In defence of Kim Kardashian, sort of, February 2017

It’s a measure of the strange times we’re living in that Trump has made Kim Kardashian a kind of political hero. The celebrity known for being the poster girl of vacuous, crass consumerism, tweeted statistics highlighting the nonsensical nature of the president’s travel ban. It was particularly admirable because it’s hard to imagine that many of her 50.1m Twitter followers have the refugee crisis at the top of their personal agendas, more used as they are to Kim tweeting pictures of her cleavage.

What makes Kardashian so disliked by people like me is that she seems to embody Instagram culture’s philosophy that image is more important than anything else, which is why her refugee tweet was so noteworthy. The other charge that is regularly thrown at her is that she is famous for being famous and that she doesn’t have any talent. But this seems to me to be confusing the message with the medium.

Whatever you think of Kardashian as a person, or the philosophy that seems to underlie her ‘brand’, she is clearly exceptionally talented. She is able to create images that are phenomenally effective in the way they connect with people. Her Instagram feed has over 90m followers, and the pictures she puts up regularly have over 1m likes and many thousands of comments. In many ways she has made herself like the female Bond, women want to be her and men want to sleep with her. She has perfected the art of creating images that embody sex appeal, glamour and hedonism.

If Kardashian had been brought in to manage another celebrity’s image and achieved the same results she would be considered a commercial genius. Saying she has no talent is like saying a commercial lawyer has no talent because they are creating a complex tax avoidance vehicle rather than drafting legislation to protect human rights. Just because the one thing is less worthwhile than the other doesn’t mean that it takes less skill. And as writers we need to remember the opposite is just as true, that trying to create something that’s ‘worthwhile; doesn’t automatically mean it is artistically successful. A poem doesn’t get a starter for ten just because it’s a poem.

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