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Keeping up With the Kardashians

A sociology major continues her anthropological studies by Keeping up With the Kardashians

If your friends mock you for watching Keeping up With the Kardashians or The Real Housewives of New Jersey, remind them that you are simply getting an education in Sociology.

Here’s a short game for all you TV freaks: I’ll give you some facts about myself and you need to guess my favourite telly shows.

I am a social science post-graduate with leftist leanings and a rightist appetite for money. I love eating and spend a lot of time travelling to offbeat destinations. I work in marketing and am absolutely mesmerised by new technology.

From all the data given above, one could surmise that the programs I would enjoy most would be focused on politics & socio-economics, travel & food, geeks & gadgets and possibly a “little big bang” for entertainment.

Far from it.

The serials that I watch go by the names of: Keeping Up with The Kardashians (KUWTK for the uninitiated), America’s Next Top Model, The Real Housewives Of New Jersey and American Idol. And need I add that my friends are completely ashamed of me! What they cannot understand is that the same intellectual curiosity which lead me to read anthropological treatises on tribes and cultures for six bloody years also draws me to KUWTK, the one tribe I never got an opportunity to study. And I think it’s scandalously unfair that studying tribes in college earns me a degree, but when I study them on television I’m rewarded with a big round of verbal abuse. So I think it’s time to set things right. Through this article, I would like to demonstrate how the study of “alternate cultures” completely depends upon your notions of “savages” and “civilized”.

The celebrated social anthropologist Verrier Elwin came to India and married Kosi, a Raj Gond girl. He then wrote several books on her, got divorced and then married Leela, a girl from the Pardhan tribe on whom he wrote several more books. Kim Kardashian is also married twice – to Damon Thomas (TV producer) before she got famous, and then to Kris Humphries (NFL Star) for an impressive 72 days to spice up KUWTK. (She is currently engaged to rapper Kanye West with whom she has a baby girl) .

Elwin made his first wife the subject of his anthropological studies and published intimate sexual details about her, calling it “participant observation” (she was 13 at that time, he was 40). In 2007 Kim Kardashian caught the limelight when she leaked her sex tape with then boyfriend Ray J. You can connect the dots.

Elwin documented the Indian tribal life in its entirety. There are stories about the people he met, the land and forests he lived in, as well as his own life. Every detail is alive. I fondly remember his vivid descriptions of the Ghotul (Community house).

KUWTK brings alive every detail of the Dash Ghotul. There is rich ethnographic documentation on every emotional excess one can imagine : Kourtney refusing to marry her boyfriend because of his anger management problems but being fine with having his babies; Khloe’s vicious fights with Kourtney over discipline in the Dash Store; Kim giving the “best birthing performance of a life time” over multiple channels; The break and make up’s of all three sisters across seasons.

Elwin said that his eternal quest for love, truth and beauty was found in the simple tribal way of life. What he found among the Raj Gonds, Kim has found amongst her tribe of family and friends.

Kim’s views on family: I always put family photos under the mattress, in case the house gets burnt. I have sister issues and parent issues but my mom and I had the same vision, and we want the same things.

Kim’s views on marriage: I learned how to cook and do a lot of marital things. My decision to end my marriage was such a risk to losing ratings and my fan base. I had to take that risk for my inner peace and to be happy with myself. I think you must have different soulmates through your life.

I sincerely believe that if Verrier Elwin had met Kim Kardashian he would have truly loved her, more than the two Indian girls he married. If Elwin had a reality show in his day and time, who knows what more he could have accomplished in discovering “the other”. He could have also saved that long trip to India and found some tribes closer home. Like my friends, Michelle Obama has also tried to stop her daughters from watching KUWTK. The Dash sisters have allegedly responded by insulting the First Lady’s dress sense, with one of the sisters calling her wardrobe ‘pretend poor’. A White House source told the National Enquirer that the show is ‘no example’ for young women and ‘teaches the wrong message’.

To which I say Rubbish. It is shows like these which help dissolve the fine line between notions of “civilization” and “underdeveloped cultures”. It helps expose the universal truth that the noble savage lies within all of us. And this is why I watch KUWTK . I am simply continuing my seventh year of socio-anthropological study while reclining on my living room sofa with some American Chopsuey for company – does anyone have a problem now?

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