Guinea Pig Journalism in the Era of Kim Kardashian
In addition to North and Saint, she has birthed an online content trend…
The appeal of approximating a monochrome outfit in the color scheme of a Band-Aid is not lost on me. I recently dressed like a caucasian thumb in full sartorial consciousness because in my closet, the palette appeared more sand than sad; like a Nancy Meyers living room as opposed to boiled Spam. When I failed, it was me who had to live with the decision that day. There was nowhere to point the fingers of blame. This was not Kim Kardashian’s fault — she of the camel-on-camel fame, but had I wanted it to be, it could have been.
The Internet, vast Sahara of clickbait content that it is, has developed a habit of becoming Kim Kardashian’s guinea pig. Across the desert one can find endless collections of diaries that chronicle self-assigned adventures in mirroring Kim’s every move. On Buzzfeed: one writer’s attempt to complete Mrs.West’s hair and makeup routine. At Elle: a hilarious week spent in Kim’s literal shoes and The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Waist Training.
I love these stories. They are funny and so weird. Here’s a late disclaimer: my friends wrote two of them, but my inclination to act as a human refrigerator upon which to hang their achievements has nothing to do with the reality that I consume these kinds of stories just as much as they consume me.
Me and every other Internet reader.
These stories go viral. That first Elle one? 23.2k shares. That is huge. The Buzzfeed one garnered 1,400,206 views. They are captivating in the way that Snapchat or Vanderpump Rules are: voyeuristic lenses into a celebrity’s ridiculous life by way of your pal and mine, the Real Girl, and because she stars, we are comforted.
Isn’t it very nice to know that for the average human, dressing like Kim is terrifying and hard work as opposed to some effortless hoo-ha? Isn’t it comforting that step 1 in Waist Training is “Pain and Discomfort” because it reaffirms that a normal, mortal civilian cannot withstand the modern corset? A common thread in every I-Did-The-Kim-Kardashian post is this sentence: “I don’t know how she does it.”
Thank you. Bless you. Me neither. I am so glad I’m not the only one who feels like a tall burger when I wear spandex.
However, you’ll note that guinea pig articles are in no way relegated to Kim Kardashian alone. For every member of her famous family, there is a website employee who tried X — and then wrote about it.
For every Gisele Bündchen and Tom Brady diet, there is a comedic author who ate their vegetables.
For every icon with trackable traits, every celebrity with some semblance of style, every rockstar with an autobiography and every athlete with monastic habits, there is a person like you and me who, by now, has done an article about it. I once dressed like a J.Crew model for a week and considered it brave work in the name of journalism.
Yet I can’t help but liken these proliferating projects to dare cop-outs as the trend grows.
Have you ever accepted a dare to do something scary (ask for someone’s number, tell a guy he’s cute) that you were secretly praying someone would dare you to do, and then, emboldened by the shield, “My friends dared me to do this,” actually executed?
If you vocalized the excuse, at least among my crew, that was considered a cop-out. It didn’t count. You’d be forced to forfeit your score.
I will likely continue to devour every story about women who dressed like Kylie Jenner, adults who donned the impressive wardrobe of North West and men who have mastered Khloe’s contour. Like I said: they offer strange relief. But just once, I think it would be interesting to read an article that says: “I Secretly Wanted to Try This Bizarre and Possibly Embarrassing Routine For the Sake of My Own Odd Bliss, So I Did It.”
Guinea pig journalism is fun, and it’s one thing. Honesty? That’s something entirely different.
Collages by Emily Zirimis.