lawyer who married a WASPy woman from San Diego). So she can say that she is part of "non-white" entertainment culture with a bit of her ethnic background to bolster that claim.

I have definitely seen a linguistic quirk in the US where distinctive ethnic communities before would have referred to "middle American" culture as "American" in the 80s are now referring to that same group as "whites" with the implication that they are outside that "white" group.
posted by deanc at 1:28 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


do people perceive Kim Kardashian as White?

I thought the Kardashian sisters, and their OJ lawyer dad, were white.
posted by colie at 1:30 PM on December 29, 2014


Charo is a flamenco guitarist yt and singer. Not a 70's KK, by a long shot.

Suggesting Charo had fame as a guitarist is much like suggesting the Christopher Walken is famous for being a dancer, or that Marilyn Monroe is best known as a Playboy model.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:30 PM on December 29, 2014


I can go for literally months without hearing or thinking about Kardashian, so I'm always puzzled about people complaining about her. I hope I'm not being all "is this something I'd need a television to..." about this, because I have a TV and I watch plenty of stuff. I don't watch broadcast or cable live now (just Netflix, Hulu, &cc.) so maybe that helps? It just seems easier to move on instead of doing this sort of recreational bitching and moaning. She doesn't seem that hard to avoid.
posted by brundlefly at 1:34 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


If this turns into the thread where we all fight about the cultural relevance of Charo and Charles Nelson Reilly I really need you guys to wait until I run to the store because I'm going to need supplies to put in the hours of endless refreshing
posted by jason_steakums at 1:34 PM on December 29, 2014 [10 favorites]


I never thought I'd spend time defending Charo, but you are wrong. She played guitar on many of her TV appearances. She was certainly identified as a guitar player. I don't understand your point.
posted by feste at 1:36 PM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


do people perceive Kim Kardashian as White?

In her previous marriage, Kim visited my small town. There is a picture of her standing there in front of her then-husband and then a bunch of locals at the burger place her then-husband's family owns. At the time, I remember seeing other pictures and telling my brother, "It's like she's from another planet, she just looks so different." He immediately called me racist for that. (So, answering your question in my brother's case, I don't think so?) I was referring to her very Hollywood look, dress, style, make-up, etc, and comparing it to the jeans, tennis shoes and t-shirt/sweatshirt that basically every Minnesotan in those pictures surrounding her were wearing.
posted by jillithd at 1:36 PM on December 29, 2014




There is no official definition of "white", it's a constantly shifting thing.
posted by cell divide at 1:37 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Kim's father was Armenian, she identifies as Armenian. She doesn't think of herself as white.
posted by discopolo at 1:38 PM on December 29, 2014


There is no biological reality of whiteness, it's socially constructed, and characterizing Kardashian as "not white" is keeping in line with over-sexualizing women of color.

In her case, I say she isn't White because she's no lighter-skinned than many Black Americans, though she doesn't have African heritage (as far as I know).

I guess let's get out the paper bag, then.
posted by desjardins at 1:40 PM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


If this turns into the thread where we all fight about the cultural relevance of Charo and Charles Nelson Reilly

Yeah, there is probably an algorithm that you could use with IMDB credits to see how many screen credits someone had before his or her first credit as "self." With all due respect to the cultural niche occupied snugly by Charles Nelson Reilly, unless you saw a Broadway musical that he happened to be in, the extent of his fame before he began turning up on as a guest on Jack Paar and whatnot was his wildly popular breakout role here:
A Face in the Crowd (1957)
Minor Role (uncredited)
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:43 PM on December 29, 2014


A Face in the Crowd (1957)
Minor Role (uncredited)


That's kind of like having the title role though.
posted by Dr-Baa at 1:45 PM on December 29, 2014 [12 favorites]


Well we're all of 'mixed race' really, but Kardashian and Kanye West have both repeatedly talked about their being in an 'interracial' relationship.
posted by colie at 1:46 PM on December 29, 2014


I thought people thought poorly of her because of her public persona. On her TV show they choose to make her look shallow and not too bright and certainly don't give the impression she is working particularly hard. She clearly has no issue putting that forward regardless of whether or not it reflects reality. And I have no idea whether it does or not. If I had a crew of camera people following me all day, everyone would think I hang out in my drawers all day playing video games and drinking beer, and that's only true, like, half the time.

she identifies as Armenian. She doesn't think of herself as white.

How does that work now? "White" isn't an ethnic group to the exclusion of all others. If someone identifies as ethnically English or French or German, they can't be white?
posted by Hoopo at 1:47 PM on December 29, 2014


How does that work now? "White" isn't an ethnic group to the exclusion of all others. If someone identifies as ethnically English or French or German, they can't be white?


I guess you have something to tweet or write her a letter about. All I know from watching her show is that she doesn't think of herself as white.

I'm Indian, and I definitely don't think of myself as white. And I have Iranian friends who don't think of themselves as white. And I know there's a big Armenian population in SoCal, but you would have to ask them if they want to be considered white. I certainly don't/won't.

Well we're all of 'mixed race' really, but Kardashian and Kanye West have both repeatedly talked about their being in an 'interracial' relationship.

If I was in a relationship with someone not Indian, if they were Japanese/Thai/African--I'd still think of it as an interracial relationship. Not just if I was with a white person.
posted by discopolo at 1:54 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Kim's father was Armenian, she identifies as Armenian. She doesn't think of herself as white.

Yet her father and grandfather most certainly would have considered themselves white, and California's pre-1948 anti-miscegenation laws certainly would have classified them as white. We are at a point now where we have transitioned from "white" being "non-black, non-asian, non-indigenous" to "light skinned of north european or indeterminate ethnic background" with all others being "non white" simply because "white" isn't anymore regarded as the automatic aspirational default. In the recent past, claiming, "I'm not white, I'm Serbian" (or whatever) would have been regarded as trying to claim a lot more racial distinctiveness that you were owed. Whereas I think we perceive "white" as just one ethnic group among many, and not one that you have to identify with if you don't have to.
posted by deanc at 1:58 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I never thought I'd spend time defending Charo, but you are wrong. She played guitar on many of her TV appearances. She was certainly identified as a guitar player. I don't understand your point.

