Her smartphone game is extremely popular and extremely ridiculous. And totally genius.
Kim gives an age newly obsessed with self-documentation a perfectly vacant-stared mascot. Her preferred medium, the TV shows and the sex tape notwithstanding, is the photograph. And photos are extremely good at making their subjects seen and not heard.
But Kim! Kim steadfastly refuses to sell anything but herself. Or, to be more specific, she refuses to sell anything but the image of herself. She will feign no interest in baking or knitting or meditating. She seems to have no thoughts whatsoever about kale. She seems to have no thoughts, really, about much of anything. And therein lies her particular gift. She is a human, we can safely assume—she puts her Spanx on one leg at a time—but being human is, by definition, ordinary. And Kim is, by her own definition, extraordinary. She is a person who is also A Way of Life. She is her own ecosystem. She is her own value system.
That is the premise, at least, of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, an app that is also a game that is also, now, a phenomenon.
The game is free to download and play; but it allows—and encourages—in-app purchases. You use real-world money to win at Kim World. Which has meant, among other things, that Kim Kardashian is becoming even more explicitly what a reality star always will be, underneath it all: an entrepreneur. While she has long ranked among the highest-paid of the reality (“reality”) stars—her estimated net worth, as of this June, was $45 million—the game is on track to earn $200 million, with Kim’s 45-percent cut coming in at $90 million. So you can accuse Kim Kardashian of vanity or vapidity or any manner of metaphor, but, if you do, she will laugh all the way to the bank. And then use the ATM mirror to reapply her mascara.
In very short order, your boutique—So Chic, it is called—is visited by … Kim Kardashian. Which is not just a cool thing, but a useful thing. It is An Opportunity, and you are meant to take advantage of it. (Taking advantage is a big theme of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.) You are given two options: stay open late and help Kim get an outfit for a party she’s attending … or refuse her. (The game, however, will not actually let you refuse. Striving, in this moral universe, means always saying yes.)
So things continue apace. Your relationship with Kim grows. (Like everything else in the game, however, Kim is merely a means to end, and that end is Fame.) Kim, being magnanimous, invites you to a photo shoot; you go to said photo shoot; you go, afterward, to a party. And to more parties. And to more parties, each of escalating awesomeness.
There is a brute logic to all of this. There is also an economic essentialism to all of this. Every possible move in the game that is Kim Kardashian: Hollywood represents a strategic violation of the categorical imperative: The whole point is to use anything available to you—goods, money, other people—as means to your own self-furtherment. This is capitalism, essentially, stripped of its remaining niceties and applied to the unique vapidity of Hollywood social life.
Kim Kardashian: Hollywood is the game that Ayn Rand might have written, had Ayn Rand lived in the age of the smartphone and been a fan of bodycon skirts. It is what happens when objectification gives way to objectivism. "This game is so freakin stupid," iTunes customer Dmon555 complained, before giving it a 5-star rating.
In the Android store, Kim Kardashian: Hollywoodis sold under the category of “Adventure.” And this is where Kim really gets the last laugh. Because the adventure being undertaken is, essentially, to become Kim Kardashian. It is to mimic her life—the striving, the posing, the stubborn conviction that fame is its own reward. And it is also, outside of the game’s ecosystem, to help Kim Kardashian to realize her own quest to become Kim Kardashian. The game equates Kardashian with Hollywood itself; it might as well have thought more grandly. Kim Kardashian: Hollywood has made its way to Stephen Colbert. And to federal agencies, with the EPA mistakenly tweeting about the game. And to the House of Representatives, where John Dingell, D-MI, was recently compelled to declare, “I have no idea who/what a Kardashian is.”
The thing is: He does now.
I really didn’t want to read anything about Kim Kardashian…but then I did.