Kim Kardashian West is well-known as an American reality television personality, socialite, businesswoman and model. She was first introduced to the world in 2007 through a leaked sex-tape and since then has become a public figure who is famous for being famous. On October 2, 2016, while in Paris, Kardashian was tied up, gagged and robbed at gunpoint inside her hotel suite. The thieves, who have still not been caught, managed to escape with more than $14 million worth of jewellery. Having lived almost her whole life within the spotlight, she’s not shy of cameras but after this incident, Kardashian has taken a break from social media and has stayed out of the public’s eye. In this piece, I will be looking at four articles which were released in response to the news of the crime. The first, “The three worst kinds of reactions to the Kim Kardashian robbery”, is written by Rebecca Shaw and outlines the many different responses to the star’s ordeal. The second article, “Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint. Now she’s being mocked for it”, by Robin Givhan, portrays Kardashian as less than human; a brand, and thus demonstrates how “unreal” and “staged” the incident seems to many cynics.” The third article, “I wanted Kim Kardashian to die”, written by self-confessed feminist, Vanessa de Largie, discusses Kardashian’s influence over young girls and their body image. And the fourth article, “Is Kim Kardashian Lying About Getting Robbed at Gunpoint?”, by Paul Resnikoff, lists 13 “bullshit flags” about why the robbery doesn’t make sense.
In “The three worst kinds of reactions to the Kim Kardashian robbery”, Shaw starts off her article with a disclaimer. She is not a fan.
“Let me start by saying that I don’t watch ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’ or associated programming… I also believe there are many reasons you can dislike and criticise the Kardashians… That is not the issue here,”
She clearly states that she has no relation whatsoever to Kim Kardashian or her life, and is neither interested nor attracted to her world of expensive jewellery and high fashion. Instead, she describes herself as “a human being that has empathy inside their bitter and worn out shell of a body.” By using sarcasm, Shaw attempts to demonstrate the severity of the issue at hand. She questions how it could be possible for people to possess so much hatred towards another human being, that they wish death upon them. She clarifies, “If you aren’t aware, empathy is this kind of feeling that should conceivably enter your body/brain when you are trying to understand and share the feelings of another person.” By specifying that, in a situation like this, empathy should most definitely be felt through the brain, and dumbing down such a seemingly obvious definition, Shaw implies those who reacted otherwise are emotionless and relatively stupid. She reinforces this implication with the use of a gif.
Shaw’s principal claim is that much of the public have been very immoral in their reactions to the robbing of Kim Kardashian and while this is an evaluative claim based on a personal value judgement regarding Kim Kardashian’s right to live and the idiocy of those who think otherwise, I personally agree with her assertion. She uses rhetorical questions to drive her point home, grilling her readers about their morality, and it is at this point that her target audience becomes very clear.
“How does this not hit you on a humanity level? How are you not automatically filled with concern at how terrifying that experience must have been,” she asks, as if speaking to a young child. She appears to be targeting those who reacted in a way that implied Kardashian should have been killed. Shaw quotes a tweet by user @TheHouseOfWTF which said “Kim Kardashian was held at gunpoint in a Paris hotel. Man will be charged with not pulling the trigger and saving humanity for mediocrity,” to further prove how incredulous and unbelievable this kind of reaction is. In the first half of the article, Shaw tries to persuade her readers of the severity of their negative reactions by using sarcasm, child-like explanations and rhetorical questions which prompt her readers to questions themselves. The second half of the article explores three reasons behind the cruel reactions.
While Shaw emphasises that Kardashian is a person just like you or me and condemns the unforgiving nature of the responses, Givhan, in “Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint. Now she’s being mocked for it”, tries to justify them by portraying Kardashian as less than human. He describes her as “less a person and more of an idea, a personality, an icon, a scourge, a curiosity.” He reasons that every part of Kardashian’s life, from her fertility struggles to her extravagant wealth has been in the public domain, and as a result, she does not seem real. While Givhan accepts that being robbed at gunpoint is a serious crime and issue, he convinces his readers that Kardashian’s unnaturally perfect life filled with “uncalculated truths” makes it seem to cynics as though nothing about her life is factual, and this robbery is just another staged, publicity stunt.
Givhan’s principle claim states that Kim Kardashian’s robbery is just one in a series of staged events that make up her life. Once again, it is an evaluative claim, based on the idea that Kardashian’s life is too glamorous to be real. Givhan tries to emphasise his point by describing the hours and days before the robbery. He recounts Kardashian’s visits to fashion shows and expensive stores, wearing designer clothing and documenting everything on her social media but he fails to mention that this sort of public presence is her job. He demeans her by stating “Pretty much anyone interested could have plotted her entire day’s schedule via social media,” as if it is a bad thing, but as he mentions later on, Kardashian is a celebrity whose job is fame. Her sponsored twitter and Instagram posts are worth $10,000 – $25,000 each, and by flaunting designer clothing and making appearances at fashion shows and high-end stores, she is only doing her job.
Givhan specifically states that despite putting her life up on social media, this does not mean she “deserved to be robbed or should have expected such an attack.” But the fact that this sentence had to be written implies many people believe that by being such a public a figure, she should have seen it coming. This article is, on one hand, justifying the terrible comments on the basis of her being less than human for flaunting her fame and fortune, and on the other, stating that this is her job and career and she did not deserve to experience such a frightening episode with her fame as the reason. I feel as though Givhan wrote this article in an attempt to mediate the situation at hand and find a truce between those hating on Kardashian saying she deserved to die, and those who are appalled by such negative responses. The result, however, is a confusing and sometimes hypocritical mess.
