Charlotte Street Partners



These people don't exist

Written by Katie Stanton, associate partner
Edited by Iain Gibson,  associate partner
11 September 2020

Good morning,

After two weeks spent pickling my insides with slushy strawberry daiquiris and shrivelling under the Croatian sun – I find that sun cream, once applied, determinedly seeks out recesses (eyeballs, belly button, that weird hammock betwixt thumb and forefinger) leaving the rest of my body sans protection – I am back.
It’s a good job I am experienced at sitting inside all day and whistling on my sister for food, because I haven’t heard a peep from anyone with tips or advice on my mandated quarantining (mistrustful, uppity friends and colleagues aside). Not a text, not a phone call, not a raised eyebrow in the arrivals hall.
Nonetheless, my siphoning off from society is, apparently, a necessary evil, so here I am, playing model citizen, mushing my nose against the windowpane and lying languorously about the place.
But then disaster struck. On Wednesday I roused myself to find that Kim Kardashian West had announced the end of her long-running reality television show, Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
How could this be? The grinding west coast vocal fry of the Kardashian sisters has been a constant, comforting backing track to my life and, more specifically, to those formative teenage years.
But alas, the Kardashians are not the honest, funny, all-American mega rich kids they used to be. In fact, upon further examination, it appears they have become the embodiment of everything I hate about our digital world.
Firstly, and objectively, the programme is total trash and you should never watch it, ever.
Part of the reason for the show’s cancellation, and why it has been attracting lacklustre ratings, is that it is too slow. Everyone knows that someone had a baby and someone else had a breakdown months before it ever appears on the box in your living room. The programme is simply not quick or snackable enough for our new, instant world.
But the big problem is not conceptual. I don’t care if they want to document their lives. Even if you think they’re talentless waste-of-spacers, curiosity is ingrained in human nature; people want to know about people. And they have exposed a huge range of issues, from mental health, divorce and fertility, to drug abuse and cultural appropriation, and gained massive notoriety in the meantime.
No, the harm is not in the documenting, but in the editing.
Essentially, I have found the Kardashians’ social media to be a dystopian reality: none of the faces in their photos actually exist. Not only have they had professional makeup (or glam as they call it), and even more professional surgery, but they have almost always edited their images beyond recognition, thus portraying to an audience of young fans a definition of beauty that is not only unachievable, but computer generated.
The impacts of being bombarded day after day with unrealistic standards of beauty range from low self-esteem, to eating disorders, anxiety and depression. But they are not just unrealistic standards; they are fictional, impossible, crafted by robot airbrushing elves in the digital backwaters.  
Worst of all, the Kardashians’ content exists only to be commodified and monetised. The sisters are proof that your appearance and exposure online, regardless of its existence in reality, is your worth. And that translates into flashy bags, cars, and very real cash dollars. All of a sudden, you can make something out of nothing.
Happily, a new law proposed by Conservative MP Luke Evans, could force social media users to label images where faces or bodies have been digitally altered. In an ideal world, celebrities would lead by example and not manipulate images. With my more cynical hat on, I sincerely hope the law gets the go-ahead, and we can inject some reality into our feeds and reverse some of the damage already done.
Yes, without my rosy nostalgia goggles, the simulated faces of the Kardashian sisters seem damaging, inauthentic and creepy. As for the show, it’s been a far-cry from ‘reality’ for a long while.  


Post-Brexit trade deal talks are set to continue, despite clashes on “significant” issues. The EU has threatened the UK government with legal action if it does not ditch its controversial Internal Market Bill by the end of the month. The new law would give UK ministers powers to modify or “disapply” rules relating to the movement of goods that will come into force from 1 January, if the UK and EU are unable to strike a trade deal. Still, despite tensions, neither party seems to want to be the first to throw in the towel on negotiations.
In Oregon more than 500,000 people, over 10% of the population, have been forced to flee their homes as unprecedented wildfires continue to surge. According to authorities, the fires have killed at least three people, destroyed at least five towns and forced stretched firefighting crews to make tough decisions about where to deploy resources.
Councillors in the Shetlands have voted decisively to look at declaring independencefrom Edinburgh and London. The motion passed this week expressed frustration over decision-making on the mainland and announced “that the Shetland Islands council formally begins exploring options for achieving financial and political self-determination.” (£)

Business and economy

The UK economy grew by 6.6% in July, according to figures released today, but output still remains far below pre-pandemic levels. This marks the third month in a row that the economy has expanded, but the Office for National Statistics said that the UK “has still only recovered just over half of the lost output caused by the coronavirus”. (£)
Citigroup has named Jane Fraser as its new chief executive, the first big Wall Street bank to appoint a woman to the role. Scottish-born Fraser studied economics at Cambridge and earned her MBA from Harvard Business School, before starting her career at Goldman Sachs and, latterly, the consultancy McKinsey. In her 16 years at Citi, Fraser has run its Latin American business and its consumer and commercial arm in the US. She was promoted to president and head of its global consumer banking business last year. (£)
The UK government should consider a targeted extension to its furlough scheme, according to the Treasury select committee. The coronavirus crisis risks mass long-term unemployment and, while a blanket retention of the scheme would not be good value for money, innovative measures will need to be in place to prevent viable firms from going under.
The threat of a turbulent US presidential election is raising the pressure on companies to load up on cheap debt, as bankers warn that disruption to financial markets could push up financing costs later in the year. (£)

