In some ways, it’s hard to think of the members of the Kardashian/Jenner family as real people. They loom so large in the public consciousness, they’ve ended up occupying the same space as fictional characters. This is true of plenty of celebrities, of course, but especially those who have reached the peak of their lane. Nailing down exactly what the Kardashian Klan’s “lane” is, is harder to articulate. But, whatever it is, they’ve risen above the rest. When celebrities reach this height, they often come to “represent” something. Perhaps they represent capitalism. Perhaps they represent social media. Plastic surgery. Consumption. America. Any and all could apply to the Kardashians.
Kanye West, once astronomically more famous than Kim Kardashian, now just as, wears the same burden. West has, at various times, “represented” Black excellence, narcissism, positive masculinity, and/or toxic masculinity. It’s a lot of “representation” for one person to carry.
There’s said to be a pay-off for becoming ultra-famous. We give you millions upon millions of dollars, you give us access to your lives. The notion that we ever truly have access to a star’s life is slippery; even stars who film themselves for nine months out of the year are subject to the media’s – and the public’s – preconceived gaze. Narratives become fractured, reshaped and molded to our liking. A woman who uses surrogacy as a way to have children is a “selfish bitch, who just wants to keep her figure.” A Black man who misguidedly sticks up for a fellow Black artist is a jackass.
When I cast my mind back a decade, to the tabloid culture of my youth, I can hardly believe what the media got away with. Anorexia, drug-addiction, and prison sentences made headlines on a weekly basis. What we would now consider mental illness was simple shamelessness. Britney Spears, a mentally unstable mother in her early twenties, was a laughing stock.
It shouldn’t have been legal to sell and publish “crotch shots” (whether the women involved “courted” them or not). It shouldn’t have been permissible to treat anorexia like sport. It certainly shouldn’t have been acceptable to splash magazine covers with zoomed-in long-shots of beachgoers’ cellulite.
We’ve come some way in righting those wrongs today – the compassion that was shown to Demi Lovato throughout her various struggles comes to mind – but the legacy of cruelty in media lives on. In 2007, it was Lindsay Lohan. Today, Meghan Markle is public enemy number one. It’s a different story, and yet, it’s the same.
To paraphrase Dave Chappelle, it takes a strong person to withstand modern celebrity culture. And that’s because the culture is sick. The thing is, the audience, in many ways, guides the suppliers. It’s up to us to say we’re no longer buying it when it comes to cruel tabloid stories. It’s up to us to change the narrative. As hard as it may be to think of these people as "real".Support Villainesse