Your exploitation may not be my exploitation. I’ve written in this column about the action on the AMC TV series “The Walking Dead”, an often gruesome and arguably repulsive series that often centers on the execution of “walking dead” zombies that used to be people but now they’re not, so there’s license to blow them away with abandon. You might not like even five minutes of that show, but I find something intriguing about the way the premise keeps tearing away at the basic humanity of the human survivors; something worth pondering as we continue to support two wars being fought where we don’t have to view the damage and with saber-rattling about Iran clanging in the background.
But again, your opinion on zombie gore might be “There’s absolutely no need to show that kind of thing on television every Sunday night.” Okay, hold that thought.
Because it may have something or nothing to do with Sears selling the Kardashian Kollection. That’s Kollection with a K, our first clue regarding the sophistication of the line. In early November, we learned that sex video star Kim Kardashian’s wedding had been a joke to make money. Near the end of November, we learned that Kourtney Kardashian was having her second child with a boyfriend. In what seemed like just a few days after the baby news, Sears ran a wrap-around four-page ad in the LA Times for “the Kardashian Kollection only at Sears.” It includes clothes, jewelry, shoes, and underwear that I guess helps young women to feel like the Kardashians: Three sexually alluring women with no identifiable talent who are managed or—if you’re going to where I am on this—pimped by their mother.
Okay, okay… I’ll settle down, I’ll switch to decaf. But how are these women are in any way iconic? What is it that they represent? And let me be understood on the Kourtney baby thing. I’ve lived with the same woman for 25 years without benefit of marriage, so that’s not my issue. My issue is that the baby news came out just days before the Sears holiday promo campaign. The angle I’m interested in here is not the objectification of these women, which is standard issue media drivel. It’s the use of that objectification to realize financial gain. A fine line maybe, but a line all the same. That it’s happening at Sears, where America buys lawn mowers and washing machines, just adds a dimension of surrealism.
Sears knows what it knows going in on a deal with the Kardashian harem, so that means they have their seatbelts fastened for any line of propriety the K family might wish to cross next. But by mere dint of being in business with them, Sears is in effect saying, “We don’t care about any negative aspects of this family and their often nauseating narcissism. We just care about moving some goods.” Now hold on to your hats as we make another huge jump here.
Last week police arrested Martin Weiss, a Hollywood manager who specializes in representing young actors and who has his home and office here in Santa Monica, on suspicion of molesting one of his clients. Police believe there may be other possible victims. According to the LA Times, an affidavit filed in LA County Superior Court stated that the now 18-year-old victim came forward to report that Weiss had molested him from the age of 11 or 12, and that Weiss had told him that what they were doing was common practice in the entertainment industry. From the LA Times: “According to the affidavit, Weiss acknowledged the sexual contact but denied it was abuse.” From the affidavit: “Weiss intimated that he targeted the victim because the victim showed interest, and Weiss claimed the Penn State situation was different because ‘those kids don’t want it.’”
Sure, all this stirs the blood. But let’s assume for a moment that Weiss is sick but not insane. There’s a certain articulation and detail in his denial mechanism that may indicate he actually believes his ‘argument’ will find traction with the public. Compare that belief to Kim Kardashian’s website rationale for selling the K Kollection at Sears: “According to the Keeping Up With the Kardashians beauty, the decision to offer the line through Sears emerged from a longtime preference for the popular department-store chain: “We’ve always shopped at Sears, so we thought it was the perfect outlet for the Kardashian Kollection. You guys are going to love it!” They always shopped at Sears, “the Penn State situation was different,” and you and I can just dine on baloney.
If we put the Kardashians on Main Street USA with a throne inside the Sears store, then we have to be sure that we’re not kidding ourselves about redrawing parameters. I completely understand that in less than two years Sears won’t be able to give that junk away, except maybe to Paris Hilton who must have a warehouse full of her own ‘merch’ that stalled when “hot” went cold. But in embracing the Kardashians, Sears aids and abets the relocating of pop culture parameters. With each new moment of that there is always swift and facile justification from the media that feeds off such relocations, such as the K women representing some form of ‘girl power’. But being able to concoct a rationalization is not the same as actually having one that works, as in the case of Mr. Weiss.
I consider myself an artist, so I would never speak against the freedoms that expression enjoys in this country. But one side of that is that I get to express myself over events like the K family. We begin to settle for the rationalizations offered at one end of the spectrum (Mom Kris Jenner’s marketing of her sexed-up daughters to Sears) where, while irritating as hell and evidencing a lack of good taste bordering on the offensive, the phenomena may strike many as harmless. But we create social signals with these indulgences. In enjoying all that sensuality flopping around just to sell purses from China, do we contribute to an environment in which the rationalizations at the dark end of the spectrum possibly become emboldened? I don’t know. We never know, even as we gently nudge the parameters to the side.