Likewise, I did not forecast when I awoke that this day would have so much Charo in it. I picked her name at random from the inexplicably ubiquitous celebrities I recall from my childhood. Again, going by IMDB, she has a total of eight projects where she is credited as a musical performer under "Soundtrack". This is about the same number as such noted musicians as Matt Damon, Sandra Bullock, Harvey Fierstein, or Robert Duvall.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:00 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Hey, deanc, if you think it's appropriate to lay down the law to Kim K about what ethnicity she should identify as, that's your business. If you want to tell her she's white, again, that's your business. I think it's disrespectful when someone is trying to tell you how they feel and what they identify with, to tell them how they should feel and what they "technically" should identify with. Compare to Rashida Jones, for instance, and how her sister felt about her.
posted by discopolo at 2:02 PM on December 29, 2014


We are at a point now where we have transitioned from "white" being "non-black, non-asian, non-indigenous" to "light skinned of north european or indeterminate ethnic background" with all others being "non white" simply because "white" isn't anymore regarded as the automatic aspirational default.

Hell, if I believed half of the terrible things said about White People, I wouldn't want to be one either.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:03 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]



Hell, if I believed half of the terrible things said about White People, I wouldn't want to be one either.


If you knew half the terrible things some white people have said to me (an Indian woman) about people of other races, you wouldn't want to be white either. But not all white people are like that. And you don't get to tell other people who they are.
posted by discopolo at 2:07 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


On the whiteness thing: It seems most useful to consider how whiteness operates, how it operates on people, rather than trying to hash something out about Armenians or skin color.

I surmise that KK is socially positioned as not-white - at least, when I see how she is described in the media, how her image is used, what sectors of popular culture she's associated with, the overall gestalt would not be the same if she were positioned as white. If she were positioned as white, there would be some narrative somewhere about "here is this white girl who is trashy in a particular way" or "here is this white girl who is married to Kanye" - a woman positioned as white would have her whiteness pointed out when she did things that are not expected of whiteness. Try to picture Paris Hilton - if you will - married to Kanye or posing for the kinds of pictures that KK does. Paris Hilton is positioned as a very white person. KK's being "not white" is sort of about racism (by white people, performed for white people) and sort of about changing US demographics and how people who are not white can be visible in media.

In my high school, the Italian kids were not white. I mean, if you'd actually sat everyone down and said "Italians, white or not?" people would have probably described them as white because they were not any of the other available categories, but they were made to bear a burden of racialized otherness in terms of temperment, sexuality and general social potential that the "white" kids did not. The Italian kids were assumed to be more promiscuous, less smart, more physical, more trashy, more trendy, more emotional, less able to do academics....you didn't see a lot of Italian kids in the honors classes. The white kids stereotyped and were negative about the Italians in a way was functionally the same as racism against Latin@s, for example. I would argue that KK occupies a similar place in the mainstream culture/white racial hierarchy.

This seems like a separate issue from whether she identifies as white or as Armenian, because I think many US people don't really have a clear idea of what it is to be Armenian (or Persian, etc, for that matter) so her Armenianness is not what is driving her "not-white" status in pop culture. Her identification might be about how she perceives her background as different from mainstream-white, and her political/social location as marked by her Armenianness.
posted by Frowner at 2:09 PM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Hey, deanc, if you think it's appropriate to lay down the law to Kim K about what ethnicity she should identify as, that's your business

My argument regarding KimK's racial self-identity is, if you read it, along the lines of, "yep, that's what the young people of her generation are doing these days." In the 1880s, she wouldn't have been white until she spoke with an American accent and changed her name. When she was born in the 1980s, she definitely was white and claiming not to be would have been regarded as a bit silly and special-snowflakey. Now she can claim to be non-white and it's accepted in the vernacular. I am not ashamed of having seen these sorts of transitions occur in real time as I grew up.
posted by deanc at 2:10 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


(I am aware that Paris Hilton has a sex tape, etc - it's that the pictures of Paris Hilton are shot/narrated/distributed differently from KK's pictures, not that they are Not Naked People Pictures.)
posted by Frowner at 2:10 PM on December 29, 2014


Didn't the Charo discussion, though, originate in your comment that Kim K is part of a recurring phenomenon, with Charo as an antecedent? And my objection is that Charo is actually a performer. She became a TV celebrity because she performed. She may not be regarded as a great artist, but she is not mere famous-for-being-famous person.
posted by feste at 2:12 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


My parents had a book of Jules Feiffer cartoons, from the 60's. One of them was based on a gag of a guy 'famous for being a celebrity' being interviewed on a talk show. So the idea that the culture generates people in this category, people who seem to be famous simply because they are, must be pretty old.
posted by thelonius at 2:22 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Didn't the Charo discussion, though, originate in your comment that Kim K is part of a recurring phenomenon, with Charo as an antecedent?

There is only one entity which is that celebrity who is famous-for-being-famous: it merely chooses a human vessel and inhabits it for a time and then discards it when it is time to move on in pursuit of greater inexplicable notoriety
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:25 PM on December 29, 2014 [5 favorites]


There is only one entity which is that celebrity who is famous-for-being-famous: it merely chooses a human vessel and inhabits it for a time and then discards it when it is time to move on in pursuit of greater inexplicable notoriety

Uhh

Charles Nelson Reilly died the same year Kim Kardashian started getting famous

I think we now know things we should not know
posted by jason_steakums at 2:28 PM on December 29, 2014 [16 favorites]


there is a really big and entrenched argument about kim kardashian's white or non white status. as far as i've been able to tell there are good arguments in both sides. i agree that she is often positioned as not white.
posted by nadawi at 2:37 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


She became a TV celebrity because she performed. She may not be regarded as a great artist, but she is not mere famous-for-being-famous person.

