These blogs ask an analysis of themes from the course in pop culture. In previous blogs, I fixated quite quickly on trans* invisibility in popular culture. This drew me to read David Valentine, an anthropologist whose fieldwork is the community around an area in the west side of NY, so-called the Meat Market. In thinking about the different ways that violence is enacted on that ‘transgressive’, ‘sexualised’ community, he is aware of the violence that academic discourse can have on a community, this becomes his ethnographic problematic. He has written this problematic through the category transgender, using instead the term ‘transgender-identified’ (to deal with ‘conceptual mismatching’ between transgender/transsexual & to allow that people reject identifications), and he has written about this problematic in relation to trying to collect academic knowledge for a field like ‘Transgender Studies’. Thus he says autobiography and self-representation are often used sites for non-transgender-identified-people that lean toward analysis of the area (Valentine, The Making of A Field, pp.148-9).
Youtube is a contemporary apparatus through which self-representation/autobiography can be locally sourced. Thus, optimistically, this blog has in moments explored trans* Youtube self-representation. On the flip side however, I have leapt across different narratives appropriating those trans* narratives in the name of trans*rights. Thus, to provide balance, this blog is going to focus instead on the centrality and the sexual circulation of the female-body-which-is-surgically-altered to pop culture itself.
I am speaking of those images that ‘#break the internet’!!!! Click here for iconic Paper magazine article aptly titled, NO FILTER: AN AFTERNOON WITH KIM KARDASHIAN…
And let’s not forget the Kimojis, a set of over 250 emoji renderings and gifs inspired by Kim’s life, which launched in December and almost broke the App store. Kimojis, from the word emoji: a small digital image or icon [of Kim] used to express an idea or emotion in electronic communication. The female body cashed in on, set into motion in an economy of (sexual) circulation, reduced to a few pixels. When kimojis are faces they are barely granted expressions deviating from pout – an increasingly stiff/synthetic representation of female emotion.
The Kardashian klan, control to perfection their representation. Thematically we could frame the biological as unstable, and the feminine as beyond performance – to something as more plastic/cyborg/synthetic than flesh. Everything goes in the Kardashian family, so long as it revolves around the success of being woman, for the woman, with the woman – through her sexuality and her body. No one can keep up, either monetarily (estimated net worth $300million) or in terms of the sheer upkeep of these bodies, which is a documented all-day affair.
This blog post was conceived 4 years ago in Ifor Evans UCL halls, window open on the grumbling and horned Camden Road. There I first watched the sitcom Keeping Up With The Kardashians (KUWTK 4 quick use). Probably around season 4, I realised Kris Jenner as the only ruling monarch that mattered, bum implants firmly glued to her throne as ‘Momager’ to Kim, Kourtney, Khloé, Rob, Kendall, Kylie. Ex wife to Robert Kardashian (OJ Simpson’s lawyer), and Bruce Jenner (now transitioned to Caitlyn Jenner).The men around the Kardashian women are notoriously hard to visualise, relegated, dropping like flies: Scott and Lamar to rehabs; Rob’s been tucked in a back room of the estate empire in Calabasas for years; and of course, after male-to-female transition and divorcing Kris, Caitlyn Jenner and her own rival tv show I Am Cait.
The video below is a clip from the show, quotidian kardashian family scenes, everyone snapchatting the other.
An article in the magazine Spike, called The Family Is Sick, says what Keeping Up With The Kardashians seems to prove is that anything goes in the family – from incest, to under-age molestation, drug addiction, sexual reassignment, and serial marriages – as long as the family is strong. This is for the article authors (Chiara Bottici & Jamieson Webster) a mirror of the family that Freud depicts in his 1905 Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria. Though in that instance it wasn’t the (neurosis of the) Momager that was propped up by the circulation of sickness and money, it was the father Herr K.
What differs for me, however, between the two families is their claim to their own violence. Keeping Up With The Kardashians was/is their desired collective autobiography. The Kardashians’ self- ‘circulation of sickness and money’ is complex and embroiled in a mess of split assets fractured between the extended family, but was something the family sought for and seek (a new series airs tonight 12/3).
D. Valentine, The Making of A Field, in Imagining Transgender. Duke University Press. London. 2007. pp.143-172.
D. Valentine, “The Calculus of Pain”: Violence, Anthropological Ethics, and the Category Transgender. in Local Actions. Columbia University Press. 2004. pp.89-110.
The Family Is Sick – Chiara Bottici & Jamieson Webster on Freud’s Dora and the Kardashians: http://www.spikeartmagazine.com/en/articles/celebrity