Why Kim Kardashian's Divorce Is Good for America — and Women

Kim Kardashian is finally doing something good for America: she’s getting divorced. The author of Reality Bites Back writes on how the breakup finally blows the lid off reality TV’s wedding-industrial complex. Kim Kardashian is finally doing something good for America: she’s getting divorced.


 by Jennifer L. Pozner

Anyone tuned into Facebook, Twitter, or the entertainment press knows that the reality star announced the termination of her marriage on Monday—after just 72 days, and dozens of airings of Kim’s Fairytale Wedding, the two-part special E! paid $15 million to broadcast.

Yet on E!, viewers can still watch Kim’s famous figure draped in $60K Vera Wang gowns, brandishing a 20.5-carat engagement ring from Lorraine Schwartz jewelers, sipping $400K of Perrier-Jouët champagne, and munching a Hansen’s wedding cake worth more than I spend annually on housing in NYC. As I write this on Thursday, Kim and Kris are still babbling on about “happily ever after” on my boob tube, in heavy rotation—like The Twilight Zone, but with more tulle.

It’s a brilliant bit of cognitive dissonance, giving viewers the opportunity to recognize how hollow and manipulative reality TV’s fairy-tale narratives really are. As E! Entertainment president Suzanne Kolb told The New York Times this week: “The program model of television doesn’t exactly keep up with the life model of real people.” She was justifying her decision to keep airing Kim’s Fairytale Wedding, but she unwittingly debunked the main premise of so-called reality TV: that it has anything to do with real life or real people.

Who knew Kim Kardashian, celebreality tabloid queen, would be the one to finally help us interrupt that bogus premise? The disconnect between blissful on-air bride and off-screen divorcée offers viewers proof, once and for all, that reality-TV fairy tales are nothing more than a farce. Reality shows don’t focus on what it takes to build real relationships—instead, they’re all about persuading women to lower their romantic standards and their caloric intake long enough to con some douchey stranger into slapping a product-placement ring on it.

In my research for Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV, which was published last year, I spent 10 years—yes, seriously, a decade—monitoring more than 1,000 hours of unscripted dating, marriage, makeover, competition, and lifestyle series, and talking with high-school and college students across the country. What they’ve taught me is that as much as we love to laugh at Kim Kardashian—and her infamous reality cohorts like Snooki and Flavor Flav—the messages these shows send are deeply harmful, especially to women and girls.

Reality shows don’t focus on what it takes to build real relationships—instead, they’re all about persuading women to lower their romantic standards and their caloric intake long enough to con some douchey stranger into slapping a product-placement ring on it.

So, what do these shows teach us? To start, that all a groom needs to qualify as “Prince Charming” is a fat wallet (why, hello there, “Joe Millionaire”). That “every girl” wants to—and can—become a “princess” bride, so long as she is skinny, vapid, and emotionally undemanding (the longest-running dating franchise, ABC’s The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, set this template early). TV networks have collaborated with embedded advertisers to convince us that the only thing “real women” should aspire to is becoming “Mrs. Something” (as a former Miss USA contestant put it on Who Wants to Marry My Dad). And that ludicrously expensive weddings are the key to lifelong happiness, no matter what happens behind the scenes.

It’s tempting to laugh all this off as harmless fluff, but the impact is real. Dating shows in particular portray women as bitchy, catty, and desperate. These shows also tend to exclude intellectual, professionally accomplished women—preferring contestants like a bubbly 24-year-old on The Bachelor, who promised she’d “make the best wife” because “I will be a servant to him.” According to a recent Girl Scouts survey of 1,100 girls, young women who regularly watch reality TV are more likely than nonviewers to “accept and expect a higher level of drama, aggression, and bullying” in their lives. They’re also significantly more likely to believe that “It’s in girls’ nature to be catty and competitive with one another,” that “It’s hard for me to trust other girls,” and that girls “have to compete for a guy’s attention.”

 

Culled from: www.thedailybeast.com

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