Monday, February 22, 2010

The Kardashians: Turning Virtual Nobodies Into Reality Stars

I meant to post on "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" the other day, but didn't have the chance.

The Los Angeles Times published a really fascinating piece on the Kardashian family, "
The Kardashian Phenomenon." I've only watched the show once or twice, but a lot of bloggers love Kim Kardashian, so it's hard to be out of the loop. In fact, I was laughing when I read Robert Stacy McCain's post this afternoon, "TMI Twitter from Kim Kardashian." (Robert couldn't resist illustrating the entry with a Playboy cover shot.)

I've been catching so much flak for the babe-blogging I'll just cut and paste some social commentary from
the Times' piece:
When a reality show about the Kardashian sisters of Calabasas debuted in fall 2007, most people had never heard of the family and what was known could scarcely be considered positive.

Their late father, a lawyer, helped O.J. Simpson win acquittal at his murder trial; middle daughter Kim palled around nightclubs with Paris Hilton; and a graphic sex tape featuring the brunet and a former boyfriend ended up in the hands of a porn distributor.

Two and a half years later, the Kardashians are an inescapable cultural and commercial force. Their series, "Keeping Up With the Kardashians," which concludes its fourth season Sunday on E, has shattered viewership records for the cable network and spawned a spin-off show. Kim Kardashian.com is the world's most popular official celebrity website, according to its operator. Checkout-aisle magazines and gossip blogs cover the smallest details of the sisters' lives. And Madison Avenue calls on the family to sell mainstream America everything, from diet pills and orange juice to NASCAR and fast food.

Their popularity comes despite the fact that the sisters lack the talents that traditionally lead to superstardom and, some believe, partly because of it.

"There's an aspirational quality to somebody who has become a celebrity for -- and I don't say this in an offensive way -- but for not doing anything celebrity-worthy," said Matt Delzell, an executive at Davie Brown Entertainment, a company that helps corporations choose celebrity endorsers. The young women to whom the Kardashians appeal, he said, "tend to think that's pretty cool. That's something I might be able to achieve."

Television programming, especially on cable, is increasingly dependent on created rather than established celebrities. Turning nobodies -- or virtual nobodies -- into reality stars is cheaper than hiring actual somebodies. But the Kardashians have transcended that level. While personalities on Bravo's "Real Housewives" franchises and MTV's "Jersey Shore" and "The Hills" seem to exist to promote those shows, the Kardashians have turned their program into a promotional vehicle to expand their own empire.

Kris Jenner, the family matriarch and self-described "momager," said she had little time for those who criticized her brood for being "famous for nothing." She is too busy sorting through business opportunities, working on "SPINdustry" -- a Kardashian documentary special debuting Sunday on E -- and generally protecting what she only slightly self-consciously refers to as "our brand."
Interesting story, FWIW. More at the link.

See also, The Celebrity Cafe, "
When Talent is No Longer a Necessity in Hollywood."

And as far as the ladies, check out
The Classical Liberal, The Daley Gator, Theo Spark, Washington Rebel, and WyBlog.

4 comments:

Rusty Walker said...

"I've been catching so much flak for the babe-blogging I'll just cut and paste some social commentary from the Times' piece..."

Well, consider this incoming - incoming flak for buckling to the naysayers, in NOT posting the babe-blog!

Babe-post, please!
Gee, Dr. Douglas, I wager most conservatives look forward to your American tradition of babe blogging as an unexpected treat amid the grave world of politics!

One of your all-time classic posts was the female Isreali troops with weapons. Here is another: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W50LoowaFU4

Anonymous said...

Hey! I really admire this blog.

Not just saying that. It's really sharp.

Donald Douglas said...

Rusty: That "flak" includes my wife, so what can you do, I guess?

Rusty Walker said...

I see. I understand. Still, you might remind her the babe-blogs are being appreciated beyond your household.

One might respond to me, “Well, just go look at babes elsewhere.” Well, my wife subscribes to Playboy for me. So, I have no issue there. But, that isn't the point. The point is that it is visually effective, and to read the latest take on politics and then be surprised for a moment with a nice young lady, then move on to the next news item-adds variety. Maybe I am the only one that feel this way, but I don’t think so. It is a great American pastime. We are losing too many traditions.