And how simple celebrities can ignite the fires of change…
If I were to ask you to name the most controversial celebrity family you know, who would it be?
Chances are a great deal of you answered as I did; the infamous Kardashians!
Where there’s a Hollywood debate there’s often a Kardashian. From discussions of sexual orientation to donning clothing with images supporting slavery, they’ve bared it all! Just to add to the list, last year the following photograph of Kylie Jenner was released, sparking mass public outrage.
The highly stylised image featured a seemingly unrecognisable Jenner and, upon posting it to her social media accounts, thousands shouted accusations of ‘blackface’. Many reproached Kylie, claiming that her picture was an act of racial and cultural appropriation, and an ignorant attempt to gain attention. Although it was quickly revealed that the look was achieved using only black and neon lighting, many were still incensed. Adding wood to the fire, Jenner refused to make a public apology, instead declaring: “People…let’s all calm down.”
This contentious image, and the backlash it created, is a prime example of the public sphere in play. What is that I hear you ask? A public sphere is any space where people can receive information and debate ideas or matters of importance. In this highly digitalized age, it could be argued that the internet and social media are the most significant and extensive public spheres of our time.
Whilst many, including myself at times, may argue that the Kardashian’s doings are not exactly ‘matters of importance’, in many ways they are! We deem so called ‘popular culture’ as spectacular and trivial, however the issues raised can often be of significant importance within our society. When Kylie uploaded the image, the public spheres amongst us were abuzz with discussions on topics such as racism, cultural appropriation and celebrity influence. By putting these issues out in the open, we are able to address them within the wider community, facilitating the beginnings of positive change. Within time, seemingly isolated actions and discussions build to form a powerful front for agency; changing the social norms of our world.
It really goes to show, even the actions of a Kardashian can spark intelligent and informed debate!