The Kardashian Cataclysm: How Pakistani celebrities can challenge stereotypes - by Shaza Tehseen
Prancing actors advertising an unhealthy sports drink. Bathing actresses selling a soap you would not usually buy. A singer endorsing a telecom company which rarely contributes to charitable sectors. Famous television anchors luring consumers to build their dreams in new housing schemes. A hunky actor who posts a selfie every day looking exactly the same with professional hairstyling and designer clothing, and borrowed quotes or self-mongering philosophies as captions. A young, beautiful girl who makes comical clips of colloquial themes acquiring sky-rocketing publicity at the age of 16. The camera rolls. A famous demi-god dances and slithers like a snake on the stage while some shake their booty and pretend they are from the ghetto. Celebrities get cheques. Likes and views go in hundreds of thousands of clicks. The audience drools. What happens next? A generic consumer of media gets addicted to nonsense. So the moral of the paragraph is this: anyone can become an entertainment celebrity in Pakistan on the visual platforms of Facebook and Instagram by being everything but themselves.
How did celebrities get hooked on social media platforms instead of mainstream media for self-promotion ? Why do most celebrities overlook the investment in their fame versus the viral consequences of an untimely scandal, inappropriate image or a frivolous comment? Who laid the foundation of celebrity culture being on everyone's fingertips and less dependent on paparazzi? The infamous Kardashians are to be awarded in my opinion. We see the digital imprint of how the ‘Kardashians’ became role models for many celebrities who shook the ethos of media boundaries even in the international cultural setting.
They profited from the time when social media platforms began rising from the ashes of MTV and other cable networks. It was the time when pop culture became a dangerous blend of ‘hate them or love them’ a sentiment which continued for more than a decade as the disjointed family members became the ‘most watched show’ of the 2007 era onwards.
They marketed something strangely popular which was originally only available in inconsequential popularity polls, sleazy morning shows and roadside tabloids. Rather than relying on a singular talent they deliberately invested in physical appearances. For the Kardashians, script and plot depth was an empty or patently ridiculous act or situation. They were becoming popular for entrepreneurial acumen to sell a gauche, socially crude million-dollar lifestyle phenomenon. Although it is surprising to see two of the Kardashians drop down to numbers 5 and 7 on the social media hit-list in 2021, they too have reformed their selling features and have adopted other means to stay in the scene.
He who wants to be famous will have many a sleepless night. ~ Tunisian Proverb
Indeed this ancient proverb has become the norm in Pakistan. Celebrity followers and admirers are swallowing feeds like fast-food. This unhealthy diet is keeping many teenagers, young adults and middle-aged people more awake than the famed individuals themselves. We can observe some contrasting scenarios and disturbing emerging trends which are becoming normalised due to the frequency and exposure of such images and news.
If we see the social media stats in March alone, Facebook takes the lead in our country for the social media hunger games.
Why are we as consumers more addicted to celebrity mantras and not to literary personas? How come bookstagrammers, art and poetry accounts and authors are paupers - that is, have less followers and frequency in feeds - but celebrity mumblings reach the peak of hype and admiration? One reason could be a technology term which is boosted by a combination of human psychology and social media behaviour. Algorithms - something we came across in mathematics in high school. But now algorithms are helpful blocks of data, mostly harmless to the average scroller. They help sift through content and deliver only “relevant” material rather than random posts. So if we choose to click, and view every celebrity post we will only unconsciously become addicted to those visuals. Images and visuals have the most impact when it comes to our subconscious brain gallery. Our digital brains are embedding celebrity looks, traits, and their whims unknowingly while our emotions, desires are making real life almost an illusion.
There is evidence that using social media affects how people view themselves and their mood, in the short term. In the long-term, people who use social media more frequently and/or intensely tend to have lower self-esteem or depressive symptoms.
The number of social media users in Pakistan increased by 9.0 million (+24%) between 2020 and 2021.
Celebrities have a huge responsibility when it comes to what they wear, philosophise, comment, eat, visit, hang out with and which projects and products they sign up with. When they use social media, their interaction and constant visibility injects their fans with illusory to feel “like they ‘know’ them like a ‘real person’. However, celebrities are human, and they can make mistakes, utter less-thought out words and appear the opposite to what they portray, making them vulnerable to criticism as well as idolisation.
For Pakistani celebrities, digital presence needs to be refined and expanded into areas which do not always focus on entertainment and self-promotion. A quick analysis can be done of the first placeholder on Instagram, Christiano Ronaldo with a whopping 277 million followers. But if you view his account, it's not full of himself. It's highlighted by his workplace, his moves on the ground, his team players, his family and his promotional posts. He has done commendable work off the pitch which accentuates his celeb-stature.
Our Pakistani celebrities can challenge the stereotypes and remove the blisters caused by their monotonous media meltdowns, mascot-like appearances and over-indulgent behaviors by looking in the mirror and showing their inner reflection of their work and personality.
Pakistani celebrities need to be mindful of endorsing products which can raise questions of conflict of interest, ethical sourcing, over exposure and focus-shift from the service/cause being overshadowed by the personal life of the celebrity. The only downside to this practice is that emotions come into play when the consumer purchases the brand and if it doesn't fit into the expectations the consumer may lose faith in the celebrity rather than the product.
Celebrity vs celebrity himself
Fame can be likened to Achilles’ heel. A controversy can be a booster for some celebrities and can also be an archenemy. Models being associated with politicians, clerics or other peers can reduce a celebrity to become partners in mud-slinging. Charming models knocking doors to sell toilet bowl cleaning products can reduce their image-building ladder. Resorting to cheap publicity does get many views but enduring respect in the eyes of the audience requires meticulous decisions of how to project oneself.
Social Movements and celebrities
Every global social movement or national chaos does not have to be ‘commented’ or exuded by wise words from celebrities. Every social change cannot give rebirth to a ‘Lennon’. Celebrities need to have something more in their life experiences to be able to exude the ‘scholarly’ vibes which they create on video sharing apps. Smouldering lips and one eyebrow raised is just not going to work in their favour. The spotlight comes on the famous, not on the problem.
One can become famous by doing limitless philanthropy and taking up selfless missions and causes of the society or one can just divulge their personal life to the whole world with the minutest details of unthinkable behaviour and voila! They will become a ‘media personality’ in the shortest time span possible. We may disagree, but that’s exactly how the Kardashian’s saga, one of the media-based success scandals, became one of the founding frameworks of self-promotion for many celebrities around the world. Now everyone has curvaceous hips and fish-lips with hair extensions and smoky eyes which beckon the call for this article - challenge stereotypes. Be yourself. Show your growth mindset. Show the heart and mind underneath the makeup, lights, showbiz glitz and glam. We know you are a celebrity- what more can you be to us?