PARIS — Kim Kardashian was reportedly robbed here. At gunpoint. In her flat, by masked men who tied her up and escaped with some $10 million worth of jewelry. Her spokesperson said she is fine. And that is good news.
What has bubbled up in the aftermath of this story is a geyser of schadenfreude, as well as a healthy dose of skepticism that this robbery truly unfolded as described. Talk to anyone on the streets of Paris or in the lines for the fashion shows that she was here to attend, and you'll hear rumblings that it was all a stunt; check out the comments posted to the news stories and you'll see uglier comments. Could it be part of the lucrative reality show that is Kardashian's life? There has been dark humor. And outright mocking.
It's fair enough to argue that the story of one woman getting robbed has been blown out of proportion with "breaking news" alerts and TV live shots. No less than the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, tweeted her condemnation of the robbery and promised Kardashian that she will always be welcome in Paris. Countless anonymous tourists who've been victims of crimes here would love a similar reassurance.
Still, being robbed at gunpoint is serious. But the gravity of the Kardashian incident does not seem real to many cynics, because nothing about her life — as it has been presented, in detail, to the public — seems like uncalculated truth.
In the hours and days before the robbery, Kardashian was making the rounds of fashion shows here, dutifully chronicling her designer ensembles and her spectacular cleavage on Instagram. She was at Balmain where designer Olivier Rousteing paid homage to women, including her, who inspire him. She sat front row at Off-White, where she wore a sheer tube top. And she turned up at Balenciaga dressed in one of the brand's distinctive off-the-shoulder trench coats and no makeup — or so she maintained on Instagram. And in the hours before the robbery, she was at Givenchy.
At any given moment, she was trailed by the roiling mob of photographers that is a de facto partner of brand Kardashian. Pretty much anyone interested could have plotted her entire day's schedule via social media. This is not to say that she deserved to be robbed or should have expected such an attack. She did not.
But it does help to explain some of the jaded reaction, which other famous folks — from James Corden to Chrissy Teigen — have decried as lacking in empathy or even common decency.
Kardashian does not seem real. Every part of her life — fertility struggles, pregnancy and marriage — have been in the public domain. She seems less a person and more of an idea, a personality, an icon, a scourge, a curiosity.
Almost all celebrities spend some part of their lives grappling with how they will deal with the public. Many will only really turn up when they have a project to sell. Their promotional interviews are peppered with a bit of personal chit-chat that gives their fans a sense of their personality. Thus are they humanized. Others manage to simply live their lives, their presence at the local school or coffee shop so ordinary that for the most part they cease to turn heads.
Kardashian helped to pioneer a new kind of celebrity — one whose job is fame. One who is omnipresent but untouchable. Glossy, air-brushed. Perfectly imperfect. Enabled by fashion and its myth-making ability. But in some ways, a victim of it, too.
Fashion designers love her willingness to wear the most outré runway ensembles out in public, precisely the way they imaged them — even if that fantasy runs to the ridiculous. And then fashion editors quietly express their shock that she actually wore such a get-up.
Her fans, of course, love her no matter.
The reaction to the Kardashian robbery has, in many quarters, been unkind. But that's not because people don't have empathy for a woman, a mother, a wife. They just don't have empathy for a hollow brand.
And in the process of building her significant wealth and fame, it's the brand — not the person — that people know.
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