America's version of the royal wedding between Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries is over. Since the event is set to air as two-part television spectacular on the reality-star bride's home network, E!, America has not yet seen it. But thanks to shrewd marketing and plenty of product placement (thanks no doubt to her business-savvy "momager," Kris) and gobs of interest from the paparazzi as well as the mainstream press (in everything Kim) just about all of us knew many of the details beforehand.
If you wondered how the young(ish) couple could afford their multi-million dollar extravaganza, don't. They didn't need to. According to reports, much of the over-the-top event was free, including Vera Wang gowns and dresses, a $15,000 wedding cake, $2 million in flowers, the invitations, and on and on. Plus, the couple stands to claim a portion of the estimated $15 million the event will rake in for the Kardashian clan and the show's producer, Ryan Seacrest, not to mention the $2.5 million People is reportedly paying for the exclusive photos.
So whats the big deal? What do I have against these newlyweds earning enough on their nuptials to send them on a lavish honeymoon and then support them for the rest of their lives? Actually, nothing. What I am afraid of is what this event represents to their millions of fans, many of whom would undoubtedly switch places with the curvaceous Kim or want the same for their daughters.
A report by UCLA researchers published in the July issue of Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace crystalized the growing and nagging concerns I have harbored and quantified them in a psychological study. The article, The Rise of Fame: An Historical Content Analysis, examined the values portrayed in popular shows over four decades, from 1967 to 2007. Sadly, it reveals how dramatically those values have changed in just ten years, for the worse (my opinion, not the researchers).
According to the UCLA study, the top five values in the most recent popular programs were fame, achievement, popularity, image and financial success. Just ten years earlier, the top five values were community feeling, benevolence (being kind and helping others), image, tradition and self-acceptance. Why does this matter? The researchers noted that, "The biggest change occurred from 1997 to 2007, when YouTube, Facebook and Twitter exploded in popularity. Their growth parallels the rise in narcissism and the drop in empathy among college students in the United States, as other research has shown. We don't think this is a coincidence," (the researchers' opinion, not mine).
For anyone (like me) who may have asked, "Why is Kim Kardashian famous?" it should come as no surprise that on television today (especially in reality programming), people are famous simply for being famous. When you realize this study was completed before the Kardashians were on television, you can see how much farther we have come (or sunk) as a society. Now, add in two other top-rated shows, Jersey Shore and Teen Mom and you can only wonder, "What's next?" I shudder at the thought.
To Kim and her new husband, I wish years (or at least several television seasons) of happiness. I cannot wait to hear the orchestral strains of "Here Comes the Bride." Still, I imagine it may also seem more like a funeral dirge for the values that seemed so important less than a generation ago, only to be replaced by fame and fortune. I wasn't invited to the wedding, but I'd love to send the couple a gift. I wonder if Kim is registered at Crate and Barrel? Maybe she'll send me an autographed photo.
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