I kind of checked out on pop culture a while ago. My kids probably kept me relevant a little past my shelf life, but earlier today I found myself defending Britney Spears and Khloe Kardashian to a person who equates fame and fortune with somehow negating the DNA the rest of us carry around.
Both of these women are in the news this week. Kardashian split up, again, with her partner, Tristan Thomas. Spears was in court to fight against the conservatorship that has given her father most of the decision-making power in her life.
Despite the fact I was a journalist for over 20 years, I hate celebrity news. It’s not even jealousy. It’s the putting of certain people on a pedestal for being fame seekers. If you want to be an actor, athlete, musician and a few other occupations, you have to accept a certain level of public exposure comes with the territory. But, there are also the celebrities who court the limelight. Neither Spears nor Kardashian would be where they are today without having played up their image. And while I didn’t follow, millions upon millions hung on every word.
Mental Health of the Rich and Famous
Bill Murray has one of my favorite quotes about being a celebrity. “If you think being rich and famous is going to make you happy, try just being rich.” He’s one of those actors who doesn’t court the limelight with social media or constant photo shoots. I get the feeling that being an actor is a job for him. With Kardashian and Spears, being famous has always appeared to be a lifestyle choice.
I relate to those ladies in that I always wanted to be famous. I didn’t really care how, but from a young age, I wanted everybody to know who I was. By 2012, I was the publisher of a popular regional magazine, the curator/founder of a popular international film festival and a local politician. Far more people knew who I was than vice versa. I loved it it because it made me feel special.
But it was also unhealthy. My addictions were at their worst in 2012 and 2013 and I was slowly unraveling. When I got in trouble with the law in 2014, it was front page in the newspaper. That wouldn’t have happened to Bob the Random Bartender. I, ironically, took extra heat because of the fame I sought. Be careful what you wish for.
Perspective on Things
Britney Spears has been famous since she was a little kid. Khloe Kardashian has always run in those famous circles because of her family. These are not people who were raised like most of us. I like to think of myself as a strong dude, but I couldn’t handle the spotlight of a small piece of a lowly-populated state. How either of these women can handle the scrutiny for years from an international audience is beyond me.
Yes, it’s easy to argue they haven’t always been the beacons of mental health. Spears shaved her head, had run-ins with photographers, has been accused of questionable parenting and was eventually put under the conservatorship she’s trying to escape. Khloe Kardashian has put her foot in her mouth many times, radically transformed the way she looks (with most agreeing it wasn’t all-natural) and generally seems like the hot mess in a family that gives her a run for her money too often.
These women do not have perspective on average life that you and I probably share, despite never having met each other. They are operating under different rules… rules that I’m not sure nature intended.
Kardashian’s Private Issues
Khloe Kardashian has taken a drubbing in the media for how she handles relationships. I know she had Bruce Jenner around, but the former Olympian had his own unique set of issues being uncomfortable in his skin. Her real father, lawyer Robert Kardashian (one of the attorneys who helped OJ Simpson be found not guilty) died when she was a teenager. That kind of stuff leaves marks, even if they are not visible. Unlike her famous sisters, if you compare a picture of Khloe Kardashian from 10 years ago with one of today, you wouldn’t recognize her. I have no idea if it was diet, exercise, surgery, or all three, but something was clearly wrong in her eyes for such a drastic physical change.
Kardashian is in the middle of the internal debate that so many women have to face which is how to handle a less-than-admirable spouse, except this debate is taking place out loud, in the public arena. I’m not there, so I don’t know what the right answer is. Neither do you. It’s easy to tell the battered woman to leave her home and it’s easy to tell the cheated-on women to leave her guy. It’s easy to say “don’t be famous” to a famous person and it’s easy to pitch a new life for the woman, but these are all words. Life isn’t that easy, especially where kids are involved.
Spears’ Private Issues
I’m going to guess that we are even more in the dark about the real story behind Britney Spears. Since a documentary about her conservatorship that painted her as a victim, there has been a rise in the “Free Britney” movement by her fans who think that her father is an evil overlord. The reality is, no young adult gets put into a conservatorship without a good reason. And, nobody stays in a conservatorship for as long as she has without cause. I have no idea her true mental state, as none of us do. We can take her word for it, but the mentally ill generally aren’t the best judges of their own health.
Her family life has a fair share of drama and bumps, too, with her parents having a bitter divorce and her younger sister – who was becoming a star in her own right – ending up a teen mom. But, this stuff happens in plenty of families. I think there is much more than meets the eye in her situation and simply because you are enamored with her music and love her style, it doesn’t mean she’s a victim of the system. And, if you hate her music and the way she carries herself, it doesn’t mean she deserves the treatment she’s getting. The reality is, none of us know how mentally healthy she is or not.
Let’s Stop Judging
It’s easy to dislike the rich and famous, especially when they say or do things that we don’t agree with. It’s easy to assign some kind of symbolism for what they represent. People love to throw around terms like “Hollywood elite” without thinking about what they really mean. We don’t know what’s going with Khloe Kardashian, or Britney Spears or anybody else in sports, art or entertainment unless we are personally close to them. If you’re really bothered and are wasting energy judging these women, do yourself a favor and turn the TV off.
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