It can be said that we're, above all else, an incredibly social species. We're hard-wired to want to hear "gossip" and watch other people discuss things, and talk about others the vast majority of the time; and it turns out we do! Well over 60% of everything we say to each other during the day is simply about other people.
In fact, our ability to communicate our wants and needs through advanced language and symbolism (interpersonal communication via culture) is literally what helped make our brains so big! You don't have to like it, but perhaps have some respect for our species keen ability to navigate and obsess over socialization!
The 'Kardashians' phenomena is an ideal example here...
An online chum and I were discussing the idea of idiocy today... a politicized word I find myself using less and less as an adult.. and then flat-earthers jolted into the conversation!! .. (a concept I'd historically feel quite content combining into the same sentence as "idiocy")... but wait.. what IS idiocy? A general lack of knowledge? A lack of acceptance? A smaller brain? An inability to trust institutions? A person with low IQ? (our IQ tests discriminate based on race, FYI)
Is liking/watching the Kardashians an idiotic thing? Why?
Do any nerds here remember that episode of Star Trek where the concept of "small talk" was laughably labeled as silly and unnecessary by data and others?
...that episode made me a little uncomfy. What's wrong with bonding with others through small chat? What constitutes everything else?
Are we (in our ever-persistent pursuit of progress) a social species consciously trying to break away from our "chains of social-ness?"
(Lordy help us Seattelights!! :P ..we already ignore all live humans in public)
What about oppressed groups who rely solely on group solidarity and social function to unite uprisings? What about those without community? What about all the people that (willingly or not) use small-talk to get their needs met? I had a lot of questions after that episode... but the idea of oppression always changes my perspective on things... "idiocy" and "stupidity" being prime examples.
Understanding oppression is critical here... (yeah.. you knew it was fucking coming)
Imagine you're living in poverty and you're working 3 jobs. You're chronically stressed from your wage-labor life.. both physically and mentally. You often feel discriminated against by those you're supposed to trust (i.e. your doctors/lawyers/the police/etc) and you have to work weekends with little to no vacation time. You have a hard time paying for general bills, rent, and healthcare. Life is tough, and it's fucking stressful. You have to make sacrifices.. a lot.
I'd argue that if you're truly stressed, you don't generally go home at the end of the week (with what little time off you have) and watch something serious like sci-fi or documentaries or something of any real seriousness or complexity.. instead, as a wage slave, you probably tend to watch things that represent capitalist fetishism, things that represent what you don't have and things which help numb you;
#1; rich people. doing rich things.. (as we're living in a capitalist universe, getting small glimpses of what it's like to be a person who's "made it" is our ideal.. people who aren't attached to the chronic stress of poverty and who can afford luxuries like time, health, and recreation, and those who focus instead on leisure activities)
#2; frivolous social matters... [watching others stress out instead of yourself; and watching self-induced affluent 'stress' (vacationing/beauty/social elitism/party planning) instead of real stress like bills, child support, medical needs, etc.. being able to turn off real life, and imagining these beautiful celebrities instead are your family/friends/etc]...
One can imagine that the more 'mindless' the TV shows available in a place, the more poverty, discrimination and wage disparity you see overall .. and it turns out this is an actual correlation too.
Oh..and the wage/medical/work/housing/interpersonal discrimination crap.. is very, very real...
we see the disturbing numbers from studies again and again..
- Black mothers are more likely to die in childbirth in this country than white mothers... black women also suffer much more chronic stress than white women, as well as medical discrimination in terms of pain management..
- communities of color don't live as long as white communities overall..
- indigenous populations have higher disease rates like diabetes due to lack of medical care and power/water/food distribution infrastructure...
- children of color have higher asthma rates than whites (due to historic redlining of neighborhoods predominantly into inner cities/spaces near road traffic/pollution/etc)
the list goes on and on...
Fact is, life is considerably harder to navigate for people who don't own property, who don't have lots of money, who lack anglo-saxon sounding names and who don't look typically white in the US.
These are also people with high stress rates, that often choose to watch silly rich people on TV as a form of escapism from poverty and daily discrimination.
In essence, the 'Kardashians' show is literally what a stressed-out, unequal, and often impoverished nation craves.. the socialization aspect we crave as humans..
and a show about rich people who socialize about frivolous rich people things, instead of the struggles of ordinary daily life in a capitalist wage-labor country built of the backs of oppression. TV shows don't account for idiocy in this way; they point to a deeper oppression we simply wish to turn-off for an hour or so every few days. That's hardly idiotic.. that's therapeutic.