When Brooklyn Beckham announced he was the photographer of the new Burberry Brit campaign, the backlash was almost immediate. Many photographers felt that this decision devalued photography as an art form and also displayed the lack of respect that many professional photographers encounter in the industry. Jon Gorrigan, who has worked with magazines from Esquire to The Observer, is skeptical as to the amount of work that Brooklyn Beckham will have to do himself, telling The Guardian “He’s obviously not going to be doing the lighting, he’ll have no clue of the programmes, the cameras or Photoshop. It’s all going to be so well managed – he’ll have the best hair and makeup, the best models, the very best equipment, so the chance of any risk is greatly reduced.” All that is left to do then, is to press a button.
On the other hand, employing the son of football icon David Beckham and Spice Girl turned designer Victoria Beckham is a smart marketing move on Burberry’s part, something even fashion photographer Chris Floyd admits, stating in the same Guardian article: “Part of me takes my hat off to Burberry and says that’s clever, but the photographer side of me says for god’s sake. Brooklyn Beckham’s got however many million Instagram followers, that’s what’s attracted Burberry.”
Names sell and Burberry’s decision to hire Brooklyn based on his last name is symptomatic of a far bigger issue. Unwittingly, we have created a society in which having the right surname is more gainful than hard work. Just as we thought we had abolished ideals like hereditary or divine right, we created a new kind of class system, one based on wealth, beauty and celebrity. Our obsession with stardom has allowed for the emergence of a new kind of nobility. And as the children of these celebrities grow up, it has become evident that being born a Beckham, a Smith or, of course, a Kardashian-Jenner will give you an “access all areas” pass in life - front row seats during fashion week, wardrobes stuffed with designer goods and the career of your choice.
Of course children of celebrities have always enjoyed a certain privilege in life. The difference is though, that the generation that has just reached adulthood is the first generation of the “do nothing” celebrity. The phenomenon of celebritydom fueled by nothing more than a talent for shameless self-promotion and reveal-all marketing tactics have given birth to a new kind of stardom, one devoid of any real meaning. This makes it all the harder to accept that their offspring are handed the world on a silver platter.
Self-promotion has become an integral part of our lives. Previously designated to the realm of business, where promotion is a vital key to success and companies have long relied on building their brand to establish a lasting image, now the “personal brand” of each individual has become just as important. Services like this one allow anyone to set up their own website and build your online brand, but more importantly, social media platforms have turned fame into something that is at our fingertips and yet just out of reach.
Mastering this art of self-promotion involves turning yourself and every aspect of your life into a business. Even Kanye West acknowledged this fact, stating “the Kardashians are an industry” in the run up to his wedding to Kim. And he is right. They have developed an astute understanding of how to market every aspect of their lives – with weddings in particular proving fruitful. This made West and Kardashian’s nuptials in 2014 less of a wedding and more of a celebrity merger, earning both of them a reported $20 million. Their wedding, which took place none other than the palace of Versailles, was one of the most exclusive and arguably also most sensationalistic events of the year, it’s location and guest list making it eerily reminiscent of the aristocratic weddings of the past.
So it seems we have replaced one class system with another. Many feel that this kind of celebrity is destined to collapse upon itself, but as long as we obsess over which lipstick Kylie Jenner is wearing or what Gigi Hadid had for breakfast, they will continue to thrive. In regards to the Kardashian Empire, at this point it seems the only thing that can make it crumble are Kanye West’s mindless rants.