Kim Kardashian’s Money Is the Price of a Loss of Privacy

COMMENTARY | A celebrity is a person whose prominent profile and public persona create a measurable fascination and following by the public. A person becomes a celebrity by attracting and being able to extend media attention by their own continuing actions and by the eager response of the public.

Kim Kardashian is a classic example of the sudden rise to celebrity of a minor actress with good social connections. Two incidents occurred to create the opportunity for Kim’s public exposure and leap to celebrity.

The first incident was her father’s involvement in the 1995 high-publicity murder trial of O.J. Simpson. According to Douglas O. Linder, of the UMKC School of Law, the 133 days of televised courtroom appearances resulted in 91 percent share of all turned-on TVs on the day of the verdict. The extreme public fascination with the case made Kim’s father’s unusual last name familiar to trial watchers or 91 percent of the television-watching public.

Then, in February 2007, a video of Kim having sex was leaked. The unusual family name had enough residual media power from the Simpson trial to spike interest in Kim. Her beauty and position as victim generated instant support from the public, and her celebrity was born. The video’s popularity continues with views during the weekend of her wedding alone topping two million.

Social, public fascination is valuable. Media will cover an event or person for a brief moment when the public interest with the topic is spiking. As soon as the public attention is caught by the next event the public’s attention dollar will move away from the media outlet. The owners of media productions know they must maintain their audience in order to sell advertising to generate a profit.

Focused media attention is not enough to create celebrity. The individual at the center of the attention has to exhibit qualities the public finds fascinating. To maintain celebrity, the individual has to retain media focus and increase public fascination with their personal life.

To achieve this, the celebrity has to work hard to remain interesting. Public interest is fickle. While Kim Kardashian’s short-lived marriage remains controversial, it is also the best soap opera style storyline playing out in the modern reality show format today. It isn’t important if she fabricated the affair, it’s important that the public still wants to tune in, like a guilty pleasure. This makes her relevant.

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