Today I’m going to share some thoughts that many of you will not agree with. I want to just preface this by saying, I’m a highly opinionated person. And on top of that, I hold a lot of opinions that are not widely held. In fact, I even started googling some of my more controversial opinions, just to see if anyone out there was on the same page as me. Unfortunately, I didn’t come up with many results on this one. But I’m a big believer that if you’re saying something that everyone agrees with, you’re probably not saying something very interesting or important at all. So here goes.
Alright. I’ll just come right out and say it. I’m a huge fan of the Kardashian family. And I don’t mean that I watch the show as a guilty pleasure, or that I love to hate them, or I watch it ironically. I genuinely enjoy tuning in every Sunday night to see what those glamazons are up to. Many people will say that the Kardashians are fame-starved, vain idiots who don’t deserve the money or attention they receive. I used to nod along and agree and say “Oh yeah, I just love trashy television. They’re ridiculous”. But no. The lies stop here. I’ve watched the better part of all 8 seasons of Keeping up with the Kardashians in addition to all the spin-offs, and I don’t see the terrible selfish people that everyone says they are. I see a family who truly and deeply loves and cares about each other. They have fun, make fun of themselves, and are happiest when they’re making each other happy. They build each other up and have each other’s backs.
I know that reality TV isn’t reality and it doesn’t show every side of a person but after almost 10 years of having their lives filmed, it’s hard to hide who you really are. Are they flawed? Yes. Kim’s vain and insecure. Kourtney can be a bit preachy. Khloe’s a meddler. Are they fame-starved? Of course! But who in Hollywood isn’t? You don’t choose a career path in the limelight if you hate attention. They’re far from perfect. But they’re not bad people and they’re certainly not dumb. They don’t have a TV show because Kim made a sex tape, that only gets you in the door. They have a TV show because they are funny + entertaining to watch. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s no different than the hundreds of other TV shows whose purpose is to entertain.
And yet- I see and hear every week magazines and people around me saying these women are stupid, vapid, human garbage. I don’t understand what they did to deserve the level of derision they receive. I couldn’t help but think it was tied to a bigger problem about how we treat women and celebrities in our culture. So I took to Star Magazine to get some answers.
In 2013, Star Magazine conducted a poll and released a list of the Top 20 Most Hated Celebrities. Not surprisingly, at least to me, 7 of the top 10 were women. When you look at the list, it’s hard to tell why some of these people deserve to be so universally hated. #1 on the list is Gwyneth Paltrow. She’s been criticized for being pretentious and out of touch with the common folk. Chris Brown, however, came in at #20, performing leagues better in the public’s eye than Gwyneth. So let me get this straight- we hate Gwyneth because she’s wealthy and a little high on her horse, but we don’t mind Chris Brown as much, who’s a convicted felon for assaulting his girlfriend. We can’t stand Anne Hathaway, #9 on the list, because she takes herself too seriously, but we love, adore, and respect Woody Allen, who has molested a child. Kim Kardashian is everything that’s wrong with socitety, but Sean Penn continues to be a celebrated actor, even though he was convicted for domestic assault for striking Madonna with a baseball bat during their marriage. Madonna is #7 on the list. Sean Penn is nowhere to be found.
Why it that male celebrities can be violent, criminal, and down-right creeps and still be successful, and even revered in the public eye, but women can’t even be minutely flawed? Gwyneth Paltrow is out of touch. If I had been as rich as her for as long as she has, I think I’d be a little out of touch too. Anne Hathaway takes herself seriously, but guess what? She’s a serious actress and a smart woman- not everyone can be or wants to be cute, funny, and bubbly all the time. The Kardashians want fame and attention, like 90% of people who go into show business. And who hasn’t taken a self-indulgent selfie at one point or another? Does that really make them worse than people who’ve committed crimes and physically and emotionally harmed other humans?
This is why, I’ve boycotted these magazines. I dont’ want to hear another word on how Kim Kardashian is disgusting for gaining so much weight during her pregnancy, but the fact that she lost it all afterwards shows she’s a bad mom who’s not committed to raising her child. I don’t want to read about how Beyoncé is a demanding diva because she asked for peanut butter and healthy snacks on her tour bus. I don’t want to see the best and worst beach bodies.
