Photo Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images; Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic
Last week, in an interview with Kindle Singles, President Obama took a swipe at Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. (At this point, who hasn't?) Normally, Kardashian matriarch Kris Jenner finds herself defending one of her cubs or another -- usually while dropping by some camera-flashing, red carpet event. But now she has her own talk show, The Kris Show. And what a great forum it's provided to shoot down her naysayers!
On Friday, Jenner told her studio audience what Obama said about her daughter: Basically, he suggested that celebrities who flaunted their wealth were contributing to a culture of young people with unrealistic (and materialistic) hopes for the future. Obama also said that when he was growing up, "kids weren't monitoring every day what Kim Kardashian was wearing, or where Kanye West was going on vacation, and thinking that somehow that was the mark of success." Here is Jenner's response:
Jenner began by acknowledging that she shared Obama's view that "it's really great that people aspire to get a great job."
"But I wasn't aware that you could only set the bar so high and that we could only dream so big," she calmly (and rightly) countered. And she made the equally valid point that Kim and Kanye work tirelessly for their fortunes. "Kanye West, first of all, doesn't go on vacation. Ever," Jenner said. "And Kim Kardashian is the hardest-working young lady in the world. She never sleeps, she never stops, she never slows down and works so hard for what she's got."
Indeed, even if the work of being a reality star appears self-serving, and not especially edifying, it is work. It's hard to argue with Jenner's point that Kim hardly sleeps. She's got shows to film, products to sell, Twitter endorsements to write, and photoshoots that require her to look fabulous. (Just maintaining that body takes hours of daily work.)
However, Jenner did go a step too far when she likened Obama's dreams of growing up to be president with her daughter's dreams of growing up to… do all the things she does. There is a huge difference between his work and what she and Kanye do.
Implied in Obama's comments about what "constitutes a mark of success" is that young people are seeing celebrities make gobs of money and spend it selfishly. Teens are watching Kim earn millions (at a seemingly noncerebral job), and spend it on clothes, shoes and handbags. They're seeing Kanye use his earnings on yachting trips through the Aegean Sea. (Yes, Ms. Jenner, Kanye is at this moment on vacation in Greece.) In terms of generosity and responsible financial stewardship, Kim and Kanye seem to have set the bar very low.
Obama, on the other hand, aspired to and achieved his dream to live in the White House and tackle the nation's most pressing social and economic woes. Whether or not you like Obama, most people would agree that his aspirations are a little more noble than Kim Kardashian's! For Obama, earning great wealth isn't just an end in itself. As a politician, he needs money as a means of gaining power (through campaigning for office). And that allows him to go to work, trying to make nationwide changes that are (hopefully) for the better. It's not about shopping sprees on Rodeo Drive.
Jenner does make one last valid point: "We employ and give jobs to hundreds and hundreds of people, just on Keeping Up with the Kardashians alone," she says. "And that's a wonderful thing."
Yes, it is a wonderful thing. You know what would be even more wonderful? Fewer shoes. And more compassion. (At least when the cameras are on.)
Jennifer Graham Kizer is an Atlanta-based writer who covers pop culture and watches too much TV. Luckily, iVillage gives her an excuse to watch even more. Follow her on Google+.