So what does that mean for society, what does it say about our culture that there are no more unshakeable pillars of societal heroism for us to look up to. Partly, it shows that for all intents and purposes social media has leveled the playing field. There are no more heroes, because if we're being honest there never were in the first place, they were simply men who seemed unblemished, because there was no capacity to cast a shadow upon them. This is no longer the case, and now it seems every week we are seeing just how utterly human and fallible our favorite stars really are. Which has lead to a revolution of sorts, now we have icons, and societal figures who are famous and admired, simply because they're famous and admired. Popular culture has turned into a weird Draconian Loop that rewards famous people, simply for being famous, and there is no better example of this in our society than Kim Kardashian.
Now to be perfectly honest, I don't like the Kardashians, so it's easy for me to place a lot of the blame for societies' downfall on these big booty Persians, but I don't hate them for the reasons you might think. Personally, as people, I think they seem nice enough. What else can you expect when your "life" is completely scripted and you walk around in a reality not knowing at any given time what's real and what's fake. From a marketing perspective you also can't argue the ingenuity and pure business flair the family as a whole seems to have, specifically Kim. Say what you will, but Kim Kardashian turned having sex on camera with an R&B singer, into a multi-million dollar empire, and personally has made herself, arguably, the most well known female on the planet. There's something to be said for that kind of business savvy, and that's something nobody, especially myself, can take away from her. What upsets me about the Kardashians, specifically Kim, is what they represent, and the residual impact they are knowingly or unknowingly spreading across my generation and all subsequent generations. Essentially they are willfully engaging in the "dumbing down" of society, and spreading a negative message to future generations, specifically young women. Kim Kardashian has been accused of a lot of things, but being "Thought Provoking" is never something I've heard mentioned in the same sentence discussing her.
This little bit of back story brings us to the precipice of what this article is about, what good has come from the Kardashian's, if any? And the only thing that comes to mind, save wrangling in some of Kanye's crazy, is Caitlyn Jenner. When I first heard the stories about Bruce Jenner a few months ago, I thought this was just another example of senseless tabloid shaming. My first thought was "leave the poor guy alone, he's not even married to Kris anymore!" Obviously, with the culmination in Bruce officially becoming Caitlyn, and this week accepting the "Aurthor Ashe Award for Courage" it made it clear that this was no joke. Now I will admit I was shocked to hear the news, and honestly blown away by not only how brave Bruce was for going through this publicly, but how beautiful she came out as Caitlyn on the other side. It seemed to me that writing this article was almost meant to be, it had culminated with a few ideas I'd been having and some personal experiences I've had over the last few months.
About three months ago I started working at a LGBT friendly venue in Western Australia, and it completely opened my eyes to this community. Now I've never had any ill-will towards the LGBT community, and I firmly believe everyone in our country should have equal rights (why you would want to get married in the first place is the real question... but I digress). But working at this venue allowed me a first hand view at some of the struggles and hardships people go through when facing this world as someone who is "different". It also showed me that even through these hardships, our LGBT brothers and sisters are some of the most well rounded decent humanbeings walking this earth. Which brings us back to Caitlyn. I wanted to write an article about how societies shift from atypical heroes to social media heroes is the beginning of the end, and then Caitlyn happened. You see Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner represents both ends of the hero spectrum.
Bruce Jenner was one of those heroes I was talking about earlier, when he reached the heights of Olympic greatness in 1976 he was one of those unanimous "American Heroes". Not only was he considered one of the greatest athletes of his generation, he won his gold medal in a time of huge socio-diplomatic turmoil between the US and the former Soviet Union. He was the Michael Phelps of his time, and rightfully so, and in a time before social media, he was viewed as a true American icon. He was the epitome of male masculinity, someone every man wanted to be, and every woman wanted to be with, yet none of us knew this whole time, he was hiding a secret.
Now cut almost 40 years later, and Bruce Jenner, before he became Caitlyn was an active member of "Keeping up with the Kardashians". He had crossed over from being an American hero to being a reality TV star, and the sad part is he was the least famous person on that show, when he should've been the most. I've seen maybe a dozen episodes of KUWTK over the years, and in the bit I've seen it always seemed like Bruce was the butt of the jokes. In a family full of crazy women he was constantly trying to be a voice of reason and instead was consistently laughed off as "silly old Bruce." And to think all this time, all these years, he was hiding this secret, forced to act as the bumbling step father to this entourage of vapid, self-absorbed reality queens.
So what makes Caitlyn different?
After finally divorcing Kris, following some 23 years of marriage it seemed Bruce went off the deep end a bit. Now I don't closely follow reality TV, but I remember glancing at magazines in the grocery store, or flipping past TMZ, and there always seemed to be some new story about Bruce.
"Did Bruce Jenner get more plastic surgery?"
"Was Bruce Jenner caught wearing women's clothes?"
"Did Bruce Jenner have his adam's apple removed?"
All these things kept popping up, but they still never registered, it just seemed like something invented to sell copies. Until finally one day I saw the Diane Sawyer interview pop up on my news feed, and that was the first time I knew there was actually validity to all this. Then next thing I know, Caitlyn happened. Now there have been certain media outlets that have claimed we've wasted too much time discussing this issue, when there's so many other things in the world being glazed over, to an extent this is true. But there's also a part of me that thinks maybe this story is worth examing a little deeper. Because the way I see it, Caitlyn Jenner is the first reality TV star I can remember to make a difference, to have a deeper message than improving their branding. Bruce Jenner didn't become Caitlyn Jenner to get more likes on Facebook, this was never a marketing ploy. The reality is there never was a Bruce, there was only a Caitlyn trying to find a way out. I can berate reality TV all I want, but the truth is, KUWTK made Bruce Jenner relevant again, it gave him a platform. And now that Bruce is Caitlyn, it has served as an inspiration and message to millions of people around the world who may be struggling with similar issues.
I said before, that it seems there are no real heroes in this country anymore. Obviously I'm talking about public figures, not the countless troops, police, firemen, etc. that make this country the greatest on earth. But in the sense of folk heroes, people we can all look up to together, it seems we are in short supply. The irony is not lost on me that the family I consider somewhat responsible for the moral degredation of America's youth is also partly responsible for creating one of its noblest examples of hope. Kim Kardashian has a book, a hard-cover "book" that sells for $40 and features no written words, it's simply about 50-pages of selfies. This to me is the epitome of not using your platform to improve society. Caitlyn Jenner is a former Olympic Gold-Medalist, and at the age of 65 has become a beacon of hope for the LGBT community. Maybe she can also serve as a reminder to other people who have come to achieve great success in popular culture, that sometimes there's social responsibilty that comes along with being famous. That when you do hold the power to influence so many people, sometimes you need to be aware of the greater good. So kudos to you Bruce, and you can be sure I will happily and respectfully "Call you Caitlyn" from now on.