I’ve been busy the last 72 days or so, what with back-to-school, the High Holidays and, thank God, a few family simchas. So I seem to have missed it. I didn’t know about the elaborate, expensive and highly publicized wedding. And I probably wouldn’t have known about the divorce either except that when I emerged from my bubble to go buy some groceries, it was everywhere – splashed over the front of every glossy magazine by the checkout counter.
There’s a lot about the story of Kim Kardashian’s marriage that seems to have elicited tremendous public interest and comment. And I certainly have no new “insider” details to add. In fact, I have a question that no one seems to be asking. Why do we care? She seems to be confused (I confess to a superficial perspective gleaned from googling her), her life seems to lack focus and direction, her story is an unhappy one. So why are we interested? And why is she telling us?
She claims to have been “in love”. But no one seems to have taught her the meaning of those words. Does love mean just excitement about being with someone or is it a deeper recognition of their good and a desire to connect to that Divine aspect of their being?
She claims to have tried hard to make the marriage work. But even in Hollywood, 72 days seems to be a new low. I would have thought commitment meant giving it a little longer…It’s a rather pathetic story. We should get her counseling, not more photo shoots.
But I think there really are many lessons for all of us as we watch this tale unfold. It appears that the voyeurism that is Reality TV damages everyone it touches. No one emerges unscathed from the experience. And certainly (at least from my limited perspective), no one grows and changes and becomes a better person because they exposed the intimate details of their lives to millions of viewers.
Every morning in our prayers, we quote the prophet Bilaam’s praise of the Jewish people, “How goodly are your tents oh Jacob, your dwelling places oh Israel.” What exactly is he extolling? (I’ll give you a hint – it wasn’t their ability to go camping and pitch a tent!) What was unique about the Jewish homes was that no one’s tent door faced into anyone else’s tent. The concern was for privacy. No one should be able to see into anyone else’s home. Your home is your sanctuary – literally and symbolically. It is a holy structure meant to protect and preserve your important values and give refuge from the outside world.
Reality TV flies directly in the face of this crucial idea. It is unhealthy for the “actors,” their families and for the viewers. Besides the simple waste of time, our motives for watching are suspect. Are we wishing them well and looking for fairy-tale romances and marriages? Or is it all schadenfreude – the perverse pleasure we get in the downfall of others? Are we learning anything instructive about our own choices and relationships? Or are we just taking perverse pleasure in the failure of someone else’s?
It may not only be a distraction from the situations in our own lives that need attention but it may also teach us negative ways of behaving. Even if the relationships we see “modeled” on these shows are not ideal, we are still affected by them. I haven’t done any studies to prove this impact but we are very subject to peer pressure, even if the peers are on the screen. I’m concerned.
If our own lives were more meaningful and productive, if they gave us more pleasure, wouldn’t we be too busy to watch someone else’s? Do we feel better about our own (seemingly smaller weaknesses and failures) when we see their dramatic ones? (Isn’t this also a motivation to speak lashon hara, gossip?)
As I mentioned, I wasn’t following the Kim Kardashian’s story. I don’t really know who she is. I’m not sure that her regular viewers do either. In fact, I think it’s possible that if you expose your whole life to the camera, you start to forget who you are as well. You lose your center, your core, your sense of self.
I don’t know if Kim Kardashain’s wedding was a hoax, a publicity stunt or just a disaster. And in some way, it doesn’t matter. She has lost control of her life and of who she is and all the money and the publicity in the world won’t bring that back. She would do herself a kindness if she would retreat to lick her wounds in private. And we would probably all benefit if we just turned off the TV – or at least switched channels.