06/06/2015

The modern family

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Anyone who openly disses the show Keeping Up with the Kardashians as dumb-blonde-entertainment has probably not spent enough time watching it. I mean, it’s easy to brush off their material as trivial — and sometimes it really is just a guilty pleasure, watching the girls get their butts tightened. But whereas the early ‘70s had The Brady Bunch, or the 21st century had 7th Heaven, the Kardashians are our modern family. Every episode ends with some kind of didactic undertone, anyway.

This is a real family, after all, and despite their superficial pursuits, or the dummy conflicts probably whipped up by a show writer, there is still an actual family behind all the glass and smoke. They’ve continually had to deal with family drama in front of the camera, for all their two million viewers to see. Such as:

  • When Kourtney’s boyfriend, Scott Disick, was coming home sloshed, doing drugs and being an absent father to their first son Mason, the family pulled together to help smack some sense into him. Now, Kourtney and Scott (post-rehab) have three kids.
  • When Khloe’s ex-husband Lamar Odom suddenly became detached from her life, and disappeared for months, it was her sisters who pleaded with Khloe to stop allowing herself to be hurt, and urged her to find the courage to file for divorce.
  • When Kylie, the youngest, had her lips puffed because they were her biggest insecurity — and the media began to hound her with questions — it was Kim who met up with the young Kylie face-to-face to tell her not to lie about it, to acknowledge instead that everyone has their own insecurities (this was a full episode that focused on insecurities, and how it was normal to have them).
  • And when Olympic gold medalist Bruce Jenner announced first that he and wife Kris Jenner were getting a divorce, and then eventually came out in the open as transgender, the family reacted in the most heartfelt way that families possibly can — with all-out support.

Just this week, Vanity Fair released their cover featuring Caitlyn Jenner, the person formerly known as Bruce, with the headline “Call me, Caitlyn.” Her coming out as a transgender woman on television was heartwarming to watch, a feat on its own. But landing the cover of a leading glamour magazine: that was a statement.

You can’t help but feel emotional for Caitlyn. She has been in the public eye for decades as Bruce Jenner. Her whole life was spent trying to fit into a societal standard of masculinity — first as a worldwide hero in sports, and then later as the father figure in a major reality TV show. When Caitlyn came out in the open, it was a shock. But the shock quickly turned into a bewildered kind of awe, because it takes an incredible courage to come out in the open like that. And while Caitlyn’s reveal tackles many hurdles in the LGBT community, and has effects that will change bigger things in the world, we have to remember that this is a journey that is still very personal as well. In the end, we should, at the least, be happy that one person was able to live with the peace she deserved.

The kids talk of the former Bruce Jenner fondly, and remember him as a doting father. He was the fun one, they say, as home videos of him jumping from the rooftop of the house into a swimming pool, plays. We see him carrying  baby Kendall on his shoulders, and showering baby Kylie with kisses. “Remember, Kylie, Daddy loves you,” he says. On TV, amidst the flurry of his five daughters, he sits there in the corner, timid and stern, but always with an opinion. When Khloe got engaged to Lamar only after one month, and didn’t tell the family, he was upset. When Kendall expressed she wanted to be a supermodel at 14, it was Bruce who interjected, “But she’s only 14.” He was the balance to the more strong-willed Kris. But he was always there, the loving father.

The Vanity Fair cover trumps many things, but an important triumph is that Caitlyn was able to prove that you don’t have fit into the status quo to build a family, to raise good kids, to be a loving parent, or to give selflessly. His transition into Caitlyn, and her family’s continued love and support, is just further proof as to how good of a parent she is — because to be able to raise your kids with that kind of understanding and tolerance is truly a blessing and an achievement. Kendall, sniffing, says on the show, “He’s gone 65 years hiding something. Why not just be who you want to be? If that’s her, then that’s her.” Kylie says, “I’m excited for him, I just feel so horrible he always had this inside. And he never fully got to be himself.”

To keep up with the Kardashians, you have to keep up with the times. With each and every controversy they’ve had to face, they manage to brush it off and pull through, on to another season. The family has often dealt and fought with many controversies, showing what kinds of bonds have kept them together, and which are keeping them from falling apart. With the spotlight now on Caitlyn, they are now redefining what makes a family.

Here comes Caitlyn, proud and free. Look at her glow. And there, on the sidelines, watch her loving family cheering her on. Isn’t it a sight to see?

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