Again, I am going off IMDB. Perhaps it is woefully incomplete, but it looks as though her third appearance onscreen anywhere was as a musician, after a couple of small roles in movies in Spain in 1963. Fair enough; she has to start somewhere. I cannot vouch for her degree of cultural ubiquity from an era before I was born, but her third credit as a musician is from 1977, by which point -- as I recall -- she was everywhere (and per IMDB, had several dozen credits as "self"). She was a performer of Charo. Even her acting career has a heavily Charonic tilt. You do not appear on The Love Boat ten times because you are taking a break from your touring production of Uncle Vanya.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:42 PM on December 29, 2014


now i burn for a production of uncle vanya starring love boat/hollywood squares notables
posted by poffin boffin at 2:45 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I can top that. Bizarre IMDB discovery while trying to see who, if anyone had appeared on The Love Boat more than Charo: it turns out the show had a crossover episode which involved Leave It To Beaver, The Brady Bunch and Father Knows Best.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:47 PM on December 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


I think the difference that is being missed, ricochet biscuit, is that Charo played guitar on TV. She performed in a recognizable way that people have understood for centuries as a vehicle to become popular and famous. What made Charo different was that she wasn't famous for playing guitar on TV, she played guitar on TV because she was famous.

Kim K reaches people primarily through television as well, in a non scripted by highly produced "reality" show. She performs on that show, just not in a way that is traditionally considered performance since she is playing herself and ostensibly doing "real" things that aren't part of some writer's plot. Even though it sort of is.
posted by cell divide at 2:47 PM on December 29, 2014


You do not appear on The Love Boat ten times because you are taking a break from your touring production of Uncle Vanya.

How about a break from your headline Las Vegas shows? Maybe from your guitar lessons with Segovia? IMDB is not the beginning nor the end of research, especially for pre-internet, non-USA based celebrities.
posted by beaning at 2:48 PM on December 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


it turns out the show had a crossover episode which involved Leave It To Beaver, The Brady Bunch and Father Knows Best.

we have to go deeper
posted by The Whelk at 2:52 PM on December 29, 2014


Re what counts as white: the book Bengali Harlem has a really fascinating chapter on how in the Jim Crow era, the South Asian immigrants were often classed as White partially because they were Aryan and partially because they were Not Black and nobody ever knew what to do with them. Some activists tried to use the "We're Aryan, thus we're White, thus give us our citizenship already" as a political point when the US Gov was denying citizenship to Asians. Some others - especially those who were entrenched in the Black and Creole communities of NOLA - recognised that they were still sometimes considered as Not White, and thus bore the brunt of racism, and worked in solidarity with Black civil rights activists.
posted by divabat at 2:53 PM on December 29, 2014 [4 favorites]


I think the difference that is being missed, ricochet biscuit, is that Charo played guitar on TV. She performed in a recognizable way that people have understood for centuries as a vehicle to become popular and famous. What made Charo different was that she wasn't famous for playing guitar on TV, she played guitar on TV because she was famous.

Oh, I grant that Charo had a better and more understandable reason for becoming famous than Kim Kardashian or any number of current celebrities. I am just saying that it seems hugely disingenuous to maintain that her musical career was anything other than a footnote to her celebrity (pace beaning, at least in the English-speaking world).
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:55 PM on December 29, 2014




Again, I am going off IMDB. Perhaps it is woefully incomplete, but it looks as though her third appearance onscreen anywhere was as a musician, after a couple of small roles in movies in Spain in 1963.

FWIW, Charo's career began when she was discovered by band leader Xavier Cugat. She performed with the band (and wed Cugat in 1966)

There's also this tidbit from Wikipedia...
Charo studied classical and flamenco guitar under Andrés Segovia, who taught general music classes as community service in schools around Murcia...She took guitar lessons from him and other teachers from the age of nine. She has been named "Best Flamenco Guitarist" in Guitar Player Magazine's readers' poll twice.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:03 PM on December 29, 2014 [7 favorites]


Lot of folks having difficulty distinguishing between celebrity and accomplishments. Peter Weller has a Ph.D. in Italian Renaissance art history and occasionally works as an university instructor. I wager more people think of him as Robocop or Buckaroo Banzai, though.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:07 PM on December 29, 2014


Yeah, Charo's actually a great guitar player, her style immortalized in a Magnetic Fields lyric:

Acoustic guitar, if you think I play hard
Well, you could of belonged to Steve Earle
Or Charo or Gwar, I could sell you tomorrow
So bring me back my girl


Quote me a song lyric about Peter Weller's PhD, why don't you?
posted by neroli at 3:10 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


But *all* of your examples have been actors or musicians. The point is that KK is none of those things. You may not think they are great actors or musicians, but they all began as performers, artists. Even CNR was a stage actor.
posted by feste at 3:10 PM on December 29, 2014


Quote me a song lyric about Peter Weller's PhD, why don't you?

Let's all look expectantly at cortex now
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:13 PM on December 29, 2014 [15 favorites]


Interestingly, in Samuel Delany's novel Triton, there is a brilliant guitar-player named Charo. She performs - in the far future - songs from Bruce Cockburn's album Night Vision.
posted by Frowner at 3:21 PM on December 29, 2014


I knew about the Delany long before I knew about Charo the actual person, and was amazed that there was a real guitarist also named Charo.
posted by Frowner at 3:21 PM on December 29, 2014


desjardins >

There is no biological reality of whiteness, it's socially constructed, and characterizing Kardashian as "not white" is keeping in line with over-sexualizing women of color.

I'm confused by your comment, desjardins. While I freely acknowledge that deliberately ascribing racial membership to someone is hardly an insignificant act, if I may explain myself a bit, my thinking was that she probably doesn't get "coded" as White to a substantial amount of Americans, which is an admittedly vague criterion. But if there's anything we can (probably, I guess) agree on, it's that Kim Kardashian has no problem having her totally amazing, gorgeous body be sexualized, and on her terms. So I am certainly not oversexualizing her, I feel, and frankly I think you should perhaps consider that characterizing someone who is the prime mover of her own sexualization as "over-sexualized" when someone points out that she isn't obviously and unequivocally White could imply some nasty things about non-White people.

In her case, I say she isn't White because she's no lighter-skinned than many Black Americans, though she doesn't have African heritage (as far as I know).

