November 14 2013
Kanye and Kim’s Wedding Proposal and the Decline of ‘Elite Values’
Be thankful for small blessings. When reality TV star Kim Kardashian marries hip hop recording artist Kanye West, she won’t be wearing the now de rigueur designer bridal gown with room for the baby bump.
Nope, the couple’s baby girl North West — who no doubt will spend countless hours in therapy trying to figure out why her thoughtless parents saddled her with such a ridiculous name — was, as you must know already, born in June.
Instead Kim’s bump will be on her finger: the 15-karat diamond ring Mr. West gave her when he proposed via Jumbotron in San Francisco’s AT&T Park. It was a surprise for Kim that featured friends and relatives looking on, while a 50-piece orchestra provided music.
The Jumbotron didn’t get down on bended knee, but it did beseech, “PLEEEASE MARRY MEEE!!!”
Did any of the celebrity journalists who churned out the endless coverage of Kim-Kanye betrothal extravaganza mention that, deep down, that it was millions of dollars of trashiness? Nowhere did any of these scribes betray the slightest hint of discomfort with the, uh, situation.
And why would they?
We live in a world where MTV is slated to begin casting for a fifth season of the popular show “16 and Pregnant.” This is not a niche show nobody watches. When one of its early stars, Amber Portwood — who had had a baby girl with beau Gary Shirley — went to prison for using illegal drugs on 2012, the news was reported on ABC in a segment introduced by George Stephanopoulos. ABC’s Juju Chang soothingly characterized Ms. Portwood’s decision to go to jail rather than complete rehab as “a chance for this teen mom to grow up for good.”
Really? Call me old-fashioned, but I’d think having a child would afford better opportunities for a responsible parent’s personal growth than going to prison.
Are you old enough to remember the uptight 1950s, when the wedding announcements in the newspaper didn’t feature pregnant brides or couples who were already sharing quarters? “Shacked-up” was the antediluvian term. Contrast that with a recent wedding announcement in the Washington Post’s “In Love” section. The couple had felt “fully committed to each other” but only decided to wed when the pair came back from a trip to St. Lucia and found that the bride was pregnant. “We couldn’t have scripted it any better,” the groom said.
Well, some people might think a better script would put marriage first, babies afterwards. But they’d be dismissed as no-fun fuddy-duddies.
We’ve retired the quaint term “born out of wedlock.” Angelina Jolie — please don’t ask me to provide the latest on how many children she and “partner” Brad Pitt have — has been named a UN Special Envoy for refugees. No, she’s not quite Daniel Patrick Moynihan. The choice is a clear signal that putting marriage before childbirth is now considered hopelessly passé.
Look, I’m not asking for much. Just a little judgmentalism. Couldn’t society benefit from a smidgen of recognition that Kim and Kanye are setting a terrible example? That children do better when their parents marry before they are born? That maybe, humanitarian though she is, Angelina Jolie is not a great role model. Okay, she did have the Billy Bob Thornton tattoos removed after hooking up with Brad. I’ll give her that.
Students of the English historian Arnold Toynbee might be tempted to explain the crumbling of marital rules as a failure to uphold what used to be considered elite values. Toynbee considered this a sign that a society was disintegrating. One elite value was getting married before children came — bourgeois to be sure.
It could be argued that people such as Kim and Kanye and Brad and Angelina Jolie are bad examples for people who can’t buy big diamonds and hire orchestras but that they have so much money that they can afford to make the choices they make. I’m not so sure.
Kim Kardashian for one, who hails from a family whose name became familiar to mainstream Americans when her father, lawyer Robert Kardashian, helped his pal O.J. Simpson beat a murder rap, has left a trail of pain. This is her third marriage, and bookmakers are already taking odds on its longevity.
Meanwhile, Kardashian’s number two, basketball star Kris Humphries clearly feels he’s been burned. Humphries insisted that his seventy-two-day marriage to Ms. Kardashian be annulled because, he claimed, the nuptials were merely an excuse for Kardashian to put on a lucrative televised spectacular. I guess Humphries is the kind of person who passes as an upholder of traditional values today.