Editorial (societal) Featured — 20 August 2013
Kim Kardashian, Katie Couric And American Masochism

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By Liz Belilovskaya

Spit hit the fan when, in a recent magazine interview, Katie Couric stated that she did not understand why the Kardashians are famous. Not one to have her fame whoring so easily dismissed, freshly mommed Kim Kardashian took to Instagram to publically bash the reporter. I’m a bit baffled by her reaction, though. Since when is it an insult to publicly wonder why someone is famous?

The fact is, much of the obsession with the Kardashian family is somewhat unfounded. After all, in the early 2000’s, no one really knew their names or cared about what they ate for breakfast. The person we were familiar with was Robert Kardashian, and only because he was O.J. Simpson’s primary defense attorney during the infamous 1994 murder trial.

Kim Kardashian, was famous for riding the coattails of her then BFF Paris Hilton. Then Kim’s sex tape went public in 2007 she became a household name. Keeping Up With the Kardashians premiered a year later, propelling the clan to ultra-fame. While the family does have some interesting quirks and characteristics (its sheer size, Marcy from Married…With Children lookalike Olympian Bruce Jenner, and of course, Robert Kardashian’s name), the clan’s current status in pop culture seems unjustified.

While individually, the Kardashians may possibly be nice people, what they represent – or more specifically,  their behavior – can and often does come across as remarkably negative. True, I have never met them, watched their show or consumed their brand, but I still know way too much about them, and I hate it.

As the world is passionately debating marriage equality, Kim’s over-publicized multimillion dollar wedding and subsequent redefinition of short-term commitment to the “sacred” institution of marriage seemed an exercise in narcissism and self-absorption. While the collapse of the global economy is leading to widespread civil oppression and unrest, the Kardashians’ documented annual getaways to luxurious resorts and lavish destinations seem rather inconsiderate and even downright insulting by comparison.

And as the majority of young people are facing uncertain futures plagued by joblessness and resource shortages, to hear of how hard Kris Jenner’s offspring work  achieving what they have is supremely annoying. While I am sure that running a chain of boutiques is somewhat difficult, and posing in designer clothes is likely very taxing, they have never had to hold down a job that paid less than minimum wage while going to school and struggling to pay their rent (for years at a time); something that the vast majority of us have done or continue to do.

Where the Kardashians truly excel is their collective gift for self- victimization. Katie Couric didn’t insult the Kardashians by questioning their fame, but that is exactly how they reacted. President Obama did not barrage Kim and Kanye West when talking about what the American Dream used to represent, but Kris Jenner took it that way.

The truth is that the public’s fascination with the Kardashians encapsulates what we feel is wrong with our culture, yet we are masochists, stuck watching the screen like drug addicts in the mirror after a late night binge; unable, unwilling to stop looking into our own disgust-filled eyes. News outlets should dedicate 15-minute segments to real news instead of recapping the latest episodes of their show, and their graceless reception of our misguided attention is not a positive attribute on their part. It’s self-delusion. When they choose to share such a vast portion of their lives, they indirectly agreed to deal with public criticism, as one does not go without the other.

Just take a look at Beyonce and Jay-Z as an example; while the public would love to know every little detail about the super private mega couple, we don’t, because they keep us at arm’s length. While they do get an ungodly amount of attention, they consistently try to keep as much of their lives as private as possible. More importantly, they do it in a respectful and rather humble manner. I don’t remember the last time Beyonce was involved in a social media feud.

As an entertainment journalist, I find Kim Kardashian’s response to Katie Couric’s harmless statement highly disproportionate. It is our job to wonder about popular figures and their impact and integration into our societies. We are supposed to question why someone is famous and whether he or she deserves to be. And when we do it in a way that is not insulting, those famous figures should try not to take offense.

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