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October 7, 2013 | by  | in Features |
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Kim Kardashian is Better Than You

Ever want to get a tutorial on your side? Mention Kim Kardashian. Be sure to frame it in a slightly scornful tone, as if she’s a younger sister you’re trying to disown. Tilt your head slightly. The room will light up with sympathetic murmurs. Your tutor will smile knowingly. You will feel very validated.

Kim is the epochal target of ‘the problem with today’ rants, an alliterative and recognisable name for boring people the world over to rail against. She’s a celebrity for no reason! A bad role model! Ruining Kanye West!

Ugh.

Apart from being more played out than hating Facebook, most of the hate Kim receives is misguided, misogynistic, and utterly meritless. The hate is always blamed on her fame in the first place—the “Why is she even famous?” We should get this straight. Kim Kardashian is famous because she is attractive, on television, and has incredible media skills. Worshipping ‘great beauties’ is hardly new. I’d wager you all know who Cindy Crawford is, or Helen of Troy, but of course, that’s not what you really mean when you complain about her being famous. What you really mean is, “She’s famous from a sex tape!”

I mean, how could she? Film a private tape of some boring sex with her long-term boyfriend! For painfully obvious reasons, Kim’s received all the flak from the tape, despite it mostly consisting of Ray J moaning into the camera and telling us all how much of a man he is. Then, Ray J’s only remaining claim to fame is the tape and a shitty revenge song, but I digress. Kim and Ray J filmed a sex tape—privately—and then broke up. Four years later, someone who had rights to the tape—most likely Ray J, given the fact that his career was in tatters—sold it to a porn distribution company. Suddenly, this intensely private moment was the world’s plaything, and Kim’s life story was essentially reduced to ‘slutty, half-Armenian’.

What to do? Kim started by suing, eventually working out a $5 million settlement, but you can’t litigate away that kind of reputation. It would have been easy to retreat into semi-obscurity, to just accept the fact that whenever someone googles your name a blurry picture of you pretending to orgasm will pop up. But Kim was better than that. She took this absolutely horrific experience and completely obscured it. Six years later, she’s a multi-millionaire media personality, ambitious and successful in every venture she attempts, with literally the best baby-daddy in the world. Ray J, on the other hand, has failed to realise that his cultural importance started and ended with that Burial song that sampled him, clinging to his last bridge to fame by writing a song called ‘I Hit It First’* and trying to throw shade on Twitter. Ick.

The sex tape could have defined her. Instead, it was a stepping stone. She wrestled back control of her image, and is now paid thousands of dollars to utilise it, to blog on certain websites or wear certain shoes. And that’s your problem with her: the control.

We want our celebrities to be humbled by the attention, to remain bashful and grounded while we shower them with praise, or follow them with cameras. It makes the whole situation feel less weird. But everybody’s got a publicist. Kim is just more upfront about her fame, a more obvious signifier than other stars. She lays the artifice of celebrity culture bare, and that makes us uncomfortable. She knows you care about her life, and will probably find out about it whether she likes it or not, so she makes money off it. And when she does want privacy, Kim is ruthless at enforcing it: how many photos of North West have you seen so far?

And it is ‘you’. You are the ones who click on the stories about her. All of you.

Not that I blame you. Kim Kardashian’s life is interesting. She’s good-looking and charming. She’s had a fairly explosive love life. She drags out her vowels in a way that’s easy to mock. She has a child with the artist of our generation. You don’t have to feel bad about being interested, just stop whining about it.

Then, finally, there’s the role-model complaint, the same line we splurt at every female celebrity who dares to show sexual agency. Nobody complains about Keith Richards setting a bad example, or Justin Bieber. Kim Kardashian has no obligation to be your role model, plus she’s a great fucking role model. Strong, independent, and totally in control.

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Henry Cooke is a second-year BA student who used to have a MySpace name. He spends a lot of time defending Kanye West on Twitter (@henrycooke), and was one of the Salient feature writers for 2013.

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* Kim was married before she met him, by the way.

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