I guess let's get out the paper bag, then.


I apologize if you feel I'm taking this conversation to a hateful place. I really didn't mean to get into a debate about whether she's light enough to be White, I was just saying that one fact supporting the claim that she could easily be read as non-White is that she has copper-olive-y skin and very dark hair and eyes. Those are among the criteria that have traditionally been associated with racial classification.

Frowner >

On the whiteness thing: It seems most useful to consider how whiteness operates, how it operates on people, rather than trying to hash something out about Armenians or skin color.

I surmise that KK is socially positioned as not-white - at least, when I see how she is described in the media, how her image is used, what sectors of popular culture she's associated with, the overall gestalt would not be the same if she were positioned as white.


This is exactly what I was thinking, though I didn't explain it, certainly not this lucidly.

This seems like a separate issue from whether she identifies as white or as Armenian, because I think many US people don't really have a clear idea of what it is to be Armenian (or Persian, etc, for that matter) so her Armenianness is not what is driving her "not-white" status in pop culture. Her identification might be about how she perceives her background as different from mainstream-white, and her political/social location as marked by her Armenianness.

This is also a crucial distinction and a thoughtful explication of some subtle aspects of how race is constructed.

More generally, I think a few people here already have noted that racial categories change over time, expanding and contracting along lines of color, class (economic and social), religion, and more. So it was really overly simplistic of me to say that Kim K is "not White," but I still think many if not most Americans would answer "No" if asked. However, race's complexity is interesting in part because Kim also has agency to utilize, to emphasize, aspects of herself that can grant her membership to Whiteness. Among certain evaluative communities, of course.
posted by clockzero at 3:22 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think "immortalized" might be the wrong word. I just surveyed a half-dozen people ranging in age from 18 to 50 and all are unaware of this band.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:25 PM on December 29, 2014


The Magnetic Fields are immortal to me.
posted by Frowner at 3:40 PM on December 29, 2014 [9 favorites]


Kim Kardashian stands for nothing that isn't superficial. It's all luxury brands, selfies, paparazzi, plastic surgery, conspicuous consumption, money, fame, money!

In a year in which celebrities like Emma Watson, Beyoncé, Anna Kendrick, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Swift have unapologetically talked about feminism -- and in which Chris Rock, Viola Davis, Jesse Williams and Kardashian's own husband have talked about race -- her blankness becomes even more obvious. Kim Kardashian stands for nothing, either because she's ignorant enough not to have thoughts on things, or because she's clever enough to realise that having an option about something that's deeper than YSL vs Dior can only harm her brand with somebody.

She's also currently the most high-profile example of the idea that a woman's worth is in her looks, followed by her money and fame, and nothing else matters.

I suppose the only thing I find interesting about Kardashian is considering whether it's sexist to dislike her -- as has already been implied several times in this thread. If feminism is defined as fighting the patriarchy, then I think she's the opposite of a feminist, and my dislike is justified. But if feminism means supporting women no matter what, even when they do things I believe are actively harming other women, then I should admire her ability to turn randomly being thrust into the media spotlight into a cultural empire. I lean towards the first definition of feminism, but I find the discussion at least worth having.
posted by Georgina at 4:10 PM on December 29, 2014 [18 favorites]


georgina: I did read a fairly good counter-argument to that, where if you're grumbling about how she seems to have drawn the public gaze so fully, that the blame doesn't lie with HER, but with SOCIETY - she wouldn't have been able to insinuate herself into the public consciousness so well if society itself didn't value "luxury brands, selfies, paparazzi, plastic surgery, conspicuous consumption, money, fame, money" as much as it does. And thus, she is actually to be somewhat respected for having learned how to sucker the beast as effectively as she has, and - for lack of a better phrasing, how she's taken control of her own exploitation. A lot of us were gonna be looking at her, at least she's controlled some of the terms of that exchange and spun them to her advantage. That isn't easy.

I mean, I don't like it any more than you do that society is set up in such a way that someone can do that. But I don't think she's actively working against feminism or anything.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:22 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


There is also femmephobia to consider.
posted by divabat at 4:31 PM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


Charo is an excellent example of an incredibly talented woman who people dismiss because of her looks and exposure, even though she's orchestrated all that on her own. Apparently you need to labor in obscurity and have a sober and serious demeanor to be legit. Kim Kardashian could be a brilliant marketer or stylist or whatever and there will still be swaths of people who think she's a cartoon.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:33 PM on December 29, 2014 [6 favorites]


Kim Kardashian stands for nothing that isn't superficial. It's all luxury brands, selfies, paparazzi, plastic surgery, conspicuous consumption, money, fame, money!

Who decided that she's supposed to be a symbol for abstractions, though? Why must she "stand for" something? Do we demand that of men who owe most of their success to their good looks? Doesn't feminism entail the freedom to define yourself?

In a year in which celebrities like Emma Watson, Beyoncé, Anna Kendrick, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Swift have unapologetically talked about feminism -- and in which Chris Rock, Viola Davis, Jesse Williams and Kardashian's own husband have talked about race -- her blankness becomes even more obvious.

Jeez, women just can't fucking win, can they? If you talk about feminism, you alienate potential audiences and open yourself up to attacks; if you remain silent (rather than being publicly, explicitly anti-feminist) you essentially get accused of being vapid.

She's also currently the most high-profile example of the idea that a woman's worth is in her looks, followed by her money and fame, and nothing else matters.

She's not an example of an idea. She's a businesswoman whose product is her own image and her glamour. Anyone who looks at her great financial success and thinks "Gosh, all the other women in the world are really worth nothing more than their looks" is bringing a lot of their own problems to that determination.

If feminism is defined as fighting the patriarchy, then I think she's the opposite of a feminist, and my dislike is justified. But if feminism means supporting women no matter what, even when they do things I believe are actively harming other women, then I should admire her ability to turn randomly being thrust into the media spotlight into a cultural empire.

