Why is Kim Kardashian Famous?
"It vexes me... I'm terribly vexed." Commodus, Gladiator
Why is Kim Kardashian famous? Truly, this vexes me. Her reality show, while popular for E!, possibly cannot account fully for Kim's -- and everybody calls her "Kim" -- incredible wealth ($35 million estimated and counting) and celebrity (9.4 million Twitter followers and counting; CNN, by contrast, has a mere 2.5 million).
I am also struck by the very peculiar type of celebrity that Kim Kardashian has. By "peculiar" I mean that for some strange reason particular to her brand of fame we are privy to what can only be properly construed as knowledge of an extremely biological nature about Kim Kardashian. We know, for example, that Kim's ass is real. Further, we have the X-Ray to prove it:
And there is the obligatory sex tape. Of Kim's surfaces nothing is hidden on that tape.
Finally, we know that Kardashian has not stopped taking birth control and is actively seeking to become pregnant. After these revelations it is going to be difficult, one imagines, for Kim to come up with any more tantalizing biological novelties with which to feed the tabloids. DNA samples perhaps?
I bring these things up because they sort of answer my initial question as to the why's of Kim Kardashian's international and digital renown. This new reality show fame, this Kim Kardashian fame, is of a different nature entirely than what we are used to from "our" celebrities. I say "our" because the public has always thought that they -- we -- have proprietary rights over the private lives of celebrities. A whole gossip industry sprung up around which-celebrity-is-sleeping-with-whom. Nothing new there.
This new fame, this B-List nation fame, involves a liberation from the limitations of shame. That's new. It obliterates the line between the private and the public. There are no limits. We almost expect our biggest celebrities to do some experimental form of gonzo porn. In the past we always learned from the gossip columns via veiled references -- "canoodling" -- what went on in the bedrooms of the famous. And the famous back then had to have a talent of some kind -- extreme beauty, an Oscar, an elected office. What simple and naive creatures we were then. Now our celebrities only have to be attractive -- and sometimes not even that -- and talented in their extreme lack of shame.
Once upon a time people became famous for extreme knowledge, now they are famous for our extreme biological knowledge of their anatomy.