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The Liberation of Paris (Hilton)

posted by LIM College

Last year it seemed that Paris Hilton was everywhere. If you threw a rock in any direction you would probably knock her in the head. Not that I'm advocating rock throwing. Regardless, the fashion pages extolled her, Letterman gushed like a schoolboy, Entertainment Tonight had a regular feature called "Paris Watching," mothers named their daughters Paris, sales of Chihuahuas rose exponentially, Google analytics listed her in the top most viewed internet searches for 2008 and 2009, and reality TV cuddled closer to her than her current beau, and uber-cutie, Doug Reinhart. Now where'd she go?

Paris Hilton is not a Barbie doll!

Paris Hilton became a brand, and was always keen about how to market herself. Granted, there were the questionable films, House of Wax and The Hottie and the Notie. Guess which part she played?  But she helped launch one of the best selling fragrance lines of all time for Parlux, including Just Me and Fairy Dust. (Note to readers, Hilton is launching her tenth fragrance.) Then came the self-titled Paris album, which included the aptly named single, "Screwed."

Yes, there were hair extensions, pocketbooks designed for Samantha Thavasa, and a straight to video jewelry line for Amazon. Yet all of those items were  successful and made money! When you factor in personal appearances and actual speaking engagements, conservative estimates are that the Hilton heiress makes over $20 million a year. Not bad for a student expelled from high school. Note to LIM students-she did get her GED.

Do you love a train wreck?

Ms. Hilton was the girl we all loved to hate. She is rude, blond, insolent, thin, insular, wealthy, photogenic, and obnoxious. She was the perennial cheerleader for team Hilton, but like many popular girls her attributes (if any) were tempered: DUI arrests, a brief albeit media-successful incarceration, the release of a sex film, charming statements about the homeless (What's a soup kitchen?), frequent photos of her in drunken abandon, stripping, pole dancing and getting into her SUV sans panties. I'm certain that Richard and Kathy were not amused. Despite this negative press, America seemed to embrace her more. The hype was relentless. In fact, the Associated Press conducted an experiment in February of 2007, trying not to pick up stories about Hilton from their member media outlets for a whole week. They were not successful! The world could not get enough of this girl.

While Paris has not disappeared entirely, she seems to have partially vanished. Has our Paris changed? There are two schools of thought, one: the leopard cannot change its spots, and two: the redemptive power of love can transform us. I'm not laying any bets. I doubt that Paris has changed much at all. But I would suggest that we have changed. The world is changing. While viewership on TMZ and Perez Hilton have not declined, the thirst for gore and personal carnage seems passé. The era of conspicuous consumption is considered gross. There's a new "yuck" factor when we brag about overpriced shoes or handbags. We have a new President who engenders tolerance, intelligence and judgment. We are dealing with economic realities that dictate that excess is no longer a shared community value. Today's younger generation especially seeks affirmation and inclusion as shared values. We are continually more cognizant of the delicacy of the planet, global warming, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, misery in Darfur, devastation in Haiti and Chile, marriage equality, health care, and other social issues. Frankly, Paris Hilton doesn't (easily) fit into those equations.

Yet there's an old saying... "We'll always have Paris". (Casablanca, MGM 1942)

-Ron Knoth, Fashion Department, LIM College

Further Reading

My own blog: "The Liberation Of Paris and The Battle of Britney" (April 19th 2009)

An article by two professors about Hilton, Calvin Klein and teenage sexuality

Believe it or not, there is a study guide to Confessions of an Heiress, a book purportedly written by Paris Hilton

Topics: fashion industry, Fashion Culture