Mass media and popular culture have the capacity to shape the values and
norms of society. In contemporary society, the role of the celebrity is particularly
pervasive. The Kardashians are an American family with their own TV show
(“Keeping up with the Kardashians”). As such, they are an example of the mass
media genre of “reality TV” and the celebration of the celebrity. Moreover, the
Kardashians are the epitome of popular culture because their show and subsequent
lifestyles reflect consumerist values, trivial pastimes and superficiality.
Popular culture is a debated concept (Brown, 2011; Smith, 1999; Henry,
2008). Smith (1999) suggests that popular culture constitutes values and norms
that are promoted by the mass media and enjoyed by the majority of the population.
Henry (2008) adds that popular culture is the mass publication and promotion of
what is glitzy and superficial. Brown (2011) furthermore, argues that popular
culture is by definition negative and damaging. “Popular culture sees the death of
difference and in-depth thinking, and is ultimately the celebration of the trivial”
(Brown, 2011, p.19).
The consumerist values reflected in the show and lifestyles of the
Kardashians illustrate how they are the epitome of popular culture. For example, the
recent wedding on the TV show was paid for entirely by advertising revenue
(Kenny, 2012). Furthermore, Harris (2009) states that consumerism and popular
culture “are entwined and produce a self-fulfilling prophesy” (p.212). This
integrated reinforcement of consumerism and popular culture is also represented in
the Kardashians lifestyle and TV show in that the clothing worn by the lead women
(in particular, Kim Kardashian) are part of the Kardashians’ fashion label and
available for sale (Laylor, 2012).
The Kardashians’ father, Robert Kardashian came to fame as a defense
attorney on O.J. Simpson’s