I forgot to bring earbuds on the plane. Yes, even discarded dolls like myself are allowed to fly. The flight was two hours and I had exhausted my reading material, so I decided to play the games on the little screen provided on the back of the seat facing me. Backgammon. “Sorry, unable to load.” Chess. “Sorry, unable to load.” And on and on down the line. This left me alone with my thoughts, and I’m pretty sure that is reason for ejection on most domestic flights. Through the crack in the seats, though, I could see what the woman sitting in the row in front of me was watching. It was the Kardashians.
I’ve never seen one of their shows. I hear they have many. Grab the bull by the horns, I say. When in Rome. . . I can’t dislike what I’ve never seen–or so I am told. (Even contemplating the “reality” series makes me fall into an abyss of cliché.) Really, there are all sorts of things I don’t need to see or experience to know I won’t like them. Rabbit snuff films and pie eating contests come to mind. Still, I bite the bullet (I’m up to four) and watch. It is fascinating. I am repulsed. I am fascinated by my repulsion. I hope that isn’t a spoiler.
Watching without listening might be the best way to observe the Kardashians in their natural habitat, which, given their body language, seems to be in front of a camera. They dress and pose for the lens, not the mic. It is possible that I’m way off on this, and that the dialogue might be the key to their success, that I might be missing some poignant insights by not listening, but I’ll chance it. I am a distant observer, huddled in the brush with binoculars, observing the mating dances of rare birds on the wild savannah.
A bunch of Kardashians show up in different, well lit rooms with mirror-like floors, decorated in light colors so as not to distract from the humans themselves. For all intents and purposes, their wealth has been used to purchase a giant non-distracting set. I think of the blue screen pulled down behind the little bench at the J.C. Penny photo studio. I imagine that on their travels they are offered a rare lamp. “This most exquisite lamp which took three generations of craftsmen to build, each whittling little bits of ivory away from the surface with only his fingernails, must reside with people of great taste and fortune such as yourselves,” says the good smelling salesperson. “I’m sorry,” says one of them without opening her mouth (learning ventriloquism is the key to keeping your face look young), “but we can’t have anyone looking at the furniture. We are the stars of our home.”
They lounge on white couches. No one sits. Each strikes a pose reminiscent of paintings of sheiks luxuriating on pillows while slaves fan them with enormous leaves. They need to hire some leaf wavers. I am taken in by their absolute restfulness. None of them seems to be falling asleep, yet none can be bothered to move. Perfect stillness. The room’s heart rate never fluctuates. Each stretches into the shape of a letter usually found somewhere in the middle of the alphabet. Babies in wombs watching the show are jealous of their comfort.
All of them are dressed for the ball they must be resting up for. I can tell by the unusual and asymmetrical cuts that their garments are very expensive designer exclusives. In case I should miss this, there are two scenes in which the mother wears a fur coat (too much air conditioning?) which is so large, it appears to be a species that left the planet about the time of the saber tooth tiger. Wearing fur of dead animals is gauche. Wearing fur of animals extinct for 10 or 20 thousand years is all the rage. “We spliced mammoth DNA with this eggplant to create a one-of-a-kind Flintstonian mega coat.”
I’m not sure who is who, though, I think I can tell what characters they play. The mother plays the person with the shorter hair. She seems to be the one obsessed with keeping up with the Kardashians. I see a twinge of jealousy mixed with superiority in her glances. Maybe the show is named for her. Then there is the one I know, Kim. She doesn’t seem to say much–or she is such a good ventriloquist, I’m missing her witty remarks. Hers is the look of perfected boredom. Why should she have to talk? “You’re here because of me,” she seems to communicate. Another daughter looks like the sassy one. She wears bike tires as earrings. They are so large that they cannot hang loosely; each presses firmly into her shoulders. Then there is one who appears to be the human side-kick–like Marilyn on The Munsters. Many of her expressions can be viewed on people I’ve actually met. Maybe she wandered into the family by accident.
So they lounge. In another scene, they lounge while wearing big round sunglasses. “Here we are on the white couches in sunglasses,” they are probably saying. I notice that their faces shine even more than the floors. The effect must be intentional, perhaps to prove that they spend a great deal of time in the make-up chair. Shiny floors and shiny faces take time–and the effort of others. Subliminally, the viewer is sent a message of inferiority. You can’t afford to have someone put this much make-up on you. You can’t afford to have your floors shined like this. We have a man who has microfiber rags sewn to his skin, and he rolls behind us when we walk to keep the floor free from our footprints. Genius. Now I see why people are hooked.
Next they sit at a table enjoying fruity, healthy-looking cocktails, but still manage to look as if they are on couches. I can read the lips of one: “There’s already buzz,” she says. Undoubtedly, another great product idea is taking off. Twitter is all atwit with news that soon all will be able to purchase Kardashian thigh cream made with real Kardashian thigh. The mail service is overwhelmed by people mailing off envelopes stuffed with hundred dollar bills to the Kardashian estate. Once it arrives, a bevy of volunteer fans washes each bill in holy water, dries it over the breath of babies and makes a new couch out of it. “Not luxurious enough! Not white enough!” the leader yells. Three generations later, a couch worthy of Kardashian butt impressions is created.
Finally, the climax to the story I didn’t know was developing plays out on the screen. They all appear wearing blonde wigs. Ha. Now their hair is different. Fantastic idea. I’m not sure what led up to it, but I’m guessing that a conversation on the couch had something to do with hair color. Maybe it was when they were all wearing sunglasses.
“You know, blonde hair looks dark when you wear sunglasses indoors.”
“Yes, but the floor looks less shiny.”
“We should dye our hair.”
“Or wear wigs to fool everyone into thinking we dyed our hair.”
“That will get a buzz going!”
“Call up the dollar bill washers!”
For whatever reason, as I’m watching I am recalling the episode of I Love Lucy when Lucy is fooled into wearing a burlap sack, thinking it is all the rage in Paris. Poor Lucy. But lucky me. Thinking about Lucy made watching Keeping up with the Kardashians through a seat gap almost enjoyable. As I reflect about the experience, I do have to admit that the show made me think. Here’s what I thought: at the end of the show the list of executive producers is remarkable. The list was so long, I expected to see my own name appear eventually. Someday we can all be executive producers of a reality TV show. That is the new American Dream. Maybe we can’t have floors and faces as shiny as the stars. Maybe we will never create a buzz. Maybe we will never wear dinosaur skins and moon-glow sunglasses while sipping vodka distilled from children’s sweat. Maybe we will never be as relaxed as the Kardashians on their couches. But, we can dream of supporting them with our money to get our name on the credits. I’ll start saving my pennies now.