Lounging in bed sick made me crave a mind-numbing TV show to distract me from the physical pain I had been enduring for days. Having never watched “Keeping up with the Kardashians,” I thought it was the perfect opportunity to take the plunge. I knew the basics about the various family members from the media, and I followed Kim on Instagram.
I was expecting a show that I would love to hate. I already thought of them as egocentric, materialistic, and silly before seeing a single episode. But I didn’t expect to sympathize with their circumstances and—I’ll even go so far as to say—identify with them.
Growing up in a Modern Orthodox Jewish home, with a mother who is the daughter of immigrants, there were three major principles instilled in me: family, work ethic, and religion. Although the Kardashians aren’t Jewish, I couldn’t help but see many similarities in the way they value their family. (Sorry family, I know you’re cringing at the comparison.)
Every decision that one of the Kardashians faces quickly becomes a group decision. Whether various boyfriends can ever be loyal? They sit down as a family to discuss. Whether a sister is acting out? They deal with it together. There are multiple family interventions once brother Rob gains a lot of weight and subsequently has health issues.
Admittedly, I often come to my family when I have trouble making up my mind about something. My parents’ thoughts and opinions carry weight, and I turn to them even when I’m navigating issues that have nothing to do with them.
One instance that truly changed the course of history was when I had my first argument with my then boyfriend, my now husband. I remember consulting with my mom and sharing our exchange. She heard the whole story and sided with him. After our conversation, I decided he wasn’t so bad after all. Maybe I had overreacted.
What makes “Keeping up with the Kardashians” so addicting is their candidness on camera. They are willing to reveal anything and everything. We go with Kim to her IVF appointments, for example. The siblings sometimes treat each other poorly, and act selfishly and gluttonously. (Don’t we all?) But they never hide who they are.
For me, part of being Jewish is being an active member of a Jewish community. Sometimes Jewish communities have a reputation for being too involved in each other’s personal business. But in times of celebration, as well as in times of tragedy, the community comes together to give people the support they need.
The Kardashians are like a microcosm of a community. They know every detail of one another’s private life, and can be critical of others’ choices, but they also rally and help out whenever someone is in need.
Obviously, I’m not blind and I see all of their crazy. They are easy to pick apart. They’re fame obsessed. They have incredibly poor judgment. All of the sisters have names that start with the letter “K.” But the Kardashians stick by each other through very thick and very thin. No matter who says what to whom, the message is clear: family is family.
The Kardashians may be blamed for representing everything that is wrong with American society today. However, they also represent an old-world value of elevating family above everything else.
I don’t want to replicate the Kardashians’ lifestyles or their heavily made-up looks, and I would never call them my role models. But the way that they focus on and support their family is something I aspire to do.
I was moved and emotional when watching the special two-part episode during which Bruce, a person they spent years calling “Dad,” becomes a woman. Yet, family is family, and their relationships to Caitlin stay strong. The Kardashians are constantly criticized for being frivolous, but I think they may have their priorities straight.