What’s A Kardashian Anyway, And Why Does Anyone Care?

In all seriousness, I’m still not totally sure exactly who Kim Kardashian is, or why I should care. From my limited understanding, and a brief chat with a few friends, she was more or less a nobody (at least in celebrity terms), who happened to be friends with Paris Hilton. It seems that she only rose to prominence for appearing on a sex tape, as did her friend Paris of course.

She then parleyed that 15 minutes of infamy into long-term reality TV “stardom”, and is apparently now one of the highest paid reality TV “personalities”.

Since when was this kind of nonsense a reason to make people famous? On one hand, I think she’s done exceptionally well to get where she is, but on the other, I’m stunned at how she got there and stays there – on the backs of other people who should know better.

As I shake my head in wonder, a line from a song by Jewel comes to mind:

“People living their lives for you on TV. They say they’re better than you and you agree”.

There’s a whole lot of wisdom right there. I have no idea why anyone would be even the least bit interested in faux-celebrities like Kim Kardashian, let alone turn them into role models, which is effectively acknowledging their superiority in certain respects. I understand being impressed with the acting skills and achievements of real celebrities who’ve worked hard to get where they are – who doesn’t respect Jack Nicholson’s career arc for example? But I’m baffled as to what’s missing in people’s lives that makes them watch or even revere the activities of people like the Kardashians?

Why would anyone care about what’s going on in her life, or any one of dozens of similar reality TV personalities for that matter? How about her siblings? What has Kylie Jenner ever done to warrant adoration or even interest? Why does anyone even know who she is?

And what’s up with shows like Duck Dynasty or 19 Kids And Counting and similar slop? Tuning in mindlessly week after week to watch the television equivalent of a train wreck in slow motion doesn’t make a lot of sense. If you actually lived next door to typical reality TV folk, you’d likely move to a new neighborhood and you’d do it fast! But put them on TV and millions tune in.

What’s The Hook?
Who watches this stuff? Desperate people, that’s who. It’s much easier to watch the manufactured dramas of reality TV than it is to contemplate what’s going on in our own lives, particularly when there isn’t much drama. When in fact, there isn’t much of anything besides the slow treadmill that is the day-to-day existence.

For starters, there’s dealing with the demands of the kids, sitting in traffic, crawling through an endless stream of emails and pointless meetings at work, cleaning the house etc. etc. Then there’s the blessed relief of the weekend, which is unfortunately followed by another week of the same old same old.

Chuck Klosterman covered this subject rather nicely in a NY Times article titled My Zombie, Myself: Why Modern Life Feels Rather Undead. His theory is that “A lot of modern life is exactly like slaughtering zombies”.

As he points out, “If there’s one thing we all understand about zombie killing, it’s that the act is uncomplicated: you blast one in the brain from point-blank range (preferably with a shotgun). That’s Step 1. Step 2 is doing the same thing to the next zombie that takes its place. Step 3 is identical to Step 2, and Step 4 isn’t any different from Step 3. Repeat this process until (a) you perish, or (b) you run out of zombies. That’s really the only viable strategy.

Every zombie war is a war of attrition. It’s always a numbers game. And it’s more repetitive than complex. In other words, zombie killing is philosophically similar to reading and deleting 400 work e-mails on a Monday morning or filling out paperwork that only generates more paperwork, or following Twitter gossip out of obligation, or performing tedious tasks in which the only true risk is being consumed by the avalanche. The principal downside to any zombie attack is that the zombies will never stop coming; the principal downside to life is that you will be never be finished with whatever it is you do.

The Internet reminds of us this every day”.

When your life is reduced to a series of tedious tasks and routines that you do simply because that’s what you think you have to do, then it makes perfect sense to just tune it all out by watching stuff that literally does numb the mind – that’s why they call it mind-numbing. Being deeply interested in Kim Kardashian and her ilk is the surest sign that you’re not paying attention to your own life.

It’s all about distraction. The best kind of consumer is one who’s going to consuming till they die, and the only way to convince anyone to stay on the grindstone until they’ve reached the end of their useful (i.e. productive) life is to:

  1. Convince them that they’re doing okay
  2. Apply social conditioning as vigorously as possible from as early as possible
  3. Feed them ongoing doses of manufactured enjoyment, which is where retail therapy, reality TV, sports, celebrity worship and self-medication come in.

In that context, Kim Kardashian makes total sense, but she shouldn’t have to. Your life doesn’t have to be a small-scale, never-ending zombie apocalypse but it’ll probably stay that way as long as you’re content to be distracted, manipulated and conditioned.

Klosterman concludes his zombie article as follows:

“But you can do this, my friend. It’s disenchanting, but it’s not difficult. Keep your finger on the trigger. Continue the termination. Don’t stop believing. Don’t stop deleting. Return your voice mails and nod your agreements. This is the zombies’ world, and we just live in it. But we can live better”.

He’s right. You can live better. You deserve to, and so does your family if you have one. You do have choices.

Do Something!
One of the most powerful things you can do is to tune out the bullshit that’s being poured into your brain. That’s what’s making you a consumer, or as it should be known, a slave to social constructs. Reality TV should go first. It’s crap, pure and simple, and it has no place in your life, regardless of how much you enjoy just zoning out watching other people live their lives for you.

Sports is another thing that can, and should go. Rabidly following sports isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe some time away from obsessively wondering what “your” team is up to is a good idea, if only to see what else is going on out there in the world?

Then you can look at ways to cut down on the amount of advertising and marketing messages that you’re exposed to. These messages sell happiness through the power of fear – fear of not fitting in, of missing out and of being left behind. But the more attention you pay to them, the harder it is to make meaningful change.

You can make a massive dent on both of the above points by just not watching TV, at least the broadcast or reality kind. You can make better choices than that every single day. It’s not all that difficult to break the pattern of being distracted.

Make a decision to make your own life more interesting and exciting. You don’t have to do something big and extravagant – anything is good – plan a vacation, plan a weekend away, even going for a walk instead of watching TV is a worthwhile step.

Come up with something interesting to do instead of watching the stupid shenanigans on TV. What have you always wanted to do? Do you remember? If so, then just do that! Learn a language, learn how to brew your own beer, build a boat. Hell, if you have to, just paint your house. Seriously – anything is better than a life on the couch turning your brain into mush.

You could also ask yourself why you even care about all that rubbish on TV when there actually is some programming worth watching? What stops you from just ignoring all that junk in favor of some of the brilliant documentaries out there? Two hours on YouTube with some intent and purpose will teach you more than 2,000 hours of reality TV even could.

You owe it to yourself to live a bigger life than following Kim around. She doesn’t give a damn about you. No really, she doesn’t. So why do you give a damn about her?

Ashley Kramer

Ashley Kramer

Tribe of Change Blogger

Ashley Kramer is a freelance writer, minimalist, and traveler, not necessarily in that order. He writes about health and fitness, society, and technology. And strangely enough, he also writes books for children.
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