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Book Review: Kardashian Kulture by Ellis Cashmore

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When the Kardashian-Jenner family first hit our screens back in 2007, nobody could have predicted that 12 years later they would have sky-rocketed from small-time reality TV stars to some of the most famous women on the planet.

Kim Kardashian-West and her sisters Kourtney, Khloe, Kendall and Kylie are a formidable team and arguably the most famous family in the world. Alongside momager Kris Jenner this clan have taken over the world - there’s barely a soul alive who hasn’t heard of the Kardashians.

Image credit: The Heart Truth, via Wikimedia Commons

It was only a matter of time before academics started to research into the sheer cultural phenomena that is Kim, Kourtney, Khloe and co – and Ellis Cashmore has done exactly that with his new book Kardashian Kulture.

Cashmore starts at the very beginning of the 21st Century, examining the life of arguably the original ‘Kardashian’, the late glamour model and reality tv star Anna Nicole Smith. Smith was most well-known for the huge scandal which surrounded her marriage to J. Howard Marshall, an 89-year-old oil tycoon (she was 26, and he died the following year).  

Cashmore opens the mind to the idea that the Kardashians as they are today, simply could not have existed without Smith. “I love the paparazzi. They take pictures and I just smile away. I’ve always liked attention...” does this sound familiar?

On the outset this seems like a book about the Kardashians, and whilst that is correct it’s also much more than that. Existing in a post #MeToo movement world, Cashmore discusses how these female celebrities have created a new wave of owning their sexuality.

Yes Kim Kardashian-West was made ‘famous’ after a sex-tape of her and then-boyfriend Ray-J leaked, but she took the sheer exploitation of her privacy and turned it into a multi-million dollar business for her entire family.

GIF via GIPHY

Cashmore also examines the idea of narcissism and how selfies and social media have bred a whole new culture of self-obsession. Who remembers the scene in Keeping Up With The Kardashians where momager Kris Jenner tells Kim to stop taking pictures of herself because her sister (Khloe) is going to jail?

Kardashian Kulture is an interesting look into how celebrities have changed the landscape of life in the 21st Century. It’s not an easy read, however, and is full of academic theory and sociological studies.

As the book ends Cashmore states that the public tires of everyone eventually, and although that’s true – he also may be underestimating the power of The Kardashians.

As we reach the mid-point of 2019, Kim Kardashian-West has a net worth of $350 million and 138 million followers on Instagram. Her younger sister Kendall Jenner is the highest paid model in the world, and youngest sister Kylie was named as the youngest self-made billionaire in the world by Forbes.

The power of the Kardashian-Jenners is undeniable, and 12 years since we first saw them it’s somewhat naïve to believe that they’ll be disappearing anytime soon.

Kardashian Kulture: How Celebrities Changed Life in the 21st Century (published by Emerald) will be released on July 19th 2019.




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