Culture And Criticism

Kim Kardashian Is Not The Boss Of Me, And Other Reassuring Truths

Seen here on October 17, Kim Kardashian is now — maybe — getting a divorce. i i

hide captionSeen here on October 17, Kim Kardashian is now — maybe — getting a divorce.

Evan Agostini/AP
Seen here on October 17, Kim Kardashian is now — maybe — getting a divorce.

Seen here on October 17, Kim Kardashian is now — maybe — getting a divorce.

Evan Agostini/AP

While I was kicking back at Rancho Relaxo, Kim Kardashian decided to get a divorce. Only 72 days after she was married in an event that was to bling what a gluttonous medieval feast is to a table bowed under the weight of a thousand turkey legs, Kardashian made official that she wanted to end her marriage to Kris Humphries.

I am not telling you this under duress.

I am not telling you this because anyone made me.

Telling you this is my choice. Talking about it is my choice.

I stress that because the Kardashian nuptials have once again triggered the cycle of indulgence and regret that marks both the public treatment of celebrity news and the day after Thanksgiving. Once again, we hear about the decline of culture, the end of intelligence, the shortening of the attention span, the flash of shiny objects, and the crass devaluing of marriage, femininity, masculinity, love, religious ceremonies and the New Jersey Nets. As if this is Kim Kardashian's fault for managing to get her wedding turned into a preposterously expensive bacchanal held inside a glass dome with millions of noses pressed against it, mostly on the strength of her round behind.

This is a woman who is literally a famous walking derriere, and there is absolutely no need for her to spell the end of anything on earth. The thing about those who rise without talent is that they have no power but the power given freely to them. A great musician can make himself difficult to ignore. A great actor can push you to watch her even if you don't like her. People who are famous for something require you to decide how much to separate the art from the artist.

Kim Kardashian does not. Kim Kardashian has no power over anyone that hasn't been handed over willingly. When she was married in the first place, while there was certainly plenty of direct coverage of the wedding — the E! special, the People magazine coverage — that was dwarfed by the clamor of mockery, all of it deserved. Like the ladies in the famous joke who complain about the bad quality of the food as well as the fact that it's served in "such small portions," a lot of media coverage of the Kardashian wedding consisted of lamenting its ubiquity while talking through a mouthful of it.

There's nothing wrong with that, up to a point. I've done it myself. I will again. Chomp chomp, this wedding sure is stupid. You write or you report about what's going on in the world, and some of it is unavoidably talking about stuff that you're really only talking about it because it's in the wind. The fact that it's possible to make millions and millions of dollars on your wedding is something that's happening in the world, and the fact that something is distasteful doesn't give you, on its own, cause to ignore it. Moreover, the absurd comedy in something like Kim Kardashian's wedding is something it's not unreasonable to indulge in.

Yes, she is a passing distraction. Yes, she is nothing but spectacle. But there has always been spectacle. We didn't invent scandal in the last five years, or since the internet was invented; we didn't invent gossip; we didn't invent craven curiosity about the lives of others. We've done worse; we've been worse. It didn't take E! to get people to pay to see the "Elephant Man" or to poke the mentally ill with sticks.

This is not worth the breath it takes to scold ourselves about it. It is not worth the worry. If indeed Kim Kardashian got married for the spectacle and not for love, it's not as if it went uncommented-upon at the time. If you want to worry about the culture, worry about the cramped unkindness of our discourse or our tendency to reflexively believe the worst about each other. Worry about the casting of every public conversation as an epic clash between enemy camps, whether it's about politics or reality television.

Kim Kardashian is a distraction as a celebrity, but she's also a distraction as a magnet for discontent. She doesn't hold sway over the culture; she doesn't even hold sway over me or you or any of us. There's a reason that the entire history of this blog contains, unless I'm forgetting something, two posts on this person amounting to substantially less virtual ink than we've spilled over Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. I hardly ever write about this person, or this kind of person, because I don't have to, and neither does anybody else.

I realize it's counterintuitive: We go a bit through the looking glass with these things, people who write about culture, because these discussions twist and bend toward whatever we currently understand to be The Way Things Are Right Now, and the way people are talking about it becomes interesting in a way the thing itself is not. And the very same topic can be both a free ride and a third rail — you know people will pay attention to it, and you know that they will be appalled that you touched it. There's no one right answer to having your interest piqued by something you sort of wish didn't exist in the first place.

But whatever answer you pick, whether it's silence or measured engagement or jumping onto that Thanksgiving buffet and trying to get the drumstick before anybody else does, it's ultimately not the turkey's fault.

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