Isn't it plausible that another significant feminism involves declining to recognize mandatory judgment of a woman's value as a feminist imperative?
posted by clockzero at 4:56 PM on December 29, 2014 [11 favorites]


90% of the reaction to her can generally be understood as slut shaming, really.

Late to the thread, but want to comment on this: Economic resentment seems to be a major factor, possibly even more than sexism. A lot of people seem to feel this Kardashian person isn't really giving anything of value to the world while living very comfortably and having a lot of fuss made about her. Celebrity/economic resentment seems to be a stronger motivater of contempt for her among the handful of people I've known who care about this stuff. And indeed, several of the first comments in this thread seem to come from a place of concern over economic justice and make no mention of anything remotely sexual.

I don't know enough about the woman to really have a strong opinion myself.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:03 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


she wouldn't have been able to insinuate herself into the public consciousness so well if society itself didn't value "luxury brands, selfies, paparazzi, plastic surgery, conspicuous consumption, money, fame, money" as much as it does. And thus, she is actually to be somewhat respected for having learned how to sucker the beast as effectively as she has, and - for lack of a better phrasing, how she's taken control of her own exploitation.

There's a backlash to all that stuff underway right now (Thrift Shop, Royals, etc.), and she's possibly caught in it.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:06 PM on December 29, 2014


Re: Charo --

(and per IMDB, had several dozen credits as "self")

I am just saying that it seems hugely disingenuous to maintain that her musical career was anything other than a footnote to her celebrity (pace beaning, at least in the English-speaking world).

I think those "Self" credits are way more important than you're giving them credit for, though, rb. She made multiple appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, the Ed Sullivan show, the Joey Bishop show, the Merv Griffin show, and Dinah Shore's show all though the mid 60's to 70's, and those shows were a Big Deal. And while details of each show don't seem to be on IMDB, I think it's probably a pretty safe bet that a lot of those appearances included some form of musical performance.

So while you might've said "Who?" when you saw her on Hollywood Squares in 1977, your parents almost certainly said, "Oh, it's the kooky Spanish guitar lady we saw on the Johnny Carson." Just because you're too young to remember her as a musician, it's not disingenuous to claim that her musical career is more than a footnote to her "celebrity" career. It's just her first career, which led to her "celebrity" career.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:06 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


If Kim Kardashian ever plays Jose Chung I will shit a brick
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 5:52 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


I like the irony of the Kardashian consumption machine joined with the guy who wrote "New Slaves."
posted by angrycat at 6:05 PM on December 29, 2014


I agree, she's pretty and has a great ass.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:07 PM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]


I bet Dick Cheney worked really hard as well, and he conquered the zeitgeist and was smart and was a bellwether too.

Oh my God if he ever releases a sex tape someone tell me so I can pluck out my eyes and have my vagina filled with concrete and paved over.


Also! Charo has been well defended already, but yes, she is incredibly talented and entertaining. Charles Nelson Reilly was a Tony Award winning Broadway performer, was in the original Broadway casts of Bye Bye Birdie, Hello Dolly! and How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, among other things. And he was Hoodoo in Lidsville. And he was hilarious. How DARE you. HOW. DARE. Oh, and he has also been immortalized in song.



More on topic, when Kim Kardashian was in Minnesota, a friend of mine had to work with her. Contrary to assertions to the contrary upthread, she was NOT nice, not at all, especially toward people she perceived to be beneath her - you know, the help. The way Kim Kardashian the (fascinating!)media construct behaves toward people is one thing; Kim Kardashian the human being is not someone I am eager to encounter in the wild.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:15 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


I agree, she's pretty and has a great ass.


Apparently it makes pretty good coffee.
posted by louche mustachio at 6:16 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


In a year in which celebrities like Emma Watson, Beyoncé, Anna Kendrick, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Swift have unapologetically talked about feminism

Don't worry, mefi falls all over itself to shit on them as well.
posted by poffin boffin at 6:17 PM on December 29, 2014 [11 favorites]




Have you people forgotten your Nietzsche? God is dead. To be human is to worship. (Homo Submittus or something like that.) Absent gods we pay our tribute to Tom Brady or Lebron James or Kim Kardashian. Don't ask for it to make any sense. It comes out of the primal goo substructure of our minds.
posted by bukvich at 6:23 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Maybe everyone freaks out about Kim Kardashian because she's secretly Jesus Christ resurrected. It's 2014, yet still nobody thinks the messiah could be a lady?
posted by oceanjesse at 7:52 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Say we go with the idea that Kim K. is famous because of a sex tape (which I don't necessarily agree with but for argument's sake). I've been racking my brain to try to think of an example of 1) a guy who got so incredibly famous from a sex tape and/or 2) experiences constant backlash as a result. Neither has happened. If we're going to say she wasn't really famous prior to the sex tape, then we would at least expect Ray J. - the other participant in the tape - to have at least some of the same level of fame, as he was probably equally as famous as she was at the time. But he doesn't. Most people probably couldn't even tell you who the guy was in the tape.

So I kind of think people are mixing up cause and effect a little. When someone says that it's not slut-shaming but fair to judge her on the tape because that's how she got famous, I think they're missing the fact that as a society we only give this kind of stratospheric fame to women who release sex tapes (willingly or not). And what people have been saying about Kim K and her beauty and erotic power is true, but is maybe kind of beside the point. We love beautiful women and we love porn. So we fetishize and elevate them to this level of fame and power that we never, ever give to men and then we never let them forget it. We knock them down every single chance we get. KK took all the sudden fame she had and turned it into something productive and highly lucrative for herself. I used to watch the Kardashians pretty regularly and yeah, she seems like a hella hard worker who doesn't ever really drink or party. But none of that will ever matter to us because we know her from a sex tape and she will always only ever be that woman from the sex tape and owes all her fame to sex. Implicit in this is the idea slut-shaming is okay in her case, because she brought it on herself. Forget that we are the ones who propelled her to stardom on those terms and the things we demand from her are pretty much the things we continue to demand from women everywhere all the time (as mentioned above). Forget that she took a shitty situation* and managed to channel the notoriety she gained into so-called "productive" (i.e. not sex) work for herself and gives the public what they demand - a highly glamorized, sexualized version of womanhood. None of that matters because she will always be the sex tape-making, famous-for-being-famous celebrity who "probably" orchestrated the release of her own sex tape (i.e. asking for it). It doesn't actually matter what she does and I don't know if it ever did. Kim Kardashian can never win the game of public acceptance or legitimacy. Because we set her up to fail from the beginning. Do I think this (and the majority of the criticism that surrounds her) is at its heart, slut-shaming? Absolutely. There's nothing wrong with Kim K or anything she's done. There's something wrong with us.


