I am writing this from beyond the grave, so my apologies in advance for any typos or inconsistencies in tense.
It started out as a rather unremarkable Saturday. I was nursing a mild cold, the TV remote was sluggishly low on batteries, thus I found myself viewing a Kourtney and Kim Take New York marathon. Five-and-a-half hours later, I found myself gasping my last breath as my glass of Sauvignon Blanc rolled to the floor, a la Citizen Kane. I was, quite literally, bored to death.
Miraculously, I've been given a portal to the land of the living, via HuffPost TV, so I thought I would use this rare conduit from the afterlife to share the soul-deadening horror of what I have witnessed. Because it's not just boring -- it's bad. It's bad in a very specific, post-millenial way, which I will attempt to deconstruct for you here.
It seems many people harbor harsh feelings re: the Kardashians without having watched a minute of Kardashian programming. This shapely clan of sultry opportunists has seeped into our cultural consciousness like a leaky breast implant. You're probably aware that Kim, 30, threw a multi-million dollar wedding for a marriage that lasted 72 days, and that she and her (ex) fiancé, hulking New Jersey Nets power forward Kris Humphries, were subsequently lambasted on the Internet-o-sphere for said sham-nuptials.
Maybe you're also vaguely cognizant that Kim's sister Khloe is married to another NBA star, Lamar Odom, and they, too, have their own spin-off show (Khloe & Lamar) and that a third sister, Kourtney, joins them as partner in an upscale Kardashian retail store ("Dash"). Perhaps you know the family matriarch is calculating stage-mom Kris Jenner and the patriarch is hapless former Olympic champion Bruce Jenner. Together they spend a disproportionate amount of time yelling at each other, pawing at their hair extensions, partying in Vegas and shilling an astonishing volume of merchandise, from Sears diffusion lines to unnecessary tell-all memoirs.
The premise of the latest series is that -- for reasons unexplained to the viewer -- LA-based sisters Kim and Kourtney "Take New York," by way of rolling their LV luggage into a penthouse for an extended stay at the Gansevoort Park Avenue.
For those lucky enough to be unfamiliar, the Gansevoort Park Avenue is one of those soul-sucking hip hotels with played-out Alice-In-Wonderland sensory-overload aesthetics, replete with bright purple regency chairs and disco ball-inspired chandeliers. Why anyone would choose to stay there while not roofied is a mystery.
Undeterred, newlyweds Kim and Kris Humphries, Kim's sister Kourtney, Kourtney's boyfriend Scott Disick (a smooth Hollywood gadabout with anger management issues who ascribes to the American Psycho school of male grooming) and their 2-year-old toddler, Mason, all move into a two-story suite.
Why would these presumably well-off couples not get separate residences?
Because that would leave us, the audience, without the thrill of seeing Kris Humphries walk in on Kourtney's naked yoga session, deeming the instructor (a good-natured rasta guy) "disgusting" and ordering "antibacterial spray" to be administered in his wake. Klassy! We would not get to witness the aftermath of Kourtney's holistic enema on the Humphries' martial bed. Nor would we behold Kris' bummer keg parties or barely concealed rage at toddler Mason's habit of waking up an hour -- a whole hour -- before he is due at the gym.
But the "A" story here is the swift unraveling of Kim and Kris' marriage. In one scene, Kris steps on Kim with his caveman-foot, ruining her pedicure, which becomes a huge screaming deal. There's a deep sense of foreboding when that toenail cracks, and it's not just contemplating the cost of a logo-embossed gel replacement. You know this couple is doomed, you know from The Today Show, but you also know instinctively, watching his lack of remorse, her off-the-charts self-absorption. When Kris later informs Kim "by the time we have kids nobody will care about you anyway" it's really cruel but also probably true, and isn't the whole point of marriage to distract your partner from all the cruel truths -- as opposed to pointing them out on national television?
This is insidious trash, not to be enjoyed as a guilty-pleasure or observed as a "let's look at celebrities-in-a-fishbowl" anthropological pursuit. It's uniquely, metaphysically bad because you are actually watching a relationship deconstruct before your eyes -- a relationship that was, ostensibly, built for your eyes.
Granted... the two of them seem to have (shudder, death rattle) physical chemistry and a sort of sophomoric flirting attentiveness. The enterprise is not completely devoid of authentic moments. But they do seem like depressing people to think much about or devote time to observing or, God forbid, to emulate or admire. This is, above all, a commercial endeavor, the deepest sort of selling-out one can do.
Before my untimely demise my husband and I lived in Tribeca, not far from the Dash store in Soho, and often I would see exhausted sets of Midwestern parents watching their pre-teen daughters taking pictures of the storefront.
Once again: taking pictures of the storefront.
Let that sink into your mortal heads. With everything there is to see and do and experience in New York, from architectural triumphs to art and entertainment both high and low, vibrant street culture and crazy happenings around every corner, the youth of America trains their iPhone eye on this temple of sequined mini-dresses?
What I urge you, with all that is left in me, is to not make my mistake. To look away. This holiday season, and all the time, really, mindfully engage with your friends and family. Look up from your various screens. Ask grandma a question! I know, it's totally hard, but try. The only thing giving these shameless sylphs of consumption their strength -- their very existence -- is your attention.
Follow Heather Wagner on Twitter: www.twitter.com/heatherwag