It's no secret that our post 9/11 world can sometimes set our heads spinning with threats of international and domestic terror that seem to continuously ebb and flow. If you're anything like me, concern for your personal safety seems to reach a fever pitch just as you think it's all clear to catch your breathe. With ISIS brutal killings and constant threats; the war in Gaza; Ferguson, Missouri; and Vladimir Putin threatening nukes the way a bully threatens to steal your lunch money on the school playground, it stands to reason that we would all walk around with a low-level chronic functional anxiety. President Obama's outward ambivalence towards such domestic and foreign policy matters is of no comfort.
With all of this "real" news eating our psyches alive, is it any wonder we turn to soft news about Kim Kardashian as a welcome distraction to what ails us? Tabloid media exploded after September 11, 2001, most notably, as US Weekly revamped their format, re-emerging as a juicy celebrity weekly in 2002. Magazines like Star, In Touch Weekly and Life & Style Weekly all followed in short order, getting in on the distraction news game. They began feeding us gossip and inside news about celebrities until we reached binge status. Then came the blogger explosion which upped the ante even further. Many actors, musicians and models who made a name for themselves within their specific craft, shunned such exposure; hiding from paparazzi, flipping off videographers, and refusing to expose parts of their private lives to reporters. Then came a new crop of celebrities whose very careers are dependent upon relentless media coverage of their personal lives via candid pictures, inside tidbits about their relationships, and so forth. The "famous for being famous" phenomenon fed the tabloid media beast in a way that traditional celebrities would never allow.
For those who make a hobby of hating on the Kardashians and Jenners, this is not a Kim Kardashian slam piece, but rather a social commentary on how Kim Kardashian has become, perhaps, the greatest benefactor of Americans' need for distraction from terror and other societal ills. Case in point: as a daily subscriber of several New York newspapers, I practiced my daily ritual this morning of reaching for the Daily News. My eyes were immediately assaulted with a grisly cover featuring an ISIS knife wielding thug and latest be-heading victim, American journalist, Steven Sotloff. The cover headline read, "Do you have a strategy now, Mr. President?" A bewildered President Obama's picture is the inset image on the cover's lower right hand side. My blood ran cold as I took this all in. Then, before I could process what our world is coming to, I flipped the cover open and was immediately distracted and saved from myself with a picture of super-stylish Kim Kardashian, flaunting her usual fashion prowess, and holding baby North West, as little North dons a $1,450 Saint Laurent cross-body handbag in the picture. In mere seconds, my mind went from feeling hopeless and disgusted by the terror and hate that has befallen our world, to thinking, "What the hell is a 1 year old doing with a $1,450 purse?!" Kim Kardashian saved the day once again!
Ok, I'm clearly being facetious here. But I think that if we are all being honest, sometimes we need to bury our heads in the sand, if only for a moment, to peep a look at the exploits, excess and glamour that Kim Kardashian provides.
I recently mused with some friends, wondering exactly what Kim Kardashian is celebrated for. I mean, doesn't the word "celebrity" infer that one is celebrated for something? Some sort of relevant contribution to the world, whether it be through the arts, medicine, philosophy, charity, invention? Perhaps we celebrate Kim K for her innate ability to provide a much needed sleight-of-hand trick, grabbing our attention away from the real world to take in her designer duds, long hair extensions, and over-the-top curves. And if you asked her husband, Kanye West, he would protest that Kim, herself, is Art. Ok, so none of us knows what the hell he means by that, but still.
As a journalist, I have interviewed all three older sisters in the Kardashian clan (no I will not succumb to the urge to spell clan with a "K," thank you!): Kim, Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian. When I have spoken with each of them, we don't speak of a film, or a book, or an album. We have spoken about their reality megahit, Keeping Up With The Kardashians and its gaggle of spin-offs, but mostly we discussed their lives. Why? Because people want to know. If people weren't interested in hearing about their lives, I would surely have been out of a job at the time. Ok, not out of a job, but you get my point.
Once upon a time there was a distinction between hard news and soft news, or "tabloid news." Now, with outlets like CNN, FOX, MSNBC and our major market newspapers providing coverage on people like Kim Kardashian, that distinction has blurred and relented to an appetite that can't seem to be quelled. But what exactly are we so hungry for? The minutia of Kim Kardashian's life, or some much needed relief from large problems that we can't begin to solve?
And more importantly, what does Kim Kardashian read about or watch when she needs to escape from the world's most pressing issues of our time?
Someone cue the violins.
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