As every summer rolls around, I enter into a short bout of depression as I have no new episodes of How I Met Your Mother or Community or anything else on my exhaustingly long list of TV faves to turn to. But rather than accomplishing a respectable goal or studying for the LSATs, I turn to my season of guilty pleasures. On the top of that list is a show that I am not proud to say I watch but cannot bring myself to turn down. Every Sunday I sit curled up in bed and watch the Kardashian klan on E!
Keeping Up With the Kardashians is probably why this world is falling apart, but nevertheless it draws so many viewers including myself. And sure you can judge us all for it, but who doesn’t have a disgusting guilty pleasure? Whether it be Teen Mom, Pretty Little Liars, or Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Americans turn to low brow television at some point. But what is it that really grabs our attention with these seemingly meritless shows?
One reason is the same one that causes traffic jams. We all have to slow down to see who got into an accident and mourn over the loss of a beautiful sports car. Every week as we click through the channels to see what’s new on Sunday, we will inevitably find one of these disasters in the bevy of reality shows that litter the summer season. That is how I came across KUWTK in the first place. I always look forward to Kim getting into an argument with her sisters about how great she is while mom, Kris Jenner, nods maniacally in agreement. And I always ponder how Bruce Jenner’s face can become tauter week after week under his Justin Bieber haircut. This is reality gold.
Another reason is the pure mindless quality of the experience. Sure, I can turn on The Newsroom and try to keep up with all of the quirky dialogue or learn something from the History Channel (which will invariably be about Hitler and World War II again). Unfortunately, I am a hardworking Cornellian and my brain is fried after another rigorous academic year. I have exhausted my sense of critical thinking by the time summer rolls around. I just want to sit in a state of passive television viewing with my tub of ice cream enjoying the frigid temperatures of the A/C away from the sweltering inferno at the peak of a Philadelphia summer. The Kardashians provide that perfect amount of mindless entertainment. Whether it be Kris Jenner’s random bouts of crying because Khloe does not want to take a paternity test to prove that O.J. Simpson is probably her father (or so urban legend tells us in the reputable Inquirer) or Scott Disick’s latest tantrum after a few drinks, they all never fail to deliver. I just sit down and enjoy the spastic ride that is watching KUWTK. You will not know what just happened to you when it is over, but you will know that it was delicious.
Sure, IQ scores may go down during an episode or twenty, but the Kardashians still serve a purpose in television. It is important to realize that all artistic mediums are not to be met with too much seriousness at every single moment. That just adds an unnecessary layer of pretentiousness to life. At other times, some pieces are meant to sit for a while before being capable of appreciation. KUWTK or any other piece of low brow television may not ever reach that level. They may, however, help establishing what is to be considered high brow television because without an example to relate other shows to, how will we know what is good and what is not? In the meantime, I will stop giving the Kardashians more undeserved media attention and get back speculating what will happen next week when they conclude with the group therapy session.