Monday, August 8, 2011

Trying to Keep Up

Say what you want about the Kardashians, but that family is as ingrained into American culture as the Kennedys or Roosevelts. From Robert Sr.'s representation of O.J. Simpson to Kim's notorious sex tape, the Kardashians have been in the spotlight for nearly two decades. Their show "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" airs every Sunday night on E!, and of course, has drawn plenty of criticism. Whatever. The show appeals to me, both on an entertainment level and a social level. I relate to Khloe's weird humor, Kim's business sense, and Kourtney's ability to keep life in perspective, but what I most appreciate is how the family uses the show to address social issues like alcoholism, unplanned pregnancies & infertility, and balancing career decisions with love lives. These aren't "rich people problems," or issues faced by a small population in America. The issues brought up on "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" are real American problems faced by a real American family.

For those of you who aren't frequent viewers, the show follows the three Kardashian sisters, Kourtney, Kim, and Khloe, their mother Kris Jenner, who is married to Olympic champion Bruce Jenner, and their younger half-sisters, Kendall and Kylie. A few Sundays back, Kendall gets put on birth control by her doctor. Papa Jenner absolutely freaks out, naively thinking that his daughter is out having rampant, shameless sex. Bruce's reaction is not uncommon among American fathers; mine freaked out, too, when I got put on "The Pill" less than a year after I started my period at 16. Usually, it takes the mother figure to explain to the horrified father that birth control pills are used to do more for women than just what the name implies, but in the Kardashian case, Bruce still doesn't seem to comprehend, and Khloe, the instigator that she is, suggests that the younger sisters finally get "The Talk." If you're a big Kardashian fan, you will remember that endometriosis runs in the family, and was addressed by Khloe in an episode; hormonal contraception is the most prescribed treatment to control the genetic ailment. While it's not explicitly said in the episode, that's what I assumed the problem was, as "cramps" are the cited problem. I digress - not a rich person's problem. The Kardashians/Jenners simply take the opportunity to use their very public platform to open dialogue about problems that affect everyone in America, rich or poor.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 62% of women in childbearing years use some sort of contraception method, and 28% of those women use the hormonal contraception, or "The Pill." That's more than 10 million American women using birth control pills, for contraception, treatment for a gynecological disease, acne - whatever. But I uncovered an interesting side fact from Guttmacher: teens who don't use contraception are twice as likely to experience an unplanned pregnancy than teens who do use a method of contraception. Nearly 3 million teenage women actually use contraception, and more than half of them use "The Pill." And with the rate of teen motherhood on the rise, Kendall and Kylie Jenner deserve some credit for taking their fertility into their own hands. I think it's safe to say that the Kardashians are more in touch with American life than most of our politicians in Washington! Keeping up with them may not be as hard for most of us to do.

While, certainly, the Kardashian sisters have been known to slip up or say something really, really stupid, but that's what makes them that much more appealing to me and millions of other Sunday night viewers of E! They're relatable, hilarious, and deal with the same problems that everyone else does. We're just lucky enough to not have a camera around when we deliver an oratory gem to the world.