Last week noted celebutard Kim Kardashian raised the bar for self-important narcissism so high that, given the Kardashian kompulsion to khristen everything with a ‘k,’ maybe we should start calling it “karcissism.” Narcissism, we all learn in grade school, is named for the Greek myth of the man so vain he looks into a pool of water and sees himself, and can’t look away. Karcissism would be the myth of the woman so vain she looks at someone else, sees herself, and calls her attorneys.
Apparently Ms. Kardashian saw this Old Navy ad and decided that the girl at its center is so flagrantly stealing her look, style, identity, and persona (to paraphrase her attorney), she is owed $20 million, and has filed lawsuits accordingly.
The so-called lookalike, Melissa Molinaro, is indeed an olive-skinned brunette with a similar hairstyle, but if you ask me, the similarities end there. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and Kim obviously (if inexplicably) has her fans, but Ms. Molinaro is much prettier, and seems to have a bit more restraint (or at least better taste) with the cosmetics. In addition, she sings and dances throughout the ad, two things that Kim Kardashian has never been accused of even attempting. Singing and dancing, you see, are talents, and Kim has amply demonstrated over her four-plus years in the public eye that she has none of those (whatever Ray J might tell you).
The ad is a dance number, and apart from a moment where Molinaro is surrounded by paparazzi, I can’t see how anything here could be construed to be a specific homage or parody or whatever of Kim Kardashian. When I think of Kim Kardashian, I think of three things:
1) she has big butt.
2) she got famous by doing a sex tape.
3) she has two (ugly) sisters riding her coattails.
None of those characteristics, which I would argue constitute the whole of her “look, style, identity, and persona” — at least to the general public — are in evidence in this ad. Call me conventional, call me exploitative, but if I’m directing a video that is supposed to evoke comparisons to Kim Kardashian, there is going to be at least one, gratuitous butt shot. Probably a whole flurry of them. (Just ask early-90s George Michael how this works.) I’m thinking of a tracking closeup as she walks down the supermarket aisle: after four or five steps, the butt pulls away from the camera but then suddenly backs up to blot everything else out of the frame, metaphorically echoing Ms. Kardashian’s time in the public sphere.
Which brings up another point: the biggest chunk of this video takes place in a supermarket. An Old Navy-ized supermarket, which is a little confusing, but still, a supermarket. Which part of Kim Kardashian’s image involves the supermarket? Hasn’t she carefully cultivated the idea that she neither eats nor does what people do after they eat, much less does her own shopping? Kim would sooner use an off-brand volumizer than set foot in a Safeway. (And not just because there are no cameras there.) This alone should be enough to win the case for Old Navy. (And yes, I’m rooting for Old Navy here. I’m sure they’re a despicable corporation like all other corporations but my kid is dressed head to toe in their stuff — it’s cheap and it fits. Do you want to me to take sides against my own son’s comfort and personal style?)
And although the actress in the ad has apparently taken up with Ms. Kardashian’s former flame in real life, NFL running back Reggie Bush (clearly, he has a type), he’s not in the ad. Because then, there might be a case. There is also no super-annoying pair of sisters here — I’d have cast Snooki and Adam Sandler in the roles. They’s probably turn it down, but in Hollywood you go for ideal casting first and work your way down from there. And, everybody knows what the inside of her house looks like thanks to that insipid TV show — the ad makes no effort to duplicate that, either.
There is a good bit of irony here, considering that when Kim Kardashian herself came into the public eye, everyone said she looked just like Nicole Scherzinger, who Google tells me is one of the Pussycat Dolls. I don’t recall Ms. Scherzinger making a fuss that Kim was stealing her image or her mojo or whatever (and Google seems to agree), proving — and I’m confident this will be the first time anyone has ever made the following statement about a Pussycat Doll — she is the classier lady.
This lawsuit is like if Michael Jordan sued Nike for doing ads with Tiger Woods: They’re not the same person, they don’t even play the same sport, but they kinda look alike if you squint hard enough. (By the way, some kind of legal action should be taken to keep Jordan from appearing in any more ads with that Hitler moustache.)
What if Kim wins? Will she thenceforth be the only dark-haired, olive-skinned woman allowed on TV? I’m sure there are more than a few guys that would be okay with that, but I’m reminded of the words of Martin Niemoller (and I’m paraphrasing): “First they came for the dark-haired, olive-skinned girls, and I said nothing, because I was not dark-haired or olive-skinned. Then they came for the blondes, and I said nothing…”
And it’s not as though she needs the money: The Kardashians, as a family, raked in $65 million last year, and I’m sure the lion’s share of that went to Kim. So what gives? Even if Old Navy did it completely on purpose, and cast Melissa Molinaro solely because of her resemblance to Kim Kardashian, there is nothing the least bit slanderous here. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, is it not? This does no damage to her “look, style, identity, and persona,” except maybe for suggesting that Kim would (*gasp*) shop at Old Navy. (Although, a recent episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians did center on Kim’s psoriasis breakout, so she might want to look into wearing more light cotton garments.) And lookalike videos are nothing new: David Lee Roth danced with Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and Boy George doppelgangers in a video, and more recently Eminem had a whole raft of celebrity lookalikes — Kim included — in a variety of unflattering scenes. But nobody sued them. Maybe they thought it was funny.
Of course, among the many things Kim is not known for — taste, discretion, subtlety, intellect — “sense of humor” is near the top of the list. When Casey Anthony was acquitted last week, she tweeted her outrage, totally missing the irony that her name got its foot in the door because her father was O.J. Simpson’s personal attorney, read his suicide note on live television, and helped to assemble the “Dream Team” that got him off.
There’s no such thing as bad publicity, my wife reminded me when I asked for her thoughts on this. I would argue that stating for all the world that you are a self-important harpy with more money than brains and no sense of humor about yourself comes pretty close, but only a fool would bet against her at this point. She has 8 million followers on her entirely vapid, substance-free Twitter feed and her blog apparently gets 40 million hits a month. I guess what I’m saying is, it’s all our fault! If an overexposed, overstyled halfwit Tweets and nobody follows, did she ever really make a sound? There’s only one way to find out. The Kontra Kardashian Kut-Off Kampaign starts now! (I had to go for four K’s, to avoid confusion.) Ignore this jerk, and maybe she’ll stop.
Or better yet, if you are a dark-haired, olive-skinned female with a little extra junk in the trunk, band together with your sisters and bring a class action lawsuit against Kim Kardashian her for publicly portraying dark-haired, olive-skinned females as petty, self-important twits. There’s not a court in the land — at least, not outside of Los Angeles County — that wouldn’t find in your favor.