Why people are obsessed with the Kardashians? I have not followed them in the slightest. I am obsessed about knowledge — how to apply it to helping humans (my favorite species) have happier lives through scientific knowledge. I was very surprised when I heard two professionals — a man and a woman whose knowledge I respect — gushing about how much they loved the Kardashians. I wanted to know why. I admitted to them that I was, perhaps, just a little bit, well, jealous. My patients mostly seem to like me well enough, and some even say the love me. But I did not understand how or why people could “gush” about loving the Kardashians. My friends came to the rescue. They told me, step by step, the things that the Kardashians had done to make them so “lovable.” They thought I could replicate the process. Of course, me being me, I tried to find all that I could in the neuroscience and (more) the psychological literature, to figure out what worked, and why — and what they may have forgotten to tell me.
1. They told me it was important to start from nothing. Their biological father
was friends with and the defense lawyer of O.J. Simpson. He came from a prominent and wealth meat-packing family who could afford to put him through college and set up a high-end legal practice. Frankly, I did not really consider this starting from nothing. I have known lawyers who practiced on their kitchen tables. That was my idea of starting from nothing. Their perception was that being the child of a lawyer did not confer any status, since it was relatively common, and “lawyer” was not a glamorous profession. Frankly, I thought working my way through medical school with some funds from my parents and working as a waitress, emergency medical technician, and singer (mostly of Jewish ritual material) was not working myself up from nothing in any kind of a creditable way. My fame advisors suggested I play the French card as “glamorous.” but…
2. They told me I needed a “cooler” profession. “Doctor” or “lawyer” was something you started from, not a glamorous thing to become. They told me I seemed to have enough fashion sense that if I started my own line of — well, if not dresses, at least accessories or purses — I had a good chance of becoming “glamorous.” I stared at my overstuffed, over-heavy purse on my desk. Maybe I would do better with jewelry.
3. They said I needed a sex tape — although in this day and age, I thought “tape” was obsolete. This would prove I was both a sexual and vulnerable human being, and people would love me. “Would photos do?” I asked half-jokingly. When I was at Fort Bragg, a couple of our delightful men in uniform had attempted to convince me that it was my patriotic duty to let them take nude photos of me to put into their backpacks when they went into combat for this great nation. I declined, of course, saying that as long as they existed, they could be made public, and with my luck, would probably fall into the hands of the enemy. Of course, I did not even mention this aloud. Instead, I told them that not so long ago, my ever-flattering (or has he been professionally brainwashed?) husband sent out some “head shots” of me, thinking it might be amusing for me to work as a senior model. I was offered two jobs. One as the patient, being examined for entrance into a nice assisted living facility, by some hunky young guy in a white coat. Obviously a suboptimal choice, this sort of switcheroo on art reproducing life. The second job I was offered, I was told, was for “fun-loving women” only. I was unfamiliar with the code words of the demi-monde
. Apparently some senior women who were more “fun loving” than me were willing to remove their clothes and be photographed whipping young boys. My friends said I definitely should have accepted that job. I told them my husband had not been too keen on that idea, so I was not doing that one. It had been the first time someone had suggested I was not “fun-loving” enough. They told me there was still hope. If I made that “private” sex tape and “leaked” it accidentally on purpose to the public. They said it would probably even work if I made it with my husband. They told me absolutely not to worry about how to leak it so it looked like an accident, since everyone seemed to think that the Kardashian tape had been leaked on purpose, but nobody seemed to really care. I think I saw a similar plot on 30-Rock, so this must be a legitimate path to glory. But not for a square and proper incipient “Golden Ager.” By now, they had given up on making suggestions to me about what I should try to do. They were gushing about how successful the Kardashians had been at exuding glamour and getting any man they wanted and living in luxury, with flawless appearances. It became obvious that the real difference between them and me was something more profound. It was a difference in values. I do not mind looking “astiquee” or “polished,” like a cherished old copper pot. That was the word that the chief of neurosurgery in Amiens, France used to use for older, sophisticated, even educated women whom he seemed to consider still hot. One of the women he had so described was my beloved friend and professor of histology, who took me on some directed shopping in Paris and explained to me that no matter how learned I was, most people in France would assess me according to “how my back is covered.” I still feel I owe this woman any fashion sense I may have, but she and I agreed easily that there was more to us, and that our major contributions to society would be — well, in terms of scientific knowledge. As soon as I realized how divergent their values were from mine, I found myself — the least prejudicial human known to me — not liking these manufactured celebrities. I mean, Good God, I am a professional psychiatrist. I frequently hear stories of unspeakable horror from my patients. Often I end up thinking or saying, “Nothing that is human is foreign to me” — a nice quote from those ancient Roman comedy writers, Plautus and Terence. You know their work — the modern adaptation of their stuff became “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” But here I am feeling a visceral dislike for the Kardashians. From all I have heard and a quick review of some of the (seeming infinity of) internet sites that repeat and venerate their activities, I feel they and their value system are both narcissistic and vapid. I decided long ago I had little use for women whose main occupation seemed to be the creation and maintenance of their physical appearance. I feel a bit angry because I know I have done some good things for other fools, and it seems unlikely they have. This negative reaction is as important a part of celebrity as the positive part. When Colonel Tom Parker started promoting an unknown singer named Elvis Presley, he knew about this well enough to sell both “I love Elvis” buttons and “I Hate Elvis” buttons. That way he profited from the teeny-boppers and their parents, both. Not so long ago, my website was hacked, apparently by someone who found me too controversial. Maybe I can market “I Hate DocteurG” T-shirts? Maybe there is hope for me, yet — if not fame and fortune. Still, I am certainly not angry enough to proclaim that I hate the Kardashians — in the Col. Tom Parker sense. I simply do not much care about what they happen to be doing. Obviously, plenty of other people do. As a parting thought, I want to let you know that my private, opt-in newsletter will tackle this very subject of hero worship, historically and as a primal need for humans. If you aren’t on the mailing list, just look up at the top right corner of this page and fill out the little form. I will be sending this out tomorrow, so you can get on the list today and look for it in your e-mailbox tomorrow.