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Are the Ks OK?

Social commentators often note that we've blurred the lines between fame and infamy. Some argue we actually prefer infamy. To paraphrase Richard Glover of The Sydney Morning Journal, Mother Theresa is interesting, but Joey Buttafuoco is fascinating. Nelson Mandela, Bill Gates, Sonia Sotamayor? We know them. Britney Spears, Tiger Woods, Bernie Madoff? We really know them.

Fame, infamy, notoriety -- today it all boils down to this thing called celebrity.

And then there is a force called the Kardashians.

Their stepfather was the world's greatest athlete and had his own Wheaties box. But he's a bit player in the public lives of the Special Ks. If their reality show were a sitcom, he would be the equivalent of a wacky neighbor at best.

Lamar Odom is an NBA champion with an amazing backstory. Still it took a quickie marriage to Khloe to hit the big time and propel him to two national TV commercials. Reggie Bush has a Super Bowl ring and a Heisman Trophy, but is much better known for having Kim.

Even their late father who was part of the O.J. Simpson dream team (often accused of his own brand of infamy in the area of evidence disposal) pales next to the bright light of his children's' mother.

Of course, this is no surprise. The Kardashians have done ... well, that's just it. They don't really do anything. But they do it on TV. Because of this, their power and influence is nothing short of amazing. People want to be like them. Look like them, dress like them, behave like them. And by "them", I mean the K-girls; not Odom, Bush or Jenner.

They deserve major credit for building a personal brand as strong as any in entertainment. They have taken "being famous for being famous" to a whole new place which has allowed them to become major arbiters of young America's mores and tastes. The Kardashians have already made big post-reality marks on fashion, fragrance, fitness and film and show no signs of letting up.

That's where I start to get uncomfortable -- not with the Calabassas Ks but with us; the public that enables their expanding influence. I say more power to the Kardashians; whatever that power is. But I also remember when a person used to become famous because they wrote a book, played a role, designed clothes or produced a film. Today, they too often write a book, play a role, design clothes or produce a film because they are famous.

We need more art and not just more content. I truly hope that young talent among us strives to sing, dance, act, write and create instead of conspiring to contrive "reality" as a shortcut to those vocations.

We'll all be better off if they do.


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