Monday, January 13, 2014

'Pride and Prejudice' and Kardashians

Like many people, I assumed until this weekend that the Kardashian family was merely a passel of talentless, self-serving fools who'd acquired the annoying knack of becoming famous simply because they chose to live entirely in the public eye.

But I suddenly realized they're actually brilliant performance artists who are collectively acting out a modern version of Jane Austen's beloved novel, "Pride and Prejudice." Like Joaquin Phoenix, who grew a "Duck Dynasty"-style beard and pretended to retire from acting for a year, they're cleverly concealing their real motives under a veneer of stupidity and shamelessness. Only the greatest actors can do that.

Consider Anna Quindlen's comment about Austen's novel, published 201 years ago: " 'Pride and Prejudice' is about...that thing all great novels consider, the search for self." What are the Kardashians doing except searching for their true selves, through broken romances and embarrassing photos and boorish squabbles in public?

Like the Bennet family in "Pride," the Kardashians are headed by an excitable, frivolous mother with a narrow world view and a well-meaning, befuddled father -- in this version, a stepfather -- who has no control over the younger generation; he was once an esteemed member of society, but nobody now takes him seriously. Like the Bennets, the Kardashian-Jenner clan has five girls, though one brother (not in the novel) has been added as a modern twist.

Second daughter Kim Kardashian has the leading role. She embodies second daughter Elizabeth Bennet, headstrong and unwilling to take her parents' advice about suitors; like Elizabeth, she plunged forward in pursuit of her chosen husband, Kanye West. (He, of course, is playing the arrogant, wealthy Mr. Darcy, who "stooped" to a lower social circle when he became infatuated with Kim.)

Eldest daughter Kourtney plays eldest daughter Jane Bennet, beautiful (if perhaps empty-headed) and desiring a prosperous marriage after false starts in other directions. Like third daughter Mary Bennet, who's impatient to show off alleged accomplishments in literature and music, third daughter Khloe Kardashian has dabbled in acting, writing and fashion design in a desperate and dilettantish need to be noticed.

You can draw the rest of the parallels yourselves, working out all the relationships among various boyfriends and spouses. I say only that my respect for the Kardashians has increased immensely since I figured this out. It takes a brave cast of performers to expose itself to universal mockery in pursuit of so subtle an artistic goal.

Photo:  In this handout image provided by Feld Entertainment, (L-R) Kendall Jenner, Kim Kardashian, holding Mason Disick, Khloe Kardashian and Kylie Jenner, the Kardashian family meets one of the pachyderm stars of the Greatest Show On Earth at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey presents "Dragons" at the Staples Center July 16, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.


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