Kanye and Kim Take America
Moynihan, Michael C., Newsweek
Byline: Michael C. Moynihan
Delving into the mysteries of the Kardashians.
n New Year's Eve, Kanye West interrupted his Atlantic a[umlaut]City concert to announce an urgent bit of news. "Stop the music," West demanded. "Can we make some noise for my baby mama right there?" As 5,000 shrieking fans were doubtless aware, West had just announced that Kim a[umlaut]Kardashian--his girlfriend and subject of his new love song, "Perfect Bitch"--was pregnant.
The tabloid press salivated, the Twittersphere churned with speculation and congratulations, and some of us--admittedly a small group--yet again wondered why Kardashian was the object of such public scrutiny. "Not to be outdone by the Brits," wrote U.S. News and World Report, "American royalty" Kanye West and Kardashian would be providing us with an heir. And I knew almost nothing about the Duchess of Calabasas.
My allergy wasn't elitist: the tabloid industry wasn't beneath me; my love for Kipling and Keats doesn't preclude an appreciation of Kardashian sisters Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney; and I don't think reality television is a debased and pornographic genre. Indeed, I'm a dedicated reader of the New York Post and the Daily Mail. And a decade ago I gleefully consumed The Osbournes; empty calories, for sure, but ones that featured the wonderfully talented--and often brilliantly funny--Ozzy Osbourne. But why would one be interested in the daughters of deceased O.J. Simpson lawyer Robert Kardashian?
With the news of Kardashian's pregnancy and the resulting media storm, it was finally time to steep myself in Kardashiana, to watch the shows and read the books, to trawl the gossip magazines and celebrity blogs. My existing knowledge of Kardashian could be summed up in two related facts: she has a rather generous behind, which is photographed and analyzed in more detail than potential drone-strike targets, and she made her acting debut in a much-discussed, much- downloaded sex tape. I was vaguely aware of the ubiquitous product endorsements, like the "Kardashian Kard," a prepaid debit card promptly removed from the market after Connecticut's attorney general questioned its exorbitant fee structure, and QuickTrim, a Kim-, Khloe-, and Kourtney-endorsed weight-loss product that resulted in a class-action lawsuit for making "false, misleading, and unsubstantiated" health claims.
One wants to be culturally literate, and as America is to be blessed with another Kardashian--one whose first photograph will be worth seven figures (with infant blemishes immediately Photoshopped into the memory hole)--a certain level of knowledge was required to participate in this cultural moment.
To decode the reasons for the family's fame, I indulged in a Netflix marathon of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, their hugely popular reality-TV show. The series was successful enough to have midwifed three successful spinoffs: Khloe and Lamar, Kourtney and Kim Take New York, and Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami.
The very first bit of dialogue in the very first episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians was hardly clarifying. Establishing that Kim would be the show's breakout star--she's the prettiest one, and in the world of reality television that's what matters most--the other family members ruminate on Kim's "junk in the trunk." But I already knew about this talent. When properly introduced to viewers, though, we're told that Kim works as a "wardrobe stylist," but as the show's popularity expanded so too did her resume. Her Wikipedia biog raphy distills her new occupations: "Kim Kardashian is an American socialite, television personality, businesswoman, fashion designer, model, author, and actress." (There is often an inverse relationship between one's actual and advertised skill set, as demonstrated by Paris Hilton's Wikipedia entry, which describes her as a "socialite, television personality, businesswoman, fashion designer, entrepreneur, model, actress, producer, author, and singer. …