Saturday, July 19, 2014

Kardashian and Lohan: virtual game fame

by Melissa Scott, Writing Intern

Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
Kim Kardashian cemented her status as queen of the “famous for nothing” this year. Over the last 12 months, she raked in an estimated $28 million. So it’s no surprise that Kim also holds the claim to fame when it comes to social media. As a reality TV-show star, it makes sense that she retains eminent ranking in all things reality: twitter, Instagram, tumblr—you name it. But now, going one step further, Kim has decided to test the waters of fame in virtual reality—and used it as a fun way to parody herself.

The reality TV star teamed up with Glu Mobile last month to release the smartphone app Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. With the launch of the game, just three weeks ago on June 25, the app has already absolutely exploded. As of Wednesday, July 16, the game sits shockingly at No. 2 on Apple’s free app charts, and rates impressively among users.

According to Forbes, the game brought in a monstrous $200 million for the developer; Kim made over $85 million. With that paycheck, Kim earned nearly triple the amount she made in 2013, including all her endorsements deals, fashion lines, and even her career-launching TV show.

So what exactly is so enthralling about yet another trifling Hollywood-centered game? The answer isn't the renowned Kim Kardashian—it’s the caricature of her lifestyle.

The object of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood is to venture into Hollywood, climbing the necessary social rungs to reach celebrity “A” status, with crucial tips provided by Kim along the way. The game centers on sarcasm. It mocks Kim’s (and other Hollywood celebrities’) superficial lifestyles, as the digital Kim herself makes snide remarks about her own life.

Film and TV producer Ali Hussainy noted, “Kim Kardashian took every negative connotation ever been made about her and incorporated it into this game. Half the fun is waiting for the little inside jokes she makes like when she comments, ‘dating another celebrity will make you more famous.’ It’s actually quite funny.”

While this satirical view of Kim’s celebrity status as a video game character seems harmless and wacky, other celebrities clearly aren't joining in on the fun. In fact, this celebrity-scapegoat theme can even be offensive.

As she turned 28 on July 2, 2014, Lindsay Lohan stood in a different kind of birthday suit.
Lindsay sued the makers of the popular video game Grand Theft Auto Wednesday, July 2, for creating a character that she alleged was based on her own image. Lindsay claimed that GTA used her image, voice, outfits, and clothing label without permission.

In the game, released September 2013, a minor character, Lacy, is portrayed as a famous actress. Players meet her in an alley, in downtown “Vinewood,” where she hides from the paparazzi.

In a voice strikingly similar to Lindsay’s, Lacey demands help to escape the paparazzi. Her social status as a popular celebrity is satirized during the ride as she complains about being famous, reveals she is anorexic, and swanks her immense wealth.

Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images
 Arguably, the character bears a strong resemblance to Lindsay in hairstyle, physique, and clothing styles. “Lacy” seems especially similar to Lindsay in her depiction on the front cover of the Grand Theft Auto game, posing in a bikini and holding a mobile phone.

Both video games promote a similar sardonic look at the Hollywood lifestyle, from a middle class point of view. The games feature two paparazzi-magnet starlets. Despite Lindsay’s upcoming lawsuit, both games have succeeded immensely.

But while Kim’s paltry “dress to success” app spurs nothing more than a lighthearted jeer, Lindsay’s derisive duplicate renders something much more spiteful. As working consumers, reading about sordid affairs and scandals of celebrity life exasperates and amuses us. But can the joke go too far?

Kim approved her image in the video game, and was actively involved in the development process from start to finish. But GTA may have swiped Lindsay’s image to create its ditsy Lacey character, without her knowledge or permission. While we know Lindsay unwisely ran up an unpaid $46,000 bill and was banned from the hotel Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood, was it necessary for Grand Theft Auto to use the same location in the game?  Are they purposely twisting the knife, or is this one big coincidence?

The theme of gaining virtual and superficial fame sounds fun, but this sword cuts both ways. Is the goal of these video games fun, or a sneaky way of kicking stars while they’re down, or soaring, or being reborn?


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