It’s easy to say that these women chose to be in this industry and because they did, they have to accept the fact that they’re going to be watched and criticized for their every move. But if I hate on these women, I’m contributing to the same culture that tells me I need to be skinny but not-too-skinny. I have to look perfect in a bikini but if I say I ate kale to get there, I’m annoying and possibly anorexic. I have to be talented, gorgeous, funny and charismatic to boot. You can’t be too serious, or too silly, too smart or too dumb, too perfect or too flawed. I don’t know about you, but I know a lot of women and I don’t know a single one of them who meets this criteria. And I don’t think any of them deserve to be on any Most Hated list.
So I’m done. This Sunday, you’ll find me watching the E! Network to catch up on Kourtney’s latest prank and Khloe’s new hairstyle. But you won’t find me downloading Chris Brown’s latest single. You don’t have to love the Kardashians as much as I do, but I hope you will at least agree that being shallow may be annoying, but being an actual criminal is far worse. So can we please give these ladies a break?
In attempting to articulate my feelings about reddit, I always begin composed, logical, some might even say scholarly. But eventually I will undoubtedly devolve into a raving lunatic, threatening to cancel my internet connection and emancipate myself from my own generation. Forgive my occasional lapses in logic and inflammatory language; I’m trying.
I am not going to talk about the overwhelming culture of haters. It is there, for sure, but it gets enough attention. Haters gonna hate and the anonymity of the internet will always protect these Negative Nellys, no matter how many Anti-Cyber-Bullying PSAs are produced. My problem with reddit is what I see as a flawed culture of cool, a lack of creativity in humor, and a popularity contest for the “unpopular.”
Reddit is a community made up of self-proclaimed “nerds”. But it is liking nerdy things that makes them cool in this world: superheroes, Pokemon, canceled cult classics, fantasy series’, etc. Instead of the world created in Mean Girls, where hot chicks and football players rule all, the world of reddit is a nerd’s paradise. It is a place where playing Zelda and building your own PC are badges of honor instead of a Coach purse. But the world of reddit is no less mean and exclusive as the world of Mean Girls. Don’t play old-school Mario on your N64? Lame. Don’t understand that obscure Arrested Development reference? Don’t come back until you’ve watched all 3 seasons. Don’t think the Philosoraptor is hilarious? Get out. Now.
Reddit has created a world where liking something is somehow a reflection of who you are. If you think 30 Rock is funny, you must be funny. If you read Harry Potter, you must be smart. If you come up with a caption for a “Y U NO” Guy comic, you must be creative. But is this really so? The culture of reddit feels inherently uncreative. Someone makes an image taken from a TV show with the exact text and gets upvotes. This person didn’t write or create anything. They merely recognized that something was funny. Why the praise? People take a meme and regurgitate it in every form possible. Even new memes are references to old ones.
It’s difficult to create a funny video, it is easy to post one. It is difficult to craft a witty joke, it is easy to plug things into a meme generator. It is hard to be funny, cool, and smart in a large group’s eyes. It is easy to like, or at least claim to like a list of shows, movies, and games on reddit’s “cool list” in order to gain approval. Posting something cool is infinitely less impressive then creating something uniquely cool and yet redditors tend to be satisfied with very little, perhaps because it means getting approval is made easier.
I am well aware of my overgeneralizations. There are plenty of things on reddit that are creative, interesting, funny, and smart. There are plenty of good people who are not merely the Regina Georges of the internet world. My problem is with the overall culture of humor on reddit that is seeping into all corners of the internet. Go right ahead, laugh at your memes, post your troll faces, jump for joy when your comment gets 100 upvotes. But do you want your “cool” to be reflected by the things you like instead of the things you make/are? Is wearing pink on Wednesdays to gain your peers’ approval any better than creating a rage comic to gain your peers’ approval? And finally, do we really need another advice animal?
My latest project. An 8-bit inspired needlepoint pillow for a nice fellow who has been kind of enough to be my buddy for 3 years.
