Final Paper

Catherine Nardone

CM213- Research Proposal

Dr. Dwyer

For sale: Celebrity Lifestyles

In 2007, Keeping up with the Kardashians aired for the first time following the lives of the combined Kardashian-Jenner family. An entire hour once a week dedicated to the daily lives of this family in the spotlight, not including reruns of previous episodes, which are aired surprisingly frequently. Of course the family was wealthy but what significance had they had in society at that point? Other than their deceased father, who represented OJ Simpson during the infamous trial in the 1990’s, and aside from stepfather Bruce Jenner who was an Olympic athlete, Kim was the real star of the Kardashian clan. Kim debuted a sex tape earlier in 2007, ironically eight months before the show aired and so began her family’s fame in the entertainment world, which also opened up doors for all of them in other industries. Kourtney & Khloe, the other Kardashian sisters, have received their own shows and clothing store, DASH, after their premiere on the original show. Kim’s brother Rob was not forgotten, as he began a sock line for Nordstrom, and half sisters Kendall and Kylie even got modeling contracts, celebrity friends and internships with Seventeen magazine. All this and so much more, not because they worked hard and earned it but simply because of their last names. The names Kardashian and Jenner don’t entail talent in any specific industry (with the exclusion of Bruce & his Olympic career), but rather having money and a sister who’s sex tape leaked. Unlike the average celebrity leak, Kim’s fame has lasted for years as opposed to the usual short time these scandals appear for celebrities who are famous for actual talent. It is 2014 and Kim has created an entire empire for herself, and her family for the past 7 years, all from one bedroom video “leak”.

Kim is not the only celebrity cashing in on her fame wherever she can. Many other celebrities who are well known in one industry are taking advance of that fame throughout other markets. Essentially, these celebrities are trying to get their fans to support them in whatever they do apart from their original career. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, founded in 2008, is described as a wellness-blog-cum-travel-and-cooking-tip-sheet-cum-shopping website. Paltrow, originally noted for her acting and singing career, is credited with opening the door for celebrities, mostly actors, to begin brands of their own. Goop was described as a “lightning rod” for attacks on privileged and tone-death celebrities and noted as an unlikely model for career development among a certain swathe of Hollywood (Friedman). The list of other celebrities who have followed in Paltrow’s lead by starting their own lifestyle brands or cosmetic lines, are most common amongst female actresses. Drew Barrymore started Flower, a cosmetic brand, Jessica Alba founded the Honest Company, a natural baby products line, and Blake Lively began Preserve, a “Made in America” crafty vision brand. Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres started E.D., a holiday home ware line, that debuted on QVC and Reese Witherspoon plans on starting her own lifestyle brand titled Draper James in 2015 (Friedman). These brands are just examples of the many celebrities that have started a brand or beauty/fashion line that does not relate to their career.

Of course Kim’s situation is different, she didn’t start out with a talent, attract fans and create her brand from there, rather she was “victim” when her sex tape was revealed and that was what put her in the public eye. Specifically, what sets her apart from every other talentless girl who’s sex tape was released (that wasn’t a porn star), was that Kim came from a family of money. When you take into consideration her late father’s respected career, one might predict that Kim would be an embarrassment to the family. Instead her style and her image (aka her brand) were soon envied by woman ranging from all ages across the world, not to be confused, they did not want to be sex tape stars themselves they just wanted to be as attractive and desired by both men and women as Kim was, and still is. Which is where Kim relates to the rest of these celebrities that have turned their lifestyles into a brand. An image that becomes a brand that sells the lifestyle of said celebrity to anyone who idolizes that celebrity enough to pay, even amounts of money they can’t afford, just to have a product that relates their lives to that of their idol.