Columns of note

In this week’s New Statesman, Alice Robb asks novelist and scholar Tara Isabella Burton: why have millennials turned away from religion in favour of new lifestyle cults? A cursory glance at the data would show record number of Americans say they have no religion. But Burton argues that this does not necessarily equate to a huge, gaping spirituality void. Rather, young people are not abandoning religion but reinventing it to suit their own lifestyles – from wellness and astrology, to witchcraft and Harry Potter super-fandom.
Writing in the New Yorker, Sheldon Pearce examines the whitewashing of black music on TikTok. Essentially, the social media monolith is the home of millions of videos of teenagers doing dance routines. Yes, there is other content on there, but it is mainly the dancing. Pearce argues that the most visible and most followed users are almost always white kids dancing to black music. The optics of this ‘harmless’ fun plays into a long, infamous history of white appropriation of black arts. (£)

Cartoon source: The Telegraph


What happened yesterday? 

A sell-off in US stocks resumed yesterday as Congress failed to make progress on a new stimulus package and signs emerged that improvements in the US labour market have stalled.
The S&P 500 index closed 1.8% lower, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite dropped 2%, following a rally on Wednesday.
In Europe the continent-wide Stoxx 600 equity index also fell 0.6% having reversed earlier gains, and both the FTSE 100 and 250 closed lower as disagreements over Brexit terms sowed concerns about a messy British departure.
The mid-cap FTSE 250 fell 0.1%, and the blue-chip FTSE 100 was down 0.2% with gains in consumer discretionary stocks, offset by losses in healthcare and consumer staples.
Meanwhile, the euro moved higher as the European Central Bank left its monetary policy unchanged yesterday, with interest rates held at minus 0.5%, and investors interpreted comments from ECB president Christine Lagarde as opening the door to further appreciation in the currency. The euro was up 0.6% against the dollar at $1.19 at one point, and gained 1.8% against sterling at £0.92.

In company news:
Jean-Sébastien Jacques, chief executive of Rio Tinto, will step down by the end of March after failing to contain the fallout from the destruction of an ancient Aboriginal site in western Australia. (£)
Exercise bike company Peloton has seen a surge in demand amid the pandemic. The firm’s global membership base hit 3.1m at the end of June, more than double the previous figure for last year. The jump in sign-ups lifted revenue to $607m (£474m), up 172% year-on-year.
JPMorgan Chase has set 21 September as the deadline for the leaders of its trading teams to return to the office, as the world’s biggest investment bank tries to restore normality after the unprecedented work-from-home experiment triggered by the Covid-19 crisis. (£)
The chief executive of AstraZeneca has said it is “still feasible” that the Covid-19 vaccine that it is developing with the University of Oxford could be available by the end of the year, despite being forced to stop trials. (£)

What’s happening today?

Fletcher King

Chaarat Gold
Hurricane Energ

Argentex Group
NextEnergy Solar
Svm Uk Emerg

UK economic announcements
(07:00) Industrial Production
(07:00) Balance of Trade
(07:00) Gross Domestic Product
(07:00) Index of Services
(07:00) Manufacturing Production

Int. economic announcements
(07:00) Consumer Price Index (GER)
(13:30) Consumer Price Index (US)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

British dogs get on average 177 minutes of walking time a day, which is more than dogs in the USA, Australia, and any other European country. (Source: qikepedia)

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Private members’ bills
Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies (Environmentally Sustainable Investment) Bill: Second Reading – Anna McMorrin
Unpaid Work Experience (Prohibition) (No 2) Bill: Second Reading – Alex Cunningham
Hospitals (Parking Charges and Business Rates) Bill: Second Reading – Peter Bone
Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill: Second Reading – Peter Bone
Public Advocate (No 2) Bill: Second Reading – Maria Eagle
European Union Withdrawal (Implementation Period) Bill: Second Reading – Sir Edward Davey
Local Electricity Bill: Second Reading – Peter Aldous
Employment (Dismissal and Re-employment) Bill: Second Reading – Gavin Newlands
Internet Access (Children Eligible for Free School Meals) Bill: Second Reading – Siobhain McDonagh
Sexual Offences (Sports Coaches) Bill: Second Reading – Tracey Crouch
European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) (Extension) Bill: Second Reading – Layla Moran
Magistrates (Retirement Age) Bill: Second Reading – Edward Timpson
Sentencing for child cruelty offences – Tom Tugendhat

House of Lords 

No business scheduled

Scottish Parliament 

No business scheduled

Share this post

Copyright© 2020 Charlotte Street Partners