The kingdom of Kim Kardashian has been denounced more frequently and more publicly than any other celebrity name in recent history. There’s something about this family — their wholly public lives played out on screen like a strange, awkwardly scripted melodrama? Their unrepentant groveling for fame and media attention? The sex tape reportedly executed to the very hilt by mom? — that coaxes other people into the belief that they are simply fodder for negativity, as if any and all malice and disapproval has been well-earned. Forget turning a blind eye and the tired adage of “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” (what a bore), because what else can we come to expect as a general reaction to a family, converging upon one woman, at once grossly infantilized and boorishly sexualized, who has made fame itself its trade?
I consider myself a cynic, or even more so, a disinterested misanthrope who in most cases lacks the passion that drives fandom. I don’t often feel compelled by what’s “hot” at the moment, and while I’m very much conscious of the zeitgeist, I only occasionally feel its pull. Yet even I admit to having, somewhat miraculously over the course of time, cultivated a fascination for Kim Kardashian. The just-released Fall Fashion issue of New York magazine, which Kim’s instantly recognizable face marks the cover of, addresses this phenomenon in a startlingly brilliant exposé by Benjamin Wallace: the family’s “louche roots,” their most exquisite mastery of “corner-of-the-frame fame” as sidekicks to high-profile, often-photographed friends, and the manner in which the members of this clan “thrive by blithely trampling over the customary lines between self and other, private and public, soul and body, work and play, real and fake.”
Perhaps the most gruesomely intriguing installment in the bastardized epic is one fairly recent development: Kim’s relationship with Kanye West has skyrocketed her own visibility, the fervor of which, after the bizarre public dissension of her 72-day marriage to Kris Humphries, seemed for a misleading moment to be cooling down. First, there was the song. “Theraflu” dropped with the lyric heard around the world (“and I admit I fell in love with Kim around the same time that she fell in love with him”), and the chain reaction was instantly palpable; within weeks the two were photographed together hand in hand. Then came the complementary outfits, the $5,800 Giuseppe Zanotti shoes designed by West, the matching Air Yeezys, and then West appeared on “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” The fates were sealed.
Kim tells Wallace, her interviewer, that fashion has become a source of commonality between her and West, a joint that she hopes will be their saving grace in the future. “I think it’s essential to have similarities,” she says, “When this whole life is done, and it’s just the two of us sitting somewhere when we’re 80, you want to have things to talk about that you have in common.” Such a statement, her confidence in a certain fate, brings me back to a troubling point, something that at once baffles and horrifies me in regard to Kim and her circumstances — at many junctions she strikes me as incredibly childlike, a stilted, stunted 31-year-old with an “emotional age” (thanks, Jane Pratt) of roughly 14. It concerns me, and it makes me think: is this a woman, a girl, who has been exploited? Is her dominion of her own choosing, her own desire, or a business plan that she has been indiscriminately forced into?
Analysis and over-analysis of this very topic has been played out to death. More so than her slightly less spotlight-hungry sisters (though half-siblings Kendall and Kylie Jenner could prospectively give her a run for her money), Kim’s ubiquity is both undeniable and unavoidable, and a Kardashian-free future barely seems plausible. Forget the Beatles — if there ever existed a celebrity bigger than Jesus, it would be Kim Kardashian. The comparison is admittedly less shocking than it was 50 years ago, but the sentiment remains: our culture traded church of religion for church of celebrity, and aren’t we holy? [NYMag.com]