Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Ranting On...the Kardashians

Kourtney, Kim, and Khole Kardashian

I recently got into a very heated discussion about Kim Kardashian with a friend and found myself coming to Ms. Kardashian’s defense, and thought, why not bring up the argument here?  I mean, I would say that Kim Kardashian is in the news, but Kim Kardashian and her sisters are always in the news.  You would be hard-pressed to walk through a supermarket checkout right now and not see Kourtney, Kim, or Khloe on the cover of at least one tabloid.  Just in the past few weeks she’s had her wedding, gotten into a scuttle over her brother Rob’s weight, and recently was involved in a racially insensitive incident in Austria.  Literally everything this girl and her sisters do is headline news.

I’m not going to get into a defense of the Kardashians’ television show (I’ve honestly never seen more than a handful of clips, and never completed a full episode) or what her celebrity says about American culture that she’s perhaps the most famous person in the country (that’s not hyperbole-she’d certainly make the Top 10 most well-known faces in America).  But what I will get into is a defense of Kim herself in a way.

Because every time that anyone brings up Kim Kardashian, it is almost always in a derogatory way.  She is called any number of unattractive terms that I’m not going to repeat here, but you know what they are, alluding to her gender, weight, and romantic life principally.  We all are fascinated by she and her sisters (don’t deny it, because denying that you’re interested after participating in a five-minute conversation about these women sort of proves you a hypocrite), but no one seems to like her.  After all, she and her sisters have frequently found themselves in the midst of silly and occasionally offensive verbal skirmishes with fellow celebrities and with each other.  Quite frankly, I’m not even going to argue that she and her sisters are not occasionally silly, shallow, and famous-for-no-reason.

In full confession, I’ve actually seen Kim Kardashian in real-life, and that’s partially where my opinion of her started to change.  I didn’t speak with her, I just saw her walking on a sidewalk in Manhattan and getting into a limousine.  I was obviously a bit star-struck, and was of course struck by the fact that she really is that gorgeous in person.  But what struck me more was the amount of paparazzi that came with her.  Cameras were inches from her face as she walked down the street, and men shouted her name to get her attention as she simply walked about her day-to-day life.  I have seen many celebrities in my life, and some surrounded by the paparazzi, but never to the degree that I saw with Kim Kardashian.  It was as if her entire life was being photographed.

And that’s really what is striking about the Kardashian sisters’ fame compared to almost every other famous person.  There are other celebrities who are constantly on the cover of magazines and gossip websites currently (Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Middleton, and Justin Bieber come to mind), but these people would continue to be famous if they didn’t put their lives in the middle of the tabloid circus.  Jolie and Aniston would still have movies, Bieber would still have music, and Middleton can demur in and out of the spotlight and the public fascination will remain eternal due to her status as a princess.  The Kardashian Sisters derive their fame entirely from putting their lives in the middle of the public specter, completely open to our criticism and critique.

Admittedly other reality stars do this as well, but not to the degree that the Kardashians do (the only ones who came close in the past would be Kate Gosselin and the women of The Hills, both of which are equally fascinating in the way they handled such a lifestyle, but that’s for a different article to discuss), and not even Paris Hilton, Kardashian’s predecessor, enjoyed this level of worldwide fame.  You could argue that the sisters chose to do this, and they did, but I cannot help but if not pity them, at least feel some compassion toward these women-they can’t back out now from where their income is and I truly hope that they are saving their money as this level of fame cannot possibly be sustainable (five years from now, Kardashian will likely be what Paris Hilton is now-a faded former celebrity who occasionally shows up in the tabloids but only in a winking nod to their former glamour).  But if Kim Kardashian were to pull a Greta Garbo tomorrow and decide she doesn’t want the cameras anymore, the press would have a field day and not let her be.  They may have chosen to be intensely famous, but A) no one ever thinks they’ll be as famous as the Kardashians are now and B) they cannot chose to stop being famous overnight.

And I’m not saying they don’t want to be (clearly, this is a lifestyle with some really solid perks), but I think the vitriol that is spewed toward these women is over-the-top and way too clich├ęd.  These women may not be famous for a particularly compelling reason (though we don’t say that about Gisele Bundchen…just saying) but let’s not pretend there aren’t sacrifices to what they go through to get to this fame.  If you put your life under the microscope and had every stupid thing you said, every mistake you made, and every fight you’ve had in front of the entire country, I’d say that was a pretty big sacrifice, even for worldwide fame and millions of dollars.

So I don’t ask that you pity the Kardashians (god knows I’m not asking that), but I think to dismiss them is also inappropriate.  Understanding and taking a different look, even with something as seemingly silly as the Kardashians, is always worthwhile when you’ve become rigid in your view on a subject.  Whether you like them or not, there’s a certain amount to acknowledge and ponder that people would sacrifice so much of their personal lives to be so successful in their careers.  And that’s all I’m trying to say about them.

Well, that, and how is Kourtney ever going to top North as a baby name?

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