*when pretty much the same thing happened to Jennifer Lawrence we called it a sex crime
posted by triggerfinger at 7:54 PM on December 29, 2014 [10 favorites]


I've been racking my brain to try to think of an example of 1) a guy who got so incredibly famous from a sex tape and/or 2) experiences constant backlash as a result. Neither has happened.

Rob Lowe.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:51 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well, it's admirable that she's made herself into a whopping business while the rest of us are losers and all that. And it's all based on her being hot and rich.

It's just a shame that for a famous "personality," she....seems boring. I can't think of anything interesting she's ever said or done that stood out to me enough to care about her, unless we count this game, which...eh. I'd rather see a Beau Brummell sort again.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:00 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Skinny arms: Ron Lowe.
posted by clavdivs at 1:27 AM on December 30, 2014


I would actually be more interested in a Dick Cheney sex tape than I've been in any of the other celebrity sex tapes we've had.
posted by colie at 2:31 AM on December 30, 2014


Dick Cheney sex tape is one of those things you're not supposed to say 3 times after midnight right?
posted by mannequito at 2:48 AM on December 30, 2014 [7 favorites]


A Dick Cheney sex tape would be a WMD. It would be like Scanners only many heads and eyeballs exploding throughout the land
posted by angrycat at 5:51 AM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


rob lowe does not suffer backlash for his sex tape and hasn't probably for 15 years or so and while the sex tape certainly got him in the tabloids, the outsiders and st. elmo's fire made rob lowe famous, not the sex tape.
posted by nadawi at 6:23 AM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I just came in here to say that Rob Lowe is and always has been an actor for as long as I've been aware of his presence (20+ years). Trust me, my mom wouldn't have let me have a poster of "that guy with the sex tape" on my wall.
posted by desjardins at 6:26 AM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


As a 50 year old relic, I thought she was this generation's Farrah Fawcett-Majors, just with a ton more availability (thanks, Internet). Back in the day, FFM was the pinup on teen walls and the pinnacle of American beauty for many.

I work with teens and I asked them about KK and their perception is if they're forced to think about her, she's just kind of gross, but they don't think about her. The kids think of her as an uninteresting overblown media image who they can't escape. She's everywhere but they never want to see her, her husband, or her kid.

She's got some massive PR and I guess there's a rabid fan base, but according to the teens I know, it's not them.
posted by kinetic at 7:01 AM on December 30, 2014


*when pretty much the same thing happened to Jennifer Lawrence we called it a sex crime

When pretty much the same thing happened to Hulk Hogan we thought it was hilarious.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:04 AM on December 30, 2014


I know teens that also dismiss KK as a matter of course, but you still find them loafing around with half an eye on the reality TV crap that she produces. In fact TV advertisers seek out this partly anaesthetised, give-a-shit frame of mind for their slots.
posted by colie at 7:14 AM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


rob lowe does not suffer backlash for his sex tape and hasn't probably for 15 years or so and while the sex tape certainly got him in the tabloids, the outsiders and st. elmo's fire made rob lowe famous, not the sex tape.

I'll quote it again: a poster said, "I've been racking my brain to try to think of an example of 1) a guy who got so incredibly famous from a sex tape and/or 2) experiences constant backlash as a result. Neither has happened."

As you mentioned, he definitely suffered backlash for the tape at the time. (I remember when the 6th-gen VHS tapes made the rounds. He was a laughing stock.) The fact that he was able to make a comeback after a decade of being a punchline doesn't change that and I fail to see how "Rob Lowe" doesn't address the comment I responded to.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:45 AM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you think of her as a performance artist, like Marina Abramović, you can feel superior to those who just think she's hot.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:06 AM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


People with literal Caucasian heritage don't necessarily belong to the White racial group. Though they might. In her case, I say she isn't White because she's no lighter-skinned than many Black Americans, though she doesn't have African heritage (as far as I know).

But your rhetorical question raises an interesting empirical question: do people perceive Kim Kardashian as White? I wonder, who does and who doesn't.


I don't even know where to begin here. I've known about the existence of Armenia since USSR starting breaking up. Then when I moved to LA, I realized that the Armenian population is active and vocal. I learned a LOT about the Armenian genocide, and how the Armenian people still view that.

But yeah, this "I'm not white, I'm Armenian" is limited to 'keeping up with the kardashians'. The way they roll, they aren't white america because they have ancestry back to a non-western european nation they can follow. So that makes them "non-white"...but in every other aspect, they benefit from the privilege of whiteness.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:00 PM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


the fact that the ridicule isn't on going, and most younger fans probably don't even know about it - it's certainly not the 1st or 20th thing that pops up in conversations concerning rob lowe - is proof that it's not constant. and really, compared to all the things the other st. elmo's/outsiders alumni got up to, rob lowe's was pretty low on the joke radar even at the time.
posted by nadawi at 5:53 PM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


clockzero: Doesn't feminism entail the freedom to define yourself?

I think this is one of the major struggles of being a modern feminist.

Sometimes, I go through phases where I'm all, "Feminism means CHOICES! If you make non-feminist choices, that just means everything's working!" Sometimes, other times, when I watch so much of the hard-won ground that feminists won for us being slowly and now quickly eroded; when I read young woman after young woman claiming not to be a feminist because "I love men!"; when I read about Gamergate and rape and death threats being used to silence women's voices; when I watch music videos in which even superstars like J.Lo and Iggy Azalea and Nicki Minaj and Rihanna feel they need to objectify themselves to stay relevant to the male audience, need to rub oil on their asses and rub up against each other, need to spray themselves with whipped cream to simulate being ejaculated on, need to grind at the camera and touch themselves, I start to think that maybe having choices isn't enough if those choices don't mean challenging the status quo.