Do certain individuals in less fortunate economic situations feel that if they buy into the lifestyles of celebrities they can somehow feel more valuable as a person? A report by The Heritage Foundation, a D.C. think tank with a perspective favored by political conservatives, titled “Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What is Poverty in the United States Today?” discusses the definition of poverty and how it has changed over time (Schechter). The report compares what poverty used to be considered: people who could not afford basic necessities like food, running water and electricity as well as a roof over theirs and their family’s heads to how it is considered more recently, with people who can afford their rent, grocery and heating bills but can’t afford items that are considered luxuries, like smart phones, designer handbags and other brand name items. “You’ll be surprised to learn that many of the 30 million Americans defined as “poor” and in need of government assistance aren’t quite what you’d expect — rather than homeless and on the streets, the average poor American household has luxuries like air conditioning, cable TV, and Xbox video game consoles.” (Schecter). What does this have to do with Kim Kardashian and other celebrities who are selling their lifestyles? In a way, they’re part of the problem. By trying to increase their income by creating cosmetic companys, lifestyle brands, and other self-titled products, they’re increasing the amount of money people are paying for these products as opposed to more affordable items that serve the same purpose but without the title. A black tank top by the common under garment brand Hanes would cost one about $3 (Walmart). A black tank top from Kardashian Kollection, only varying from the Hanes one in that it has back-to-back uppercase K’s on the front, would run about $34. Oh, and that’s on sale (Sears). What is it that’s so valuable about the logo that convinces people it’s worth all the extra money, especially for people who can’t afford basic necessities and based on their income are considered in poverty? There’s multiple answers to this question, but they are mostly centered around the idea of rankism.

Rankism is defined as what people who are considered somebodies do to people who are considered nobodies (Fuller). That’s not to say every famous person is abusive of their power, but for the most part celebrities have the similar goals to the average person- they want to make as much money as they can so they never have to worry about debt or poverty, and can achieve all the things they want, whenever they want. Celebrities use their high-ups in rankism to convince their fans to invest in them wherever possible. The most common example of this has to be actors, whose characters in film are adorned by viewers. Actresses who play sweet, girl-next-door characters become idols to girls in their adolescent to late teens. These girls will buy into anything the actress is doing- they become convinced in order to achieve her perfect hair, make-up, clothes, body, and boyfriend they must do everything the actress does, even if the actress is nothing like the character she portrays on TV. Celebrities are more than aware that they have this control over people and use it to their advantage as a money making scheme. They’ll sell anything because they know people will buy anything, at any cost to have some form of familiarity with these celebrities. While wearing lipstick and other make-up products she created won’t turn you into Kim Kardashian, there still seems to be some flame of hope for people as they’re still buying into her and her products are still selling (though we’ve yet to see any carbon copies of Kim walking around and we can only hope it stays that way).

A similarity between the celebrities that have these brands and their presence on social medias is interesting, as Paltrow, Lively and Alba’s followers amount from between 100,000 to 7.7 million on popular social media site Twitter (Friedman). Kardashian takes the cake with a whopping 26.4 million followers on Twitter. All these followers are potential customers, and all the tweets and pictures they send out on their news feeds for all those people to see are advertisements, wither direct of indirect advertisements, in some way they are attracting attention for themselves and their brand, simultaneously. Pretty much anything that Kim can fit into 160 characters will get her attention and tons of retweets (sharing the post to your news feed, so that people who follow you, but not necessarily Kim herself, can see things she’s posted based on what you choose to retweet) and favorites (the Twitter form of liking something, like you would on Facebook). All these tweets, posts, photos and notifications posted by celebrities gets mixed into the news feed of those who follow them with the persons friends family, and anyone else they follow. This combination of celebrity personal posts with the rest of the people in a social media user’s life makes the celebrity feel like a friend, or at least an acquaintance of the person. The ability to see everything they post on social media the same way they see their friends post, as well as being able to see the celebrities life on TV through the news or reality TV shows creates a one-sided relationship with the average person. The celebrity has no idea this person exists, but the person could tell you so many details about the celebrity’s life, it’s almost scary. Just by reading the weekly tabloids, watching the newscasts they’re featured on and following the celebrity on social media sites with access to frequent personal posts, almost anyone can know a portion of the celebrities life effortlessly. Being informed of the day to day lives of celebrities takes them from being distant strangers to almost a friend figure for anyone in the public. When they bring the celebrity down from the high horse society puts them on, and puts them at the average persons level it’s like they’re equals, but the celebrity is just a better, achievable version of the average person. Almost like they’re friends, and when your friend discovers a way to make they look or feel better, you’d probably trust them and do as they tell you so you can feel or look the same. Making the celebrity the consumer’s friend, and having them create a product is like your friend saying “you would look good in these clothes!” or “I use this product so you should too!” (Friedman).

