A timely little reflection from Mbird contributor Russ Masterson, prompted by last weekend’s conference:
I’m sure you’ve heard: 72 days after her high-profile wedding, reality TV star/professional celebrity Kim Kardashian is divorcing Kris Humphries. This after a much-publicized wedding which became a television frenzy, flooding their bank accounts with money and endorsements. I’ve read articles that estimate her earnings over the past few months at $10 million; others estimate $17 million. The number doesn’t really matter. The reality of one’s income being tied to a camera which follows you around is the point. Cameras and money come when ratings are good — a life with ratings is toxic.
Even when it comes to the radical success of Ms. Kardashian, performance stifles freedom. Every action and reaction, indeed your very being, is rated and rewarded. People treat you as a brand rather than a person. It cheapens your personhood. Your life journey isn’t yours — it’s your agent’s, your manager’s, your producer’s. You are a show.
When we are forced to perform, the inner self, the real “me,” starves. To maintain our image, either we eventually make bad decisions, or the anxiety of it all crushes us. And the inner self, which has been left rotting in the prison of public perception, inevitably leaks out. This is not to say that’s what happened to Kardashian. Only those who know her personally would have any idea about what’s going on internally. But it is what happens to me. I can’t imagine the burden Kardashian lives with, how lonely it must be — and I don’t think she’s laughing all the way to the bank. Even if the entire wedding/marriage was a mockery, the inner self never wants to be seen as a failure.
Of course, we all live with an audience, all too aware of our endlessly fluctuating ratings. It could be the people we desire to please – maybe it’s just your inner self judging itself, a suicidal battle. As we heard this past weekend in Birmingham, these are the pangs of death and, make no mistake, they are painful.
Perhaps the desire for a substitute “show” isn’t so far-fetched after all. In fact, if you’ll forgive the metaphor, I’ve heard of a particularly good one that’s in syndication, so solid that ratings no longer even apply. No, not Seinfeld. Reruns, anyone?