By now you’ve no doubt heard — perhaps far more than you wanted to know — about the ongoing saga of Lamar Odom and Whoever Kardashian. If you’re not, here’s the short version: a wealthy, ex-NBA player who probably has a drug problem fell ill in a Nevada brothel. Now, his estranged wife is helping him get well again.
That’s it. That’s the story. If it weren’t for the fact that his estranged wife was named “Kardashian,” this wouldn’t have been news.
But “news” it is. Publications like CNN, Huffington Post, and yes, the Inquisitr have run story after story (after story after story) about the Lamar Odom/Khloe Kardashian debacle.
On the one hand, covering the lives of famous people, while some readers may find it distasteful, is part of the job of the media in this celebrity-obsessed culture. On the other hand, why is Khloe Kardashian famous? Or for that matter, why is anyone named “Kardashian” famous?
The answer is simple: the Kardashians are Famous-For-Being-Famous. Sure, they’re stars of a popular “reality” TV series; sure, they have clothing and make-up lines; sure, one or more of them have done some modeling. But they all became “famous” because of Kim, who herself became “famous” because of — well, that’s hard to say.
Back in 2007, Kim was a 27-year-old L.A. socialite whom no one outside of L.A. society likely gave a second thought about. Sure, she palled around with Paris Hilton (also famous-for-being-famous), but she didn’t have TV cameras following her around at all times, the press dutifully covering her every move. Then a sex tape surfaced, it made the rounds on the internet, and she would have likely been just as quickly forgotten had not the E! television network decided that she needed a “reality” TV show. The rest, as they say, is history.
Speaking of “reality” TV, the celebrity gossip pages are filled with the latest goings-on in the lives of people whose only claim to fame is being on a “reality” TV series. The Gosselins, Honey Boo Boo and the gang, Spencer Pratt, the Duggars — all ridiculous people whose ridiculous lives became fodder for the media because they got famous-for-being-famous.
So is “reality TV’ the reason behind the Famous-For-Being-Famous phenomenon? It certainly hasn’t hurt. Few people outside of Fayetteville, Arkansas — and certain evangelical Christian circles — would recognize the name Jim Bob Duggar had not TLC given the Duggars a show.
And from a TV producer’s perspective, reality TV is a license to print money. Why build sets when you can film in people’s houses? Why pay for high-priced actors and actresses when you can pay non-union, regular people far less money? Take someone who has some ridiculous — and tenuous — claim to “fame,” such as having over a dozen children or appearing in a sex tape, make a show about them, and cash the checks.
Still, the concept of Famous-For-Being-Famous isn’t entirely a new thing. Anyone with a ridiculous enough story, a media outlet willing to run with it, and a public willing to eat it up, can become Famous-For-Being-Famous. Take, for example, Joseph Abraham Norton, who, in 1859, declared himself Emperor of the United States, according to the Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco. His proclamation would have been considered the rantings of a lunatic, had not the people of San Francisco thought it was the funniest thing they had ever seen, and run with it. Children bowed to him in the streets. Currency issued in his name was accepted throughout San Francisco. When he died, 30,000 people attended his funeral.
However, unlike the Kardashians, Emperor Norton was a respected — nay, beloved — member of San Francisco society. Sure, he was probably crazy, and sure, he was a train wreck, but he was a fun train wreck. He was a living joke, but the people of San Francisco enjoyed participating in the joke.
The Kardashians aren’t fun train wrecks — they’re just train wrecks, and the joke has long since stopped being funny. It’s time to stop talking about them.
[Photo by Ethan Miller / Getty Images]