Because how is the status quo going to change if we don't challenge it? How can we stop our rights being rolled back when we're so busy reassuring men that we love them to consider whether we're doing our bit to reassure other women that we love them, too? How much of a choice do we really have when the vast majority of choices that lead to a successful life are still the ones the patriarchy approves of?

I believe this kind of laissez-faire feminism is one of the reasons we're in such a pickle these days. We stopped fighting. We didn't sweat the battles because we believed we'd won the war. We told ourselves that if we happened to want to behave in ways the patriarchy approved of, it was a co-incidence and not a product of a toxic, broken system that we'd been simmering in since birth. One of the reasons I've been so thrilled to see younger women like Emma Watson and Taylor Swift speaking out about feminism this year is because it feels like we've finally reached the tipping point (again) where we don't have to pretend everything's okay. Women like them have real power to promote change, and they're using that power, and it's wonderful.

Kim Kardashian also has real power, but she only uses it to promote herself. There are people who would call that feminism, but I guess I'm not one of them.
posted by Georgina at 6:10 PM on December 30, 2014


What is up with the weirdly fake narrative about Kim as some kind of Ozymandias-like bootstrapping-genius who had the grit to leverage herself up out of the muck?
Go and read some actual interviews with her mother. Check out what her ex-stepfather has done in the past. Look up how well that family is connected and how rich they are. Hell, go watch the first couple of seasons of their reality show. None of that will reflect what some people are claiming here.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:28 PM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]


Georgina: interesting that the people you pegged as "objectifying themselves" are women of color (or, in Iggy's case, performing in a POC-heavy space) and your examples of "good" feminists are white women.

How much of your values on what is feminist or not is influenced by racism?
posted by divabat at 10:36 PM on December 30, 2014 [7 favorites]


Brockles: She certainly wasn't 'known' for being an assistant to a pop star. That's ridiculous.

I mean, it's your prerogative to think this, but that's literally how I came to know of her. She was some sort of employee-adjunct to Paris Hilton (I knew she was some sort of amalgam of personal assistant and stylist).

She caught my attention then because I saw her in photos and on shows with Hilton, and took note because she was possibly the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.

I've basically not paid any intended attention to her since, beyond occasionally noting 'Oh, hey, she looks different to what I remember?' and hearing the inescapable mentions of her, but that is certainly how I knew of her in the first place.
posted by pseudonymph at 11:50 PM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]


divabat: How much of your values on what is feminist or not is influenced by racism?

If I believed you were asking in good faith, I would say: None, I hope, but l'd like to talk about it if you feel otherwise. But I don't think you were asking in good faith. I think you were trying to make a quick barb, to shut me up and shut me down, and I find that kind of point-scoring tiresome. You and I both clearly consider ourselves feminists. Why not engage with me genuinely about these issues if you disagree with me?

You might also read my posts fully before you accuse me of only being positive about white feminists. In my initial post, I mentioned the following feminists positively, in this order: Emma Watson, Beyoncé, Anna Kendrick, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Swift. (I also made positive mention of Chris Rock, Viola Davis, Jesse Williams and Kanye West for speaking about racism, although in Davis' case, she also talked about sexism and could've been on either list.) When I made my second comment, I didn't repeat all their names, just the two that resonated with me the most this year: Emma Watson because she gave that fantastic speech to the UN, and Taylor Swift because I'm a bit of a fan and have enjoyed watching her transform from a teenager who once wrote a slut-shaming song about a romantic rival (Better Than Revenge) to somebody who talks openly about feminism and the power of female friendship. They do have more meaning to me personally than Beyoncé, yes. They also have more meaning to me than Anna Kendrick. That is not a judgement on either Beyoncé or Kendrick or the value of their contributions to feminism or any other strawman, and it has nothing to do with race.

Disagree with me all you like, but do it fairly, please.
posted by Georgina at 9:43 PM on December 31, 2014


It did come with a little snark, but more out of frustration that yet again, women of color owning and expressing their sexuality openly is seen as "objectifying themselves" while those who are more prim and proper are "good". I've been seeing this pattern ever since I was actively involved with burlesque and sexuality rights in 2009, to the point that even your response (essentially "how dare you accuse me of being racist" plus tone policing) is tiresome and predictable.
posted by divabat at 11:26 PM on December 31, 2014 [2 favorites]


My comments genuinely didn't have anything to do with the women being women of colour. I hope you'll believe that, if nothing else, but I'll bow out now.
posted by Georgina at 3:26 AM on January 1, 2015 [1 favorite]


You may not have intended it to be so, but that doesn't mean it hasn't been subtly informed as such - these things don't come from a deliberate intention to be racist. What I am asking for is more self-awareness and consideration.
posted by divabat at 12:04 PM on January 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


It did come with a little snark, but more out of frustration that yet again, women of color owning and expressing their sexuality openly is seen as "objectifying themselves" while those who are more prim and proper are "good".

It's also tiresome and predictable to see this same argument trotted out time after time just to shut down any valid conversation. If you are serious about feminism then I think there would be consideration of the broader impact that some performers have rather than they simply offer "empowerment". Just take a look at two examples Georgina talked about: Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj. I don't think anyone would disagree that both women project a strong sense of owning and expressing their sexuality, but both women make use of different presentations. Wouldn't you agree they express themselves differently? And/or don't you think that matters?
I think the other part of this is that you can like and enjoy what that person offers but find them to be purveyors of highly problematic ideas. We all know there isn't a platonic ideal of feminism for various reasons but to simply shut down others with base accusations of racism just because you don't like their opinion is a terrible way to have a conversation.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:33 PM on January 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Are you seriously accusing me of playing the race card, P.o.B.? I didn't shut down anything with "base accusations of racism", I was pointing out that Georgina's comments are linked to problematic racist ideas about women's sexuality especially as it pertains to WOC bodies - stuff which many others have written multiple times anyway.
posted by divabat at 2:39 PM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


Race card? That usually means something that had nothing to do with what I just said. Anyway, it looks like you're more happy flinging invectives rather than actually engaging. Maybe more self awareness is required.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:36 PM on January 2, 2015


We all know there isn't a platonic ideal of feminism for various reasons but to simply shut down others with base accusations of racism just because you don't like their opinion is a terrible way to have a conversation.

