The tragedy of Lamar Odom’s hospitalization after collapsing in a brothel on Tuesday night once again brings up the question of how much damage reality show fame can bring to the real people behind the shows. As Khloe Kardashian’s husband, Lamar Odom became a regular on Keeping Up With the Kardashians up until their heavily covered and publicized divorce in 2013.
For most viewers of reality television, it is hard to remember that the people they see are playing characters that serve narratives within those shows. Lamar was to be Khloe’s husband, until the ratings made it necessary for a big “event” to happen in the family. In an excellent piece for BuzzFeed News, Elle Woodward and Rebecca Hendin showed how Keeping Up With the Kardashians manipulates its viewers into thinking their lives might be just like the eponymous family if they manage to “make it big.” After all, look at Kim and Khloe’s problems – marriage, divorce, motherhood – aren’t they all so relatable? What has kept Keeping Up With the Kardashians alive is the fact that they use the same narratives that resonate with the majority of the people. It’s the same technique soap operas and telenovelas have been using for almost their entire existence as television shows.
How can we be so quick to judge reality television if they are just using a method that’s been used thousands of times before? Because behind the characters of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, 19 Kids and Counting, and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo are real people whose lives are promoted and exposed for entertainment. Of course, for a while they get to reap the benefits of fame, but the cost of their overly exposed life tends to catch up with them. We’ve heard these stories before: Lindsey Lohan, Paris Hilton, and more recently Josh Duggar. We can’t celebrate reality celebrities as we would celebrate fictional characters because while reality stars’ lives may be dramatized, they have real lives behind the cameras.
In Lamar Odom’s case, while he made his name as a pro athlete and a basketball champion, his level of fame and recognition came thanks to Keeping Up With the Kardashians. It is horrifying to look at the coverage his tragedy is receiving and seeing most of the stories relate to how the “Kardashian klan” has reacted to the tragedy. Instead of focusing on Lamar’s career or his medical condition, we keep hearing about how Kourtney, Kylie, Kris, and Kim feel about this very sick man’s state.
Lamar Odom is a man fighting with addiction. Let’s start talking about his condition, what lead him to being in hospital, and not about some silly family’s opinion on him.