Professor Explores Dichotomy of Kardashian Legacy in American Pop Culture

Holy Family University

Reality TV researcher and analyst, Amanda Scheiner McClain, Ph.D., is the author of the book Keeping Up the Kardashian Brand: Celebrity, Materialism, and Sexuality (2013, Lexington Books), which analyzes how the Kardashians are a paradigm of new and traditional media convergence, highlighting the confluence of branding, commerce, celebrity, and sexuality.

The book will be released October 25, 2013.

“The Kardashians are ubiquitous throughout modern media. They are a cultural touchstone, representing warrantless celebrity, voluptuous beauty, and social media savviness, as well as narcissism,” said McClain. “The Kardashians have seemingly achieved the American dream without the visible hard work required for it. They embody the contemporary American dream—success propelled by social media and reality TV.”

On the other hand, McClain points out that the Kardashians have more cache than simple stereotypes. She explains that they disrupt institutional American norms like patriarchy, marriage, and women’s exploitation by men, and that media backlash against the family might indicate that inherent sexism and classism influence the journalistic condemnation of the Kardashian empire.

McClain analyzed the Kardashians’ reality television series, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, their social media use via Twitter and blogs, and their constant press coverage to explore contemporary American culture. She found that repetition of content across social media cements the Kardashian identity, presenting a unified and coherent brand and creating a simple salable image.

Dr. McClain is also the author of American Ideal: How American Idol Constructs Celebrity, Collective Identity and American Discourses (2011, Lexington Books), which analyzes how the popular TV show provides audiences with an idealized version of American culture. She teaches Digital Communications at Holy Family University in Philadelphia and is the Coordinator of the Arts and Communications program there. She is the Television chair for the Mid-Atlantic Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association and is also co-chair of the National Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association.