That's pretty much the definition of an accusation of playing the race card. I've tried engaging and have just gotten invectives back.
posted by divabat at 3:40 PM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing that the criticisms of Nicki Minaj come, at this point in time, widely from her recent video for Anaconda, a song which flips the theme of the sampled song Baby Got Back. That's what the song is about -- a woman claiming her body as something she's proud of, after a slew of objectification and gossip about whether she's had cosmetic surgery over the past few years from the parts of our culture that want to judge her on her appearance, not her lyrical skills.

She's hardly the first female rapper to go in on men who would criticize or objectify her, but doing so aggressively, while flaunting her sexuality, is notably different than some of the other women mentioned in this thread (but, interestingly, not that different than Kim Kardashian's public image of late). Listen to that song again, or read the lyrics - Nicki is talking about how she has her pick of men, and she judges them on their ability to provide her what she wants, sexually and monetarily. It's not materialism, it's firing a shot across the bow of every male voice that's criticized her.

Don't look at the video for Anaconda and see one woman gyrating. Look at the videos of her contemporaries (especially the Taylors and Mileys and Katys) who have women of color but relegate them to background images, or don't even show faces, or have giant prop asses (really!). When you hear her rapping about what she deserves, realize that she's going through a break-up due to the fact her longtime boyfriend can't stand that she has the spotlight while he's been relatively unsuccessful. Sure, you may try to claim Beyoncé has a purer image of the feminism you like, but is it because she's singing about having sex with her husband in the back of a limo? Is this about feminism, or is it about a conservative view of sexuality?
posted by mikeh at 4:38 PM on January 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Maybe this is about seeing what you want to see. Maybe this is about ignoring the obviously problematic aspects of certain artists. Mostly it's about pointless arguments.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:39 PM on January 2, 2015


So you're willing to focus on the problematic aspects of certain artists but not willing to look at the problematic nature of your own arguments?
posted by divabat at 6:05 PM on January 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


And for the record: I've never said once that any of these articles were problem-free (I don't think that's even possible to claim for anyone). What I'm saying is that way too often, these kinds of callouts are laced with racism, often unconsciously, and we need to consider where our objections are coming from.
posted by divabat at 6:07 PM on January 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


(damnit I meant "people" not "Articles" but as I was editing it the window closed!)
posted by divabat at 6:12 PM on January 2, 2015


there's really no arguing that women of color are sexualized in different ways than white women generally, and that white women who want to show off their sexuality these days often pull at those tropes about women of color (see miley, iggy, also see the way that taylor swift and lily allen mock over-sexualization by mocking those same tropes). if someone is opposed to nicki minaj's feminism but embraces emma watson's it's at least up for discussion about whether or not that's drawing from cultural racism. it's not silencing someone's ideas of feminism to point out how the dominant narrative of mainstream feminism is one that prioritizes a certain type of womanhood while rejecting others and that easily embraced feminism seems to be white, cis, and middle class or above. if intersectional feminism isn't a topic that interests you, feel free to pass those comments by, but accusing someone of silencing someone else as a way to silence them is a pretty crap tactic.
posted by nadawi at 6:53 PM on January 2, 2015 [8 favorites]


divabat, you're arguing in circles. You are claiming the problematic nature of my argument is: saying that you're calling out people on the basis of racism. Which you've just admitted to doing.

nadawai, you can talk that game up all you want but you are simply shining the light away from the actual points being made. Sitting and bolstering Minaj's ass-in-your-face feminism and at the same time castigating everyone else's opinion of the same with claims of racism by way of implication is indeed craptastic.

Not only is it abrasively condescending to sit and read some of this, but these little tactics exemplify the worst ways to have a discussion. Shit, I do social work as a job. I deal with intersectionality IRL on a daily basis. Do you honestly think you hold some kind of morally authoritative position by invoking a word or two and pointing them in the least useful way at someone? Should I point out the moral entrepreneurism on display here and the implications of that? What about the racist implications in saying that Minaj is "aggressive"? I could go on & on about ridiculous things that nobody did like specifically compare white people to poc, but like I said we're well and good into pointlessness and it's apparent we aren't going to tackle the conversation in a useful way here.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:57 PM on January 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


So my comment about me being a woman of colour who has been working in sexuality-related art and activism for over the last five years and thus has had to deal with these sort of comments constantly - often directly and personally - doesn't matter, but yours does because you have a social work degree? How is that fair?

You are getting upset with me because I am asking about how much racism plays into people's opinions. You made that out to be a bad thing, as though the only reason I'd see racism in this discussion is somehow "moral entrepreneurialism", whatever the fuck that's supposed to mean.
posted by divabat at 8:13 PM on January 2, 2015 [4 favorites]


Hey P.o.B. You forgot to tell me I'm really wrong, too. I don't understand why your argument is mainly saying others are wrong, which is pointlessness without backing it up. No one is questioning your bonafides or saying you are racist personally, so I don't get the defensive stance. There's no authoritative position here, only conversation.
posted by mikeh at 8:28 PM on January 2, 2015 [5 favorites]


Not for nothing, but acting like something terrible has happened the moment that someone says "hey, there seems to be some implicit racial bias in what's being said here," acting like that's a horrible, aggressive, silencing thing equivalent to "shutting someone down" has the effect of changing the subject to "hey, I'm not racist, how could you say that, etc," and it's a response that White people have disproportionately whose result is to make racism an insult against an individual that has to be refuted instead of a social pattern that influences everyone and whose manifestations can be meaningfully discussed. I don't know that it's intentional, but it's a historically common response that White people have had to avoid dealing with their complicity in racist social regimes.
posted by clockzero at 8:58 AM on January 3, 2015 [10 favorites]


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