The title of my third article, “I wanted Kim Kardashian to die,” is pretty self-explanatory. Largie, just like Shaw, starts off with a disclaimer about not liking Kim Kardashian. But while Shaw is considerate enough to consider, “valid and thoughtful and reasonable criticism of the Kardashian phenomenon,” Largie describes her as soulless and contributing nothing to society. She is very emotive with her language using high modality terms to emphasise her distaste. “I have zero interest in anything without a soul,” she says, referring to Kardashian as a “thing”, not even worth humanising. Largie later refers to her as “Kimmy” an otherwise common nickname, used with a sarcastic tone in order for it to sound derogatory.
After a few offensive opening paragraphs, Largie delves into her principle claim that Kim Kardashian has a huge effect on body image and a secondary claim that people that have nothing to offer to the world, and make others feel inadequate are not worth living. While her first claim is relatively factual, her second is a vicious attack to this woman’s right to live. Largie questions,
“Where was the empathy for young girls who are made to feel inadequate because of the Kardashian tribe? And where was the empathy for young girls who have consulted with a plastic surgeon in order to conceive the nose, bosom or butt Kimmy insists are real?”
She then introduces data from a survey which revealed that “body image” was the number one concern for young people aged 11-24, and implies that this is due to a desire to attain a figure similar to that of Kardashian’s. However, body image is influenced by a multitude of factors, and while celebrities are of course included in this range of facets, it is not possible for Kim Kardashian to have influenced every single statistical figure. Largie argues that the “abundance of literature online” including a Wikipedia page with 14 easy steps to transform into Kim Kardashian is why many young girls have been made to feel inadequate.
I understand Largie’s argument to be an over-exaggeration of the idea of an eye for an eye. She is portraying Kardashian as someone with power and beauty, who uses this to influence youngsters subsequently causing them to view themselves in a negative light for not being attractive enough. Largie begs her readers for empathy for these young girls who are victimised by this seemingly perfect Kardashian clan. Largie likens Kardashian to a bully, implying she deserved what she got and more, in response to the harm she’s done to so many impressionable youth. What she fails to identify, is that Kardashian doesn’t necessary intend on negatively affecting people. She does her job as a public figure, confident and true to herself, not concerned about how her conviction to live her life affects others.
Largie asks a rhetorical question posed toward Kardashian, “When you offer so little to the world, is it any wonder that people react viciously to you when something tragic occurs?” It is interesting to see how stubborn Largie is with her secondary claim. She writes as if people are only entitled to their lives if they have something to give to the world in return. This is an unbelievably skewed and immoral world view that I, personally, cannot agree with.
The fourth article I have chosen, “Is Kim Kardashian Lying About Getting Robbed at Gunpoint?”, is an interesting look into the information about the incident, and why it doesn’t all add up. Resnikoff has compiled a list of 13 “bullshit flags” that he identified causing him to be sceptical about the attack.
His first bullshit flag delves into the fact that Kardashian was supposedly alone in her room at the time. However, in reality, Kardashian is always flanked by people, ready to jump into action if trouble arises. Resnikoff notes that Kardashian even bragged that her bodyguard was “always in (her) shot.” If we disregard her bodyguards, bullshit flag 10 highlights the absence of Kardashian’s children. They were in Paris at the time, and their father was in the middle of a concert, so where were they? Bullshit flag 11 calls attention to the fact that although a Kardashian spokesperson said the robbers had locked her in the bathroom, it is not possible to lock a bathroom from the outside.
The whole article aims to claim that the robbery was completely fabricated and uses “evidence” to back the claim. However, whether it can be labelled a factual claim or not is subjective and related to the truth behind the so-called “evidence” presented.
It is interesting to compare the techniques used between these four articles to present their views and claims to their target audiences. The first article acts as an overview of the situation. It introduces the issue of the Kardashian robbery as a serious incident which must have been terrifying. Shaw reinforces that regardless of who Kardashian is, the fact is that she is a victim of a horrific crime and deserves empathy and understanding for experiencing such an ordeal. As if explaining to a young child, Shaw is repetitive and simplistic in her language, asking rhetorical questions to prompt her readers to self-reflect. The second article portrays Kardashian as a non-human entity. Givhan refers to her as a brand and pushes the idea that since her life seems so staged, this robbery probably is too. However he also agrees that it was a horrific incident and for someone who was just doing her job, she did not at all deserve it. The third article is angry and harsh, blaming Kardashian for disillusioned youth who are concerned about their bodies, and emphasising that she was well-deserving of what she faced. Largie justifies her claims with data and tries to convince her audience that Kardashian is bad and that the world would be better off without her. The final article is a list of all of the little things that don’t add up when it comes to the story of the robbery. Taking a similar stance to the second article, Resnikoff uses a “factual basis” to demonstrate how and why he believes the whole incident was staged. And successfully puts doubt into his readers’ minds. Even I was slightly swayed by his accusations.
The internet is a place where everyone has the right to express their opinions, and it is only through this sort of freedom of speech that we can learn about conflicting perspectives within the general public. The different methods of conveying one’s ideas and claims and the techniques with which authors try and convince their readers is always interesting to analyse and study and for such a public figure like Kim Kardashian, who has many fans and supporters, there is a lot to be said, and a lot that should, perhaps, remain unsaid.