While most celebrity’s social media sites are indeed personal, they also create false ideas of reality and set unrealistic standards for followers. Here you’ll see Kim Kardashian’s Instagram home screen.

All of her images are either edited to perfection, or editing is unnecessary due to the professional make-up and hair stylist, top of the line designer clothes, and what is to be society’s idea of a perfect body wearing said designer clothes. With these, the paparazzi can never capture Kim looking anything less than perfect. To see these photos on a regular basis, from multiple celebrities at a time, it almost isn’t surprising that the average girl will go to unreasonable lengths, like paying insane amounts of money for products they can purchase much cheaper elsewhere, just to attempt to look and in their minds feel like said celebrities.

Works Citied

Friedman, Vanessa. “How Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Has Become a Role Model for Other Celebrities.” 14 Nov. 2014. The New York Times. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/16/fashion/how-gwyneth-paltrow-goop-has-become-a-role-model-for-other-celebrities.html?_r=0&gt;.

Fuller, Ph. D., Robert. “Why Do We Want To Be Famous?”. Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness Find a Therapist. 25 Sept. 2009. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. &lt;http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/somebodies-and-nobodies/200909/why-do-we-want-be-famous&gt;.

Kardashian Kollection. Sears. Web. 28 Nov. 2014. <http://www.sears.com/clothing-shoes-jewelry-clothing-women-s-clothing&Kardashian%20Kollection_Sears/b-1279778244?filter=Brand_storeOrigin&keywordSearch=false&sortOption=ORIGINAL_SORT_ORDER&viewItems=50&sName=View+All&gt;.

Lipsy. Kardashian for Lipsy. Web. 28 Nov. 2014. <http://www.lipsy.co.uk/store/kardashian#pagesize=40&gt;.

Sastre, Alexandra. “Hottentot in the Age of Reality TV: Sexuality, Race, and Kim Kardashian’s Visible Body.” Celebrity Studies. 1-2 ed. Vol. 5. 2013. Web. 26 Nov. 2014. <http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/19392397.2013.810838#tabModule&gt;.

Schechter, Dave. “Poverty in America: If Poor People Own ‘Luxury’ Items, Are They Really Poor?” <i>Newsroom</i>. CNN, 11 Aug. 2011. Web. 29 Nov. 2014. <http://newsroom.blogs.cnn.com/2011/08/11/poverty-in-america-if-poor-people-own-luxury-items-are-they-really-poor/&gt;.

“United States Unemployment Rate.” <i>Trading Economies</i>. 5 Dec. 2014. Web. 6 Dec. 2014. <http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/unemployment-rate&gt;.

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Kiese Laymon, “How to: Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: A Remembrance”

Pick out 5 sentences from Laymon’s essay that are notable for the
rhetorical and deliberate use of language.

1. The table is an oblong mix of mahogany and ice water.

2. The day that I’m awarded the Benjamin Brown award, named after a 21-year-old truck driver shot in the back by police officers during a student protest near Jackson State in 1967, I take the bullets out of my gun, throw it in the Ross Barnett Reservoir and avoid my Grandma for a long, long time.

3. Really, we’re fighting because she raised me to never ever forget I was on parole, which means no black hoodies in wrong neighborhoods, no jogging at night, hands in plain sight at all times in public, no intimate relationships with white women, never driving over the speed limit or doing those rolling stops at stop signs, always speaking the king’s English in the presence of white folks, never being outperformed in school or in public by white students and most importantly, always remembering that no matter what, white folks will do anything to get you.

4. Mama tells me that she is not talking about freedom. She says that she is talking about survival.

5.I’m playing with pine needles, wishing I had headphones—but I’m mostly regretting throwing my gun into the reservoir.

