Life Lessons from the Kardashians

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I’m ashamed to say but I have a minor obsession with “Khloe and Kourtney Take Miami.” Don’t judge me. I never watched any of the Kardashian E! shows until a few months ago when my friend put it on and I got sucked into the madness. Next thing I knew I was watching marathons and episodes 2 or 3 times. Smh. But I’ve found that watching this trainwreck of vapid dialogue, puffy cheekbones and self-sabotage can be both distressing and therapeutic.

The first episode I saw featured a pregnant Kourtney (who looks the youngest but is the oldest) and the drunken antics of her sociopath boyfriend (now babydaddy) Scott in Las Vegas. In this infamous episode, the family flies to Vegas for Kim’s birthday dinner and party which is a huge promo opp for the family and a simultaneous dinner with some potential investors for Kim and Kris’s (the mom) diet pills. Scott drinks all day with the rest of the guys (including the younger Kardashian brother Rob) and gets so wasted that when it’s time to get ready for the party, he’s too trashed to go anywhere. Kris bitches Scott out (after she finds him and Rob in a drunken testosterone-fueled wrestling match) and they all leave him at the hotel to sober up.

Fast forward to the dinner where scumbag Scott rolls up still drunk to try to show his face, since he is supposed to be representing the Kardashian’s business. The waiter refuses serve him anymore alcohol (under Kris’s orders) so Scott verbally assaults the waiter and then shoves a $100 in his mouth…and then asks the poor man if he wants another one. See it in the clip below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVAr2I3uo8k

I was appalled but hooked.

A few months later, I caught the “Khloe and Kourtney” marathon and was curious to see if Kourtney was still with this fool, especially since they had a baby together. Kim comes to Miami (Kourtney and Khloe had a big argument…or Khloe wanted to go home to her hubby and Kim needed some airtime) and Scott has a new “job” at a club so he’s drunk/hungover and can’t hang out with the ladies and his newborn son. (Side note: writing this post with all the “K” names is annoying the hell out of me). Kourtney confronts him and although you don’t see what happens because the camera is on Kim holding baby Mason in another room, you hear yelling and some crash or things falling. It could be that Scott threw something and it broke some furniture but the viewer senses danger and rage. Kourtney gets Kim and Mason and they leave the house, while in his rage Scott punches a mirror and has to go get stitches.

I don’t know how real or fake it is but something about it is captivating and angering. I’ve heard many friends of mine express a similar sentiment. Scott’s psychosis has been a trigger for many people to watch the show. Why do we as a society love this type of drama? Is it because we can relate to these stories in some way? Many of us have been in or witnessed firsthand these dysfunctional relationships. We know the place of confusion and pain and perhaps find kinship with a gorgeous reality superstar who is in a similar place. We empathize with the rest of the family for trying to help Kourtney break free and even sympathize because she can’t get him out of her life. Or do we just take joy in seeing pretty and “perfect” women suffer?

I wonder if this this show unintentionally glamorizes relationship violence, even if it’s only because the Kardashian sisters are branded as glamour and style icons (rolls eyes). It’s revisiting the idea of nuance and the roles of sex and chemistry in these relationships, as recently discussed in Feministing’s group chat on the Eminem and Rihanna video, “Love the Way You Lie.” In their posh and privileged life where they have access to anything, they still have the same problems as “regular folks.” Is that comforting? Does that make us feel better about our seemingly mundane problems? For me, it reinforces that money can’t buy you inner peace, happiness or pride. I guess I’m just waiting/hoping for the happy ending, that moment of clarity where Kourtney will realize that she can do better for herself and her son, dumps that loser, and ride off into the sunset in her yacht (cue mashup of “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar and the show’s theme, “I’m in Miami, Trick”). Why am I torturing myself?

The show has also illuminated the issue of substance abuse in many abusive relationships and although Scott is now in counseling, he is still manipulative and disingenuous. Will she finally break out of his hold? What other drunken aggression will we be privy to laugh and cringe at? When the goal is to keep people watching, we know that drama sells. Perhaps I shouldn’t expect any clean resolution, especially when real life doesn’t always give us one.

It’s hard to believe this family has been on reality TV for almost 3 years. I will admit they’ve done a good job promoting (or exploiting) themselves and making money off bullshit. Sometimes I wish this show would take an opportunity to raise awareness of intimate relationship violence, alcoholism, dangers of Botox (I kid)…anything of substance. Can we get a 30-second PSA with a website and a phone number? But that’s not the point of the show (I’m still not sure if there is one) and nor the responsibility the Kardashians, the producers, or E!. They are focused on their bottom line. Instead I have found my own unexpected lesson: beauty can be bought but self-esteem is priceless.

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4 Comments

  1. Posted August 20, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    I take a perverse pleasure in occasionally watching what passes for popular these days (though I can scarcely believe it, since so much of it involves documented, yet unpunished, criminal behavior, and so convenient for that episode) and also question producers’ lack of commentary on the documented behaviors or ways for people in similar situations e.g. substance addiction or domestic violence, to get help. The popularity of such shows would be free advertising for organizations offering assistance.

  2. Posted August 20, 2010 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    In the Business of TV the programs are not the product, the viewers are, and the viewer is not the consumer, the company buying advertising time is.

    Everything that I give my attention to on TV I am boosting it’s value. It doesn’t matter how I feel about it as long as I am watching.

    It is a bit like watching a hunting show ans wondering why there aren’t animal cruelty PSA’s, isn’t it? Isn’t the entertainment value of the show watching the characters suffer through this? What motivation is there for the producers to stop of limit these actions? In fact, it seems to me that it would be in the everyone’s best financial interests if the violence escalated.; more people would watch, ratings would go up, advertising would sell for more money.

  3. Posted August 22, 2010 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    “Instead I have found my own unexpected lesson: beauty can be bought but self-esteem is priceless.”

    Is this quote insinuating that the women mentioned in an abusive relationship somehow doesn’t have self esteem? because that is sure what it sounds like. To say/hint/imply that if only the person being abused in a relationship would just have more self esteem and leave their partner is some pretty backwards thinking. If only the abusive party would just not be abusive, if only the abusive party would just leave, that is who is responsible here.

  4. Posted August 23, 2010 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    I am wondering at your use of the word “psychosis” – has he been diagnosed? or is it being attributed to him? Lots of people are assholes without being psychotic.

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