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Simon Kelner: Blight on society, fame-craving dolt or role model?

Kelner's view

Simon Kelner
Thursday 21 June 2012 10:06 BST

What do you think sums up "almost everything that is wrong with Western society"? Exporting war and sedition to faraway countries to exploit their natural resources? A capitalist system designed to ensure the rich get richer and the poor get poorer? Greedy bankers? Politicians? Journalists? The Diamond Jubilee on the BBC?

None of the above, I'm afraid. According to Dr Helen Wright, a boarding school headmistress and a leading light in Britain's private education system, the moral decay of the modern world is personified by a woman of whom, until yesterday, I knew very little about. Exactly who is Kim Kardashian? I asked someone young enough to be my daughter and it turns out that her fame springs from a home-made sex video she filmed with her boyfriend that somehow went public. She sued the company who released it and eventually settled the case for $5m.

From there, through reality TV, nude modelling and liaisons with male celebrities (including a 72-day marriage), she's got where she is today: very rich, very famous and very much derided.

Wikipedia describes her occupation as "businesswoman, socialite, TV personality, model and actress", but to Dr Wright, her influence on today's society is rather more pernicious.

The doctor is particularly exercised by a front cover of Zoo magazine with the headline "The hottest woman in the world" (Kardashian, not Dr Wright). "Is this really what we want our young people to aim for?" asks Dr Wright. And then, warming to her theme, she maybe gets a little carried away. "The descent of Western civilisation," she avers, "can practically be read into every curve, of which, you will note, there are many." I'd never been invited to study carefully a picture of Miss Kardashian, but, my goodness, she's right. About the curves, anyway. Not so sure about the "Western civilisation" bit.

What Dr Wright says next is possibly more interesting: "There may be some messages about hard work buried in there – I expect she has to slave in the gym to keep that posterior in shape – but these are very hidden messages, buried under the other messages surrounded by glitz and sparkle."

Now I don't know for sure, but I expect that Miss Kardashian has to work very hard indeed, not in the way nurses or coal miners do, but not just to keep her bum up to scratch either. When you're famous for not very much and your livelihood depends on maintaining your presence in the public eye, you have really to work at it.

I think anyone would find that – plus having photographers follow your every move – a rather exhausting existence. In a society which praises talent above hard work, perhaps Kim Kardashian can, in a certain light, be seen as a rather admirable role model.

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