The Case of Reparations: Ta-Nehisi Coates

Coates deals with readers who are against his case by using facts, images, even a map from history that support his message. He uses lots of quotes and real world examples that have been swept under the rug, because they have not even come close to measuring up to the opposing point. These examples have all of course, for the most part, been brought up in history but dismissed, proven otherwise, or had opposing evidence that canceled it out. Coates take a different, and for many readers including myself, new approach to the issue.  He uses a persuasive mechanism is convince his reader that all other opposing evidence they are aware of is not necessarily the full truth. That there are pieces to the puzzle of this issue that they are not aware of and he is bringing these pieces to their attention to help them fill in the puzzle as a whole and see the complete picture. This helps with my writing because it will help me to convince readers who are skeptical of my topic and the point and issue that I am bringing to the table. They may feel differently and have set emotions about it, and thats fine, but the purpose of my paper would be to inform them otherwise. That other options are possible, physically and scientifically and however else I choose to demonstrate that through evidence in my paper. It’s also helpful because this assignment, at least to my understanding, is that we are not to persuade the reader but to inform them of an issue by using a current social issue of some sort as our point of entry. Once we use that point of entry and lead into what our topic will be, we should have the readers attention and curiosity regardless of their position on the topic.

Longform.com’s “Best of”- The F Word (allure.com)

Three things that made the essay interesting, noteworthy and valuable are that it is a relatable topic, it is well written in a fictional novel style, and some of the content is unexpected for the reader. I think Longform appreciated it because when you look at the title, you would expect an article about the “F word” to be on what most people refer to the F word. The vulgar, four lettered work that has been used as a noun, adjective and verb throughout the years by people of all ages and ethnicities. That is, fuck. Something your sibling would tell your mother if you said it in front of them by trying to prove your superiority or something. The F word Allure magazine refers to in this article is fat, and how it’s more offensive than the real F word.

Sarah Vowell- The Wordy Shipmates

I think the reason someone who doesn’t care about your topic should care about your essay because the topic could simply be an authors point of entry for a bigger issue, or something that seemingly is unrelated to the topic but in some way, they connect. The topic can be opened by introducing different view points from different situations as well as different perspectives on it. Various causes and effects that are associated with the topic could also be introduced in an essay that would cause the reader to care about it. From a readers perspective, if I encounter an essay regarding a topic I think is maybe over discussed I may not be enthusiastic to read that essay, but I also know that you can not judge a book by it’s cover. Although it is based on a topic I may not have much appreciation for, the perspective of the author and the direction they take the topic in, or how they “open it up” could be entirely different than anything on that topic I’ve ever read.  You can open up the topic by introducing a (seemingly) completely irrelevant topic, creating curiosity for the reader, and persuading them to read more. Opening up the topic also shows the reader a different side of the topic that they probably did not consider when they originally imagined the topic. Taking out a specific piece of the topic and dissecting it for the reader using in-depth evaluations of it in history, how it effects mankind, endless topics that are not usually considered by the average person. Opening the topic opens the readers mind, and allows them to see more possibility, not just for the topic the author is discussing but for other topics in the future that they may have a close minded view on as well.

In Defense of Complaining, In Defense of Chris Hayes

Dear Cat,
Okay so the article I read “In defense of Chris Hayes” was about a TV host andpolitical commentator, Chris Hayes, who said said some things about if we should call our soldiers heroes not because they aren’t courageous or brave, but because of the connotations of the word hero. He argues that it is a word that makes it seem like all wars we engage in are just. However Friedsdorfer (the author of the article) uses this instance to show the downfalls of the way reporting is done today, and what happens when the way reporting is done is more balanced. (Chris Hayes has one of the more balanced political shows out there). He shows that when things are done like this people tend to talk about it afterwards and misconstrue things that Hayes said, thus blowing the whole thing out of proportion.
So what was your article about?

