On the Natch

Baby Boomer, Grrrrandma, Urban Goddess
APRIL 26, 2012 4:40PM

Kardashian Kulture, Explained (Or Where Have All the Celebrity Poets Gone?)

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In today's Slate magazine online, the ever-charming Simon Doonan asks, "Where did all the accomplished people go?" It's true, there used to be celebrity poets. Now there are Kardashians. I think I know why.
Marshall McLuhan, the celebrated (!) Canadian communications theorist, philosophised that "the medium is the message," and boy was he right. In Understanding Media (1951) McLuhan claimed that when one of our senses is "extended" through a new medium, our sensory balance is altered in such a way that the other senses become dimmed or "narcotized." The hot (medium) versus cool (medium) distinction claims that hot media deliver information in high definition, and hence require little effort from the receiver. Cool media, on the other hand, provide little information, forcing the receiver to fill in what is missing to make sense out of the message, thus demanding a high degree of participation by the receiver."  
The above is a quote from the Gale Encyclopedia of Biography (online). 
Since the invention of the mass medium of the movies, the sense that has been heightened is that of sight, the sense to which Kim Kardashian (and her ilk) most appeal. Other senses, those that might be required in order to appreciate the cultural celebrities of my youth--the Mahalia Jacksons, the Bertrand Russells, the Nureyevs and the Callasses and the Barnards have been, as McLuhan foresaw, "narcotized."  
Since our collective intellect (including our appreciation of discourse, philosophy, and the life of the mind in general) has been, in McLuhan's parlance, drugged,  about all we can do is goggle "in dumb amaze" at what Simon Doonan in today's Slate online calls "audacious women with impressive racks."
I may be wrong, but I don't think so.  How else to explain the universally decried yet appallingly tenacious ubiquity of these talentless ciphers, the Kardashians? They look good, and that's all we are capable of appreciating any more, evidently.
What do you think?

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