By Diarmaid Hehir
As you’ve no doubt been told in a thousand different ways by a thousand different people, 2020 is far from a normal year. It’s probably not as apocalyptic as some on the internet would have us believe, but its still a pretty crazy year. There’s a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, a wild American election brimming with anger and emotion and the ever-present pandemic that has disrupted the world like none in living memory. Everyone has been affected in their own way with some being hit harder than others. Yet in a world of darkness, there are still supposed rays of hope. Kim Kardashian-West is the source of one such ray. The 40-year-old queen of social media and reality TV hasn’t let 2020 get in the way of her birthday celebrations.
In a post on social media Kim K announced that she had surprised her friends and family with a trip to a private island where they would be able to “pretend things were normal”. This was met with widely mixed reactions. Many of the closest fans of her TV show were delighted to see she was having a nice time, while others criticised her insensitivity for flaunting her wealth so much at a time when many are struggling just to get by. I’ve found the whole debacle more thought provoking than infuriating and it has really reinforced the idea that most celebrities are completely out of touch with the populace that they entertain.
Kim of all people is particularly relevant to the notion that celebrities are disconnected with reality. She has a stronger connection than most celebrities to the recent crises of our times. Her own family is of Armenian ancestry, and she has raised money and publicity for the Armenian side in the still-ongoing war. As for the election, her husband Kanye is a candidate on the ballot in many states. He has also previously voiced his support for President Trump. Kanye is very much politically active, although in his own cracked way. The surprising and bizarre thing to me is how little these things seem to affect Kim herself. Seeing her along with her glamorous family and friends enjoying their little island getaway has an almost absurd feeling to it. It feels like they are living in another world entirely. While the rest of us are inundated with news about lockdowns and elections, they’re off in their own secluded comfortable universe reminiscing over her earlier days in showbiz.
I flip between wondering if this is the problem with reality TV and celebrities more generally. I wonder if this is their intended purpose, if they even have one. Is it a problem that those who we are entertained by are so profoundly alien to us? How are we supposed to relate to these people that seemingly share none of our problems and worries? On the other hand, isn’t that the whole reason why people like Kim are so popular? Escapism is why people tune in and watch people live these lives they have nothing in common with. Is it for the best that the Kardashians are continuing their gossipy lives as if it were any other time?
I think that the fact that celebrities are so disconnected from us, and us from them, is helpful in some ways, and harmful in others. Sometimes you need a break from the constant doom and gloom, and reality TV does the job there just as well as anything else. But on the other hand, it begs the question, is our constant focus on these people we have nothing in common with a good idea?
This is just the most recent case of celebrities being completely out of touch this year. Some are quite obnoxious, like Vanessa Hudgens, who went on an expletive laden rant criticising lockdowns and stating that people dying was just inevitable. Others are darkly hilarious. A huge squad of actors including Gal Gadot and Will Ferrell teaming up to sing John Lennon’s undoubtedly preachy song “Imagine” is probably the best amazingly ironic example. Nobody took a minute to consider that “Imagine there’s no heaven” might not be what people want to hear right now.
Maybe we should be listening less to what TV stars and influencers have to say on important issues. Maybe we should just leave them to do their job, entertaining people, and leave the big problems to others. Maybe the best thing to do would be to stop giving them loads of attention for everything they do. Not writing articles about them could possibly be a start.