– Sam

Sam,

I read the article called In Defence of Complaining, written by Sarah Kendzior. She begins by telling the reader about the movement called A Complaint Free World, launched by Reverend Will Bowen with the intention to get people to stop expression pain, grief and discontent. He did this by selling purple wristbands for people to buy, that served as a sartorial censor for people who were having issues. If you wanted to complain, you had to switch the wristband to the opposite wrist. If you go 21 days in a row without complaing (or switching wrists) you achieve a Certificate of Happiness that reads “Our words indicate our thoughts, our thoughts create our world.”
The rest of the article includes examples of people, mostly leaders (including Obama), who have been “anti-complaints” and it’s cousin “anti-excuses”.
The message of the article seems to be that complaining is crucial, because telling people not to complain is to say that complaining is unnecessary, when the best way to keep a problem from being solved is to deny that the problem exists. To complain is to address a problem, to tell one not to complain is to ask them to not speak of the issue in hopes that it will go away when it will really remain the same. The idea of “No excuses” is addressed as well, saying that anyone can overcome anything regardless of the odds against them when that is simply not the case. To complain and make an excuse for something is often seen as the alternative to taking action, when the author points out it actually makes awareness of the issue. Labeling people of different races, social standings, education levels, and nationalities saying they are “privileged” for whatever they may have is another issue the author addresses.
-Cat
Sam,

I think the articles have a relation where yours addresses how something simple is taken way out of proportion, and the one I read is how something that is actually more complex than it seems is treated very simply and used carelessly when in reality it has a larger affect on who it is said to and the message people send out when they say “stop complaining”, “no excuses” “it could be worse”, and “it’s always been like that”
Cat
Cat,
I agree and I also think that these two articles both try and get the point across that conflict breeds solutions. I think it is important for us as a people to understand this ans stop trying to only stick with the things we agree with, and only looking at one side of the argument. In the article I read  talked about how our nation has changed from being one that questions everything to one that questions almost nothing.

Sam

Consider the Lobster- David Foster Wallace

Originally writing about the experience of the Maine Lobster Festival, Wallace instead uses it as a point of entry to discus the issue of lobsters, how humans consume them, how they and other live animals are treated, and just a lot of information about the lobster. He goes into such great depth with the topic of the lobster, only a few paragraphs are dedicated to the festival itself while the rest of the ten page article is specifically on the lobster and the inhumanities behind how they are prepared for humans to eat. Wallace mentions how in history lobsters were a lower-class food and have since evolved into a delicacy. He uses this as an opportunity to criticize the festival, going into detail and painting a picture for the reader of how cheaply the delicacy is served at the occasion. He makes small insults about how overpriced seating was and how small the servings were, as well as messy and not nearly enough napkins provided for attendees. While the criticism of the event continues, so does Wallace’s lecture on lobsters (a more suitable title for the piece). He includes the ways they are served, where they go in the winter, when the prime “lobster catching” season is for fishers, and the unappetizing fact that lobsters are done cooking when you can pull one of the antennes out of their head with ease.  It becomes obvious about halfway through the piece that Wallace is just pointing out all the inhumane and unethical aspects of cooking a lobster. In a powerful question, “Is it all right to boil a sentient creature alive just for our gustatory pleasure?” With this I, as the reader, took into consideration that when you think about it, when cooking a lobster, it is not already “deceased” before it begins to be prepared to be served. The live lobster is put in the pot of boiling water and whomever is cooking just waits for it to die, waits until the meat is fully cooked, seasons it and then bon appetite! Wallace probably shocked a lot of readers who were assuming they would obtain something else out of the article on the festival, like an honest review on the experience not an entire essay guilting them about how we consume lobster. I say we as in the human species, not including myself as I don’t eat fish or any form of seafood. The following statement from a man whose son worked in the lobster business really set Wallace off for about the next five pages of his article. “There’s a part of the brain in people and animals that lets us feel pain, and lobsters’ brains don’t have this part.” Wallace responds with stating how this statement is incorrect in about 11 different ways, including scientific argument about the structure of the lobster, the human, pain sensors and more arguments that are science based. He continues to dig into the conscious of the reader, about animal cruelty and the process that they go through in order for us to enjoy a meal. He brings up ideas that most meat eaters choose to put in the back of their head when it comes to eating a once living creature. It’s obvious as the reader to see that Wallace was more passionate about people taking more into consideration when they eat once living animals, especially ones that were living moments before they were being prepared for one of our meals, than the Maine Lobster Festival.