I hate the Kardashians.
Now, I don’t hate reality shows. Given the choice, I’d probably pick something scripted, because I love snappy dialogue, but plenty of enjoyable ones exist. If more don’t, it may be because we’re at the beginning of an art form with them as a format. In all likelihood, reality shows are going to evolve and get better, in just the way movies today seem better than the rather stiff acting we see in mediocre 1930′s melodramas, or television today – by which I mean Breaking Bad and Mad Men – is considerably better than many of the scripted shows of the 1960′s. And I think we see some reality television shows that are legitimately interesting – hell, Kidnation was pretty much just Plato’s Republic with a bunch of 8 year olds.
On a more practical level, there are dozens of programs that allow ordinary citizens to be seen for their talents. Top Chef? Sure. American Idol? If you must. X Factor? I’ve never seen that, but what the hell.
I just want to be clear that I don’t hate reality television.
But I do hate the Kardashians, because I’ve never seen any good reason not to. I have watched them snipe at one another, and wander around swilling from champagne glasses, and attempt ear candling experiments and snipe at each other some more, and I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t find all of that a little bit repulsive. I’m not sure we’re to commend people for “putting it all out there” any more than we should commend someone for taking a shit in the middle of a stranger’s living room.[tagbox tag="the kardashians"]
The difference between them and say, a contestant on Top Chef, is that the contestant there seems to be working towards a socially beneficial end. If he wins, and becomes famous through his appearance of Top Chef, he will be able to open a restaurant where he will be able to cook food that food critics agree is excellent. This will be a good thing for society at large, or, at least the portion of society that likes eating things.
I do not see what we gain from watching Kim Kardashian. I can only imagine it’s the knowledge that it’s okay to cry if you find you have psoriasis.
The 72 day wedding fiasco seems to bring all my worries to a head. I’m not troubled that it was a brief marriage – some marriages are brief, and we shouldn’t judge people for making missteps – but it seems like this was treated in a way that 1) on the E! Kim’s Fairy Tale Wedding special Kim made it clear that she was getting married because she was “in her prime” and she wasn’t going to photograph well forever and I guess I just want to say this is my new “worst reason to get married” and 2) Kim’s response to the divorce seemed almost comically blase in a time when so many people are fighting for the right to get married. In case you forgot, she claimed:
“I hope everyone understands this was not an easy decision. I had hoped this marriage was forever, but sometimes things don’t work out as planned. We remain friends and wish each other the best.”
And issuing that statement when her seemingly dimwitted husband is flabbergasted is wildly insensitive. ”I love my wife and am devastated to learn she filed for divorce,” he said to People.com. “I’m committed to this marriage and everything this covenant represents and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make it work.”
Poor fellow. Surely everyone knew it was over the minute she said she could never move because it would interfere with her career, and he suggested that by the time she had kids in school, no one would care about her. That is because her career is based on a sex tape and a well shaped behind.
I understand that Kim Kardashian wants to be famous, but perhaps one’s all time “career high” should not revolve around a wedding. Because that is 1) not what weddings are for and 2) not beneficial to anyone except yourself and the staff of US magazine.
Fame is really is only a good thing when it’s used towards an end. If you are an actress and being famous will help you get better roles which will allow you to reach more people with you skills, that seems entirely sensible. However, generally if you are famous just because it seems cool to be famous, it doesn’t work out well for anyone – even the person who is famous.
When Andy Warhol said that in the future, everyone would be famous for fifteen minutes, he didn’t mean that as a really rosy outlook on things. It’s not a rosy outlook, because, unless you have a substantial accomplishment, it is over in 15 minutes. Apparently this thought never occurred to Kim Kardashian. Andy Warhol, on the other hand, was pretty familiar with what happened to people when you made them famous for no reason. They all died.
That’s the end of that story, they all died or at least enough of them did that every time you read a biography on Warhol’s superstars, you wait for them to get to the part when they OD’d on heroin or jumped out a window. When Andy Warhol told Edie Sedgwick’s mother that he thought Edie was going to be really famous, Edie’s mother memorably replied “and what would be the purpose of that?” Andy said “well, everyone wants to be famous.” Edie’s mother replied “I had much higher hopes for my daughter.” Edie died from an overdose at 28.
I worry that by becoming socially enamored with people like the Kardashians we’ve forgotten that there are higher things to hope for.
Someone once expressed surprise that I love the royal family but hate the Kardashians, when both fundamentally exist to put their lives on display for the public. That’s true, but one exists to do so well. If the royal family still serves a function, it’s to embody English values. Serving in the army. Committing one’s self to public service. Worrying about the well-being of your countrymen. Generally things that require a certain amount of self sacrifice and a willingness to help others. That’s not to say that they’re always successful in that goal (because they’re human beings) but that’s why it is a terrific scandal when one of them wants to dress in Nazi regalia for a costume party when they’re an idiot teenager.
That fact that Kim Kardashian’s is held up as America’s answer to Kate Middleton seems to signify that the quintessential American values are “a lust for fame at any cost.” I am reluctant to believe that that’s anything people are particularly invested in keeping up with.