Paris Hilton, Encoded Signifier

She has become a synonym for American materialism, bad manners, greed, "like" and "whatever" Valley Girl inarticulateness, parochialism, arrogance, promiscuity, antifeminism, exposed roots and navels, entitlement, cell-phone addiction, anorexia and bulimia, predilection for gas-guzzling private transportation, pornified womanhood, exhibitionism, narcissism—you name it.
Well, we're not sure what's left to name. That's Kay S. Hymowitz in the Autumn edition of City Journal — the venerable righty quarterly best known as the "bible of the Giuliani administration" - in a sophisticated exegesis of the Paris Hilton phenomenon. It's a bravura performance, full of Zizekesque analysis ("She is, in other words, the total incarnation of postmodern identity, the individual who has disappeared completely—and happily—into her image.") and culture war critique ("Hilton personifies the decadence of our cultural moment. With her nightclub brawls, her endless sexcapades, her vapid interviews, her rodent-like dog, and her lack of ostensible talent, she reeks of every vice ever ascribed to our poor country."). There's even a nice shot at Brown. We're not sure what it says about the current zeitgeist that even highbrow publications dedicated to railing against the "dependency culture" feel the need to cover Paris Hilton, but we're thrilled: The next time we feel bad about what we do, we can just remind ourselves that, hey, City Journal does it too!

The Trash Princess [City Journal]