Despite being averse to reality TV and celebrity culture, Hinda Mandell’s husband has a soft spot for the Kardashian clan. Why? They are so obviously petty, self-involved, and fabulous that you can’t fault them for it.
I watch the Kardashian trifecta with my husband.
This is not so much a confession as a fact.
The fact that I’m a viewer of the Kardashian Empire meshes with my side interests, i.e. celebrity culture. I’m a regular visitor to Perez Hilton’s site and I soak up celebrity news like a quality mop.
The fact that my consumerist-blasting husband watches the sisterly trio is much more interesting.
This is a man who cherishes simplicity, as in five-shirts-hanging-in-the-closet simplicity. As in he’s the owner of two-pairs-of-pants simplicity. He does not do accouterments. He thinks fashionable sunglasses make the wearer look uppity. And while Upstate New York winters may be blustery, you will never find him wearing a scarf. Typically, he opts for a mere fleece over a proper parka.
He is the Mountain Man.
A Mountain Man who happens to enjoy watching the Kardashians. A Mountain Man who despises Gossip Girl and won’t be in the same room with me—he flees the scene!—when I watch reruns on Netflix. That show he says is “cheap.” The Kardashians? “Entertaining.”
He has a soft spot for the high-fashion hijinks of what he calls, simply, “The Sisters.”
“Is that show on?” he once asked me.
I had an inkling of what he was referring to but I didn’t want to put words in his mouth.
“The show with The Sisters,” he said.
Apparently, it was the show that hath no name.
The fact is that Kourtney and Kim Take New York did happen to be on so we watched it with our Lhasa Apso and our popcorn and our sheer fascination with the excess of it all—without any snarky jeers.
I asked him why he has ample tolerance for the Kardashians while loathing other fashion-driven shows like Gossip Girl.
It appears that the unabashed nature of The Sisters has charmed him. It’s obvious that the scripted nature of the show is, well, scripted. The Sisters are out to promote themselves and he’s fine with that because they are not masking their motives with feigned beneficence. They are so obviously petty and self-involved and fabulous that you can’t fault them for it. Or at least he doesn’t want to.
They are also a tight-knit family in an age of fractured families—even if the Kardashian family unit is a product engineered for profit. Even so, we see Khloe struggle when her brother, Rob, pulls away from his once-tight relationship to her NBA-paying husband, Lamar Odom. We see Khloe close to tears as Kim rips into her as the elder sister’s marriage teeters on destruction. And in a March 11 episode of Khloe and Lamar, we see Khloe head straight to her stepdad, Bruce Jenner, for advice on how to tell her husband that she—as an Armenian-American—would feel uncomfortable if her husband were to play basketball for Turkey, a country that doesn’t recognize the Armenian Genocide as genocide.
It’s as if the Kardashians are the modern-day Cleavers. They embody today’s “perfect” American family not only in spite of their messy fights and selfishness and self-centered approach to life—but because of it. They are the family of many “me, me, me’s” in a culture that worships the ego, Freudian or otherwise.
They are packaged and perfumed but they don’t hide their promotional interests. They revel in them. And maybe that’s why it’s refreshing for the Mountain Man to dig The Sisters. He doesn’t feel like he’s being taken for a ride. What you see is what you get.
Or at least that’s the beauty of the Kardashian illusion.
Hinda Mandell, Ph.D., teaches in the Department of Communication at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. Her writing has appeared in the Boston Globe, Politico and the Chicago Tribune. Follow her on Twitter: @hindamandell.
Photo credit vivirucho01/Flickr