Kim Kardashian and Sarah Palin: Just Ordinary Gals

What Women Really Think
Nov. 18 2010 9:25 AM

Kim Kardashian and Sarah Palin: Just Ordinary Gals

There's an article in the style section of the New York Times today about the curious allure of Kim Kardashian . She is undeniably an international brand, the article argues, and yet, it is entirely unclear what she stands for. Kim simultaneously endorses QuickTrim weight loss products and the fast-food join Carl's Jr. When asked what Kardashian represents to them, one of her fans said, "The average girl." Born to millionaires, former bff to Paris Hilton, consort to sports superstars...that doesn't exactly scream average to me.

There's another woman profiled in the Times this week whose branding sometimes contradicts itself and who is described by a fan-turned-staffer as "the most ordinary person." This is of course, former Vice Presidential candidate, and potential future Presidential candidate Sarah Palin . Palin is very far from ordinary, despite all some of her more relatable trappings (a McCain strategist once said of Sarah and Todd, "These people shop at Dillards!").

Advertisement

So what does it mean that these clearly extraordinary women are described by their acolytes as totally normal? Certainly there have always been celebrities whose appeal was mostly that you would want to have a beer with them. But these women, in their very different ways, are so clearly not Average Janes (Kardashian because of her outsize beauty, wealth and glamour; Palin because of her impressive ambition and natural political instincts), that it is odd that the "ordinary" label has been so applied to them.

I think they are called average for two reasons: Their utilization of Twitter and Facebook as a way to communicate with their fans, and their public family dramas. In the profile of Kardashian, the writer Eric Wilson discusses how Kim incorporates feedback from her Twitter fans into her designs and perfume lines. In her Times profile, Sarah Palin says, "I just tweet; that’s just the way I roll...Just expressing my feelings via Twitter and Facebook. I choose them because they’re convenient for me, especially from Wasilla." This gives her an air of accessibility-she's just a hockey mom from Wasilla, tweeting her feelings. Both Kardashian and Palin are stars of reality TV shows whose tabloid covers tend to center around their family's inner workings. Kardashian's sparring with her sisters makes national news , as do the Facebook slurs of Sarah Palin's children . This adds to their "stars are just like us" appeal, as everyone has at least some family drama.

It's important to remember that behind the "ordinary" posturing neither of these women is average. They're both just trying to sell you something using their relatability: Kim's trying to hawk her various beauty products, and Sarah Palin is trying to sell us Sarah Palin as President.

Jessica Grose is a frequent Slate contributor and the author of the novel Sad Desk Salad. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

The Ungodly Horror of Having a Bug Crawl Into Your Ear and Scratch Away at Your Eardrum

My Father Was James Brown. I Watched Him Beat My Mother. Then I Married Someone Like Him.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 17 2014 2:57 PM ISIS Helps Snuff Out Conservative Opposition to Government Funding Bill
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 17 2014 1:59 PM Ask a Homo: Secret Ally Codes 
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 1:26 PM Hey CBS, Rihanna Is Exactly Who I Want to See on My TV Before NFL Games
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 1:01 PM A Rare, Very Unusual Interview With Michael Jackson, Animated
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 12:35 PM IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 11:18 AM A Bridge Across the Sky
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.