I like to think of myself as an intellectual: someone who reads, and writes and thinks about the issues of the world, someone who scoffs at Twilight fans and throws words like “tortiloquy” around. But every time one of those darling Toddlers snaps in her flippers and puts on her diamond-encrusted gown, my intellectual image of myself melts. I love reality television. I would love to be one of those people who says “What’s a Snooki?” or changes the channel to CNN when they see a Kardashian pop up on their screens. But alas, I am not. I love the sound of wealthy women screaming at each other in a limo, waving their sparkly clutches in the air; I cannot get enough of pregnant teenagers arguing with their parents over whether or not they should be allowed to hit up da club; I live for T-shirt time.
I don’t lead a life at all similar to what you might see on the Jersey Shore. I don’t drink, I don’t frequent the club, and I have never screamed at another woman at a fancy dinner party. The drama in my life is limited to the occasional spat with my sister over who is the proper owner of the Yoshi tank-top. So when I flip on the TV and turn the station to the Bravo Network, I am ushered into a magical kingdom of cat fights and tiny dogs. I am mystified by their worlds and endlessly fascinated with their antics. I imagine this feeling is similar to a child reading Harry Potter for the first time and being amazed by a world so different from their own. While they pine for witchcraft and wizardry, I long for toddlers and tiaras.
“These people are terrible. They get paid to lead their ridiculous lives and are famous not because they accomplished something great or had an amazing talent but simply because they are hot messes.” I totally agree and I really cannot think of anyway to justify my obsession other than explaining that it is not limited to television. I seem to have been born with a perverse desire to “listen in” on other people. On the bus, I like to situate myself in front of people having a conversation. Sometimes the conversations are dull: plans for fishing trips, thoughts on healthcare, or gardening tips. But other times I am given a glimpse into the lives of people with problems and insights far more interesting than my own: a couples’ very public and very heated argument, BFFs discussing the horror of someone else wearing their hair in a side pony curled to Homecoming, or a woman reminiscing about the great times she had at the Berkeley Free Clinic. Maybe I shouldn’t endorse the qualities that reality TV stars espouse but real people are infinitely funnier than the ones we make up, drama is fun, especially if you are not directly involved, and life, at least my life, is more enjoyable with these crazies.
Women’s issues are so often linked to beauty. As a sex, we are pretty darn beautiful so I can see how this could become something we are concerned with. However, every time I hear a discussion on women and weight, both sides of the discussion disappoint me. Anorexia is a problem. With one in 200 women developing anorexia nervosa, this is certainly something we should be concerned about. I am aware that the media’s portrayal of a very unrealistic, idealized, and exclusive form of beauty contributes to this problem. The culture of women posting pictures of skinny women on their refrigerators as “thinspiration”, or bonding over how much they hate their thighs, is flawed. However, the counter culture of “loving your curves” and calling any slender woman anorexic is also flawed. It seems that most women have divided themselves into two camps: “I Love my Body” and “I Hate my Body”. I propose a third option: “I appreciate my body’s ability to walk, wiggle my toes, and keep my heart beating. Otherwise, it is a relatively meaningless device.”
Women have been trying to tackle this issue of beauty in all the wrong ways. You can’t just say “Everyone is beautiful” because everyone isn’t. You can’t glorify thinness or curviness because either way, someone is left out. Instead of trying to redefine beauty or find some way for everyone to be invited to the Pretty Party, we need to step back and figure out why we are so concerned with it to begin with. When you think about the things you love about yourself, should your curves, or lack thereof, make the list? My legs may be long and nice to look at, but can I really take ownership of them? I did nothing to get them and they say nothing about myself other than “I can walk”. My body is a useful vessel but the things that are best about me do not lie on my face or my hips. I am awesome because I work on being awesome. I, with the help of others, have cultivated myself into a caring, smart, funny, thoughtful person. The ugly bunions on my feet and the cute freckle on the end of my nose had little to do with this process.
I am by no means impervious to the allure of being “hawt”. I am prone to slyly checking myself out, zooming in on pictures of myself, or lingering in the mirror a little too long while getting ready in the morning. Beauty is fun, there is no denying that. It is fun to dress up, sashay down the street, and revel in the glory of youth. However, it is unimportant. Like the Kardashians, or the latest Ke$ha single, it is a fun indulgence but should not play a very important role in your life. It is not about loving your curves or hating your thighs, it is about liking yourself, the parts of yourself that you made notable and are not made of muscle or bone.