Life somehow has gone on only a week after the Kim and Kris kibosh: Reality television socialite Kardashian filed for a divorce from occasional NBA game participant Humphries last week. This story currently dons the cover of celebrity magazines, and the Star Tribune even ran a teaser about it on its front page the following day.
The media told us to pay attention to this story, so we did. Or was it the other way around? Regardless, there’s been backlash in certain circles regarding its coverage, pooh-poohing how intensive and exhaustive it has been. “This isn’t ‘news,’” critics proclaimed, scoffing that people would actually “care” about these two. Yet, if the role of the news is to not just inform its community, but reflect it as well, the question to ask should still be “Why would anyone care about this?” but without the condescension and dismissal of it as fleeting fodder. Instead, there’s value in examining what it shows us about our culture.
A lot of the attention surrounding the split was how quickly the marriage fell apart. Seventy-two days. It’s so recent that I still haven’t watched the E! special on my DVR, their wedding guests are still recovering from their hangovers and there’s a stack of unfinished thank-you notes on Kim’s assistant’s assistant’s assistant’s desk. After playing for the New Jersey Nets, Humphries is used to things falling apart early, but even he claimed he didn’t see this setback coming.
In a country where the divorce rate is near 50 percent, it surprises me that others are so startled whenever it happens. It would be like being awestruck every time a coin landed on tails. The fact that it coerces this sort of emotional reaction tells me that we place a vested interest in the notion of “love,” however we define it. The shared disappointment in discovering that a pursuit in lifelong happiness didn’t work out means we ultimately want others to achieve it, even if we don’t understand it ourselves. Whether it’s a break up or divorce, these invoke some form of sadness for others within us — maybe we believe it was ultimately the right decision, but there’s still a loss that takes place.
But the disbelief behind both the brevity and ending of Kardashian-Humphries assumes that they were truly “in love.” Maybe they were, and skeptical tabloids haven’t given them credit. Yet, what if the Kim-demonium surrounding this Kris-tastrophe isn’t based in the failings of “love,” but the misuse of its ideals? Its failing means there was a flawed foundation where a compromise to solidify the relationship went unreached for whatever reason. When this commitment is exploited and misused though, we’re even more taken aback because it’s something that we value and cherish.
When the length of supposedly everlasting love is shorter than the shelf life of an unopened block of Beaufort cheese, it diminishes the value and regard that we hold that commitment in; hard to imagine a $10 million ceremony could actually cheapen something. By accepting it, we further devalue the promise that their declarations of love represent. This doesn’t mean the institution itself is deficient and faulty, but that our treatment of it is; so if there’s an urge to assert that if you’re going to do it, then at least abide by it, and do it right.
The consequences of their divorce go beyond leaving us with the Jim Belushi of Kardashian sister-NBA player couples in Kholé and Lamar though. It imparts an abandonment of vows, dedication and devotion in the face of adversity for what may have been just a grab for attention and on-the-spot happiness.
Commitment, in whatever context, demands sacrifice to some extent, and the notion that you can be released of your word in tough or unfavorable times disregards that reality and replaces it with immediate satisfaction. In a statement, Humphries said he hoped to fix the issues between him and his wife, but a friend of Kim’s told “Us Weekly,” “Where was he the last few weeks [to work it out]?” Apparently, less than a month of hardships trumps the sacredness of their self-declared “Fairytale Wedding.” Not enough time was spent addressing these issues, whether it was before their marriage or during it. Forethought and careful consideration should be essential in a decision-making process, not a burden that hinders you from getting to the good part.
I will undoubtedly hear back that these concepts of love and marriage are nothing more than social constructs, which will be expressed through the social constructs of language and writing. Ultimately though, my point isn’t to condemn those that don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye with these romantic ideals — you’re entitled to what you want — but to commend those who willingly and deferentially embrace them. It’s not easy and requires a formal promise, and that’s directly or indirectly why it doesn’t appeal to some of us. But succeeding in a commitment isn’t old-fashioned and confining, but forward-looking and redeeming.
So were Kim and Kris ever really “in love?” If I ever find a way to keep up with the Kardashians, I’ll make sure to ask. Even if it was a charade all along (complete with poor acting), people still responded to it and its aftermath, either in shock, sympathy or disdain. “I don’t think [the divorce] helps her or E! to have backlash against the Kardashians if viewers feel manipulated,” “Variety” editor Stuart Levine told “People.” So if the aftermath isn’t going to help a television channel or someone notable for being notable, maybe it can at least help us evaluate what we think of these matters, rather than leave them all at the altar.
Andrew Johnson welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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