Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton aren't to blame for a culture that promotes and idealizes female stupidity. YOU are.

I'm as big of a Jon Hamm fan as the next film critic.  But he's wrong when he posits or even implies that Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton are to blame for a cultural that promotes stupidity.  Even if we agree that the careers of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian are a sign of a nationwide dumbing-down of our culture at large, they are merely the symptom.  They are only guilty of taking advantage of the opportunities afforded to them.  If we were offered television shows, fashion lines, the chance to write memoirs, the opportunity to record music, and millions of dollars thrown at our feet merely for being ourselves, would any of us turn it down?  The phrase 'stupid like a fox' comes to mind, as they have created brands worth tens-of-millions of dollars despite seemingly possessing no extraordinary talents or abilities.  But they are not to blame for a culture that has allowed them to become rich and famous (or more rich and exceedingly famous).  In short, YOU are to blame.

You are to blame whenever you choose to watch an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians.  You are to blame whenever you flocked to House of Wax so you could laugh/cheer when Paris Hilton's character was brutally murdered onscreen.  You are to blame when you read tabloids that have created an new sub-class of celebrity: the reality show star.  You are to blame when you know more about Angelina Jolie's fashion sense and personal life than you do about her movies or her humanitarian work overseas.  And you are most certainly just as responsible when you keep the very celebrities you claim are hurting society in the news by referencing them in print or on the air.  Does anyone think that Rebecca Black's "Friday" would have become a hit if everyone who watched it on YouTube had merely said 'That wasn't very good.', closed their browser and forgot about it?  Rebecca Black was turned into a genuine pop-star purely on the strength of America filling their Facebook and Twitter feeds with scathing rants about how horrible her song was (I can name a dozen far worse songs that were just as popular, albeit sung by male artists).  The very tirades decrying what Black's new-found fame meant for popular music were the very things that turned her into a sensation.  Come what may, at least Justin Beiber's YouTube fame came about because viewers *liked* what they saw and heard.

Yes, we live in a society where the media does its best to show women in unflattering ways and make said behavior the quickest route to fame and potential fortune. We live in a society where women are ostracized for being intellectuals and condemned for being stupid; told that they are too skinny and then called 'fat' or 'pregnant?' when they gain a few pounds.  We live in an age where famous women see what intellectual or artistic capacity they possess overshadowed by their ability to 'rock a red carpet' or get into some kind of social/legal scandal (Jennifer Lawrence may be an Oscar-nominated actress, but what really matters is that she now looks good in a dress).  And trumping them all in the realm of 'achievement' is merely engaging in the standard female roles, which is getting married and/or having a baby.  But at the end of the day, this kind of media messaging only works because you buy into it.  It only works because you watch the The Bachelor and read A Shore Thing.  It only works when you buy and read US Weekly, even if it's merely for 'righteous indignation' or to feel better about yourself.  It works because approval or disapproval elicits the same response.  The goal is fame, not respect or artistic merit.  Hence by you spending your time complaining about Kim Kardashian's 72-day wedding or whatever silly thing Paris Hilton said, you contribute to the primary goal, which is keeping these people in the limelight.  You made them famous in the first place, even as you were decrying their lack of achievement and/or lack of intelligence or good sense.  Had we never watched The Simple Life, had we never read about their 'fabulous' romantic exploits, had we not given them our attention in the first place, the Kardashians and Hiltons of the world would not be famous and they would not be the 'role-models' that they are today.  Had we not bought their products, they would no longer be afforded the opportunities to capitalize on their arbitrary popularity.

Kim Kardashian is not to blame for a popular media culture that infantilizes women and then condemns those women for being bad role models for young girls. She and others like her are merely benefiting from a system that rewards women for acting like glorified Barbie dolls over actual educational or artistic achievement.  But when the object is mere media attention and merely staying in the public eye, giving them that attention, be it in approval or disapproval, accomplishes the same goal.  Kim Kardashian and her sisters are genuine celebrities because we paid attention to them.  If we truly want them (and the ideas behind their fame) to go away, outright ignoring them is the only way.  Like Woody Allen warned in Celebrity fifteen years ago, we have created an entire generation of celebrities who are not famous for being special, but rather special for being famous.  We may not have introduced these people into the spotlight.  But we damn-sure are responsible for keeping them there.

Scott Mendelson


blackcanseco said...

it's not Kim K's fault. She can't help herself. People keep watching... Does this apply all entertainers? Hyperbolic op-ed writers? Eddie Murphy? Lady Gaga? Rush Limbaugh? These poor savants have been mislead by the manipulative masses to abuse their respective talents and platforms to feed our appetite for BS?


Maybe drug dealers should try this defense. "No your honor, it's not my fault: people kept asking me to sell it to them!"

Magali said...

You Sir, are brilliant & I couldn't agree more. :)

Geha714 said...

That picture of the article about Jennifer Lawrence tells you everything about showbiz today.

Agree with you. We have our share of the blame.


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