by: Philip Siegel
Recently, Jon Hamm joined a growing list of haters and called Kim Kardashian a f—king idiot. And of course, the internet loved it. Aren’t people tired of ripping on the Kardashians? It’s a broken record that never rang true in the first place. They’re everywhere! They’re talentless, annoying, and only famous because of a sex tape! 72-Day marriage! Blah blah freaking blah. Can we find a different punching bag please? A family that actually deserves it? Because the Kardashians are not as bad as people think.
They are everywhere and famous for being famous. But damn, do they work hard for their fame. Filming multiple series, clothing lines, endorsing products, club appearances, photo shoots, interviews. That may not be the same type of “work” as most of us do, but they aren’t sitting on a couch watching TV all day. They are by no means taking their fame for granted. They are always out there promoting themselves or their products.
Unlike Paris Hilton, they don’t have a hotel fortune to fall back on. You never hear of a Kardashian getting kicked out of clubs or going to rehab or getting arrested or not fulfilling some business or publicity commitment. They are professional reality stars, and they take their job seriously. I find their work ethic admirable. Unlike actors, musicians, and other people with a specific talent, the Kardashians can’t take breaks between projects. They can’t appear in one movie and make $20 million. They can’t spend five months filming a TV show and then take a hiatus. They know their fame won’t last, so they’re milking it.
People like to call the Kardashians stupid. Far from it. The ladies learned a thing or two from their late lawyer father. Starting multiple businesses. Ironclad pre-nups. No cell phones or cameras allowed at Kim’s wedding so the family could sell exclusive photos for a fortune. And yes, the Kardashians fame stems from Kim’s sex tape, but Kim Kardashian isn’t the only woman in history to garner fame from something dirty. Eva Peron, aka Evita, slept her way to the top in Argentina. Sienna Miller’s career took off when she had an affair with Jude Law. And who could forget when Monica Lewinsky became a designer and TV host? The Kardashians have parlayed that notoriety into a multimillion dollar business empire. It’s impressive. Ray J can’t say the same thing.
Stupid people don’t just fall into this level of success. They played their cards right. The Kardashians have set the merchandising blueprint for reality TV stars like Bethanny Frankel and The Situation. People griped that Kim’s wedding was a publicity stunt/cash grab, but she was not the first or the last celebrity to make a mint off her wedding. Elizabeth Taylor had seven weddings, and she’s a Hollywood treasure.
Critics dismiss Kim because of her sexiness. She has curves and looks good in a bikini. But they forget that she’s selling an image and lifestyle, like all brands do. She knows that unfortunately, if she kept herself buttoned-up, then she wouldn’t have a career. Guys, and the media, look at her as a sex object. It’s how they justify not taking her seriously. She plays their game, lets them ogle her famous derriere, but she is laughing all the way to the bank. Most of her fanbase are women. Kim shows them that a woman can be confident, savvy, and sexy at the same time. Where else can young women find good role models? Not in Hollywood, where women are sidelined.
Let’s not forget the key part to the Kardashians’ success: their show. Keeping Up with the Kardashians is better than it has any business being. It’s extremely contrived and incredibly scripted. It’s also not trying to portray real life. From the loopy opening credits to the Casio keyboard-level sound effects that randomly pop up during the show, Keeping Up is meant to be a postmodern family sitcom. If The Osbournes was the new Ozzie & Harriet and Newlyweds was the new I Love Lucy, then Keeping Up is the new Full House. The Kardashians seek to entertain us, not present an accurate representation of their day. Still, genuine moments between the sisters do sneak into the program. When Kourtney, Kim, and Khloe are together, they go off script. They joke, laugh, make fun of each other. It’s real. Anyone with a sibling will relate. These are the best moments of the series. They show you that no matter how much fame and money the Kardashians have, they’re first and foremost a family.
Keeping Up is one of the only reality series that doesn’t tear down women. The family isn’t self-destructing. The sisters don’t stab each other in the back. It’s one of the few reality series that show positive representations of strong, successful women. Compare that to the Real Housewives, The Bachelor, Bad Girls Club, Jerseylicious, Top Model. Nobody turns into Keeping Up to see who will cry or start a fight. The Kardashian sisters are just about the only reality stars who don’t stay famous by starting trouble or causing drama.
So, why all the hate?
I would rather live in a world with the Kardashians than the Real Housewives. But if people are sick of the Kardashians, then why are they still everywhere? Despite the outrage over Kim’s 72-day marriage, ratings surged for the latest season. People read websites about them, buy magazines with them on the cover, patronize their stores, watch their series, debate their pop culture merit. It’s not their fault that more people watch their show than Mad Men. The Kardashians will go away if you stop paying them so much attention. It seems that the more people hate on them, the more they cash in. If anyone is the f—king idiot, it’s us.
Philip Siegel grew up in New Jersey, just down the block from a veritable Real Housewife. He graduated from Northwestern University and promptly moved out to Los Angeles, where he became an NBC page. Phil likes to think that the character of Kenneth on 30 Rock is loosely based on his life rights. Currently, he works at a major Chicago advertising agency by day while he writes novels at night and during his commute sandwiched in between colorful characters on the El. His plays have been performed on stage and radio, and he has published articles about gay line dancing bars and the French box office, among other fundamental topics. Read his blog at philipsiegelwrites.blogspot.com and follow him on Twitter at @FillupSeagull.