Bruce Jenner: Just One More Act In the Kardashian Family Circus

Bruce Jenner: Just One More Act
Courtesy of E!

Transgender activists have expressed understandable concern about the “spectacle”-like coverage surrounding Bruce Jenner, which will be punctuated by ABC News’ two-hour Diane Sawyer interview on April 24.

Yet whatever else is happening in Jenner’s life, the publicity must be viewed through the prism of the Kardashian-Jenner Industrial Complex, where virtually nothing happens by accident and the circus is always in town. The frenzy that perpetually surrounds all things Kardashian — having chosen to live entirely within the spotlight, dispensing with any notions of privacy — renders Jenner an imperfect spokesperson or icon for an issue that requires seriousness or sensitivity.

Using their E! series as the centerpiece of Kardashians Inc., the family has embraced a “Famous for being famous” mentality that has become as lucrative as it is unavoidable. Moreover, everyone who passes within their sphere gets drawn into this maelstrom, where it appears to be ordained on high that at least one member of the clan is featured in the pages of US Weekly in every single issue.

In terms of the Kardashian sisters, the men within their lives all come with pop-culture or public resumes of one degree or another. The carnival-like atmosphere is never-ending, with 10-week marriages, relationship strife, run-ins with paparazzi (through a veil of crocodile tears) and rehab all part of a gumbo that has spawned four spinoffs beyond “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and where weddings are viewed as made-for-TV stunts.

Jenner participated in that as the often seemingly detached husband of matriarch Kris Jenner, a role that in this context carries more currency as a claim to media fame than winning an Olympic gold medal in the decathlon nearly 40 years ago. Attention and notoriety via reality TV has also extended to the Jenner kids, such as son Brody, who is described as a “sex enthusiast” in E!’s announcement of his upcoming call-in talkshow “Sex With Brody,” which at least exhibits creativity in turning an avocation into a full-time job.

Against that backdrop, the Sawyer interview — which ABC is promoting with a sense of urgency one wishes the network brought with any regularity to, well, news — isn’t merely representative of Jenner’s journey but will inevitably be filtered through the public-relations machine over which the Kardashians preside. And that can’t help but enhance perceptions of Jenner as an object of tabloid curiosity, becoming just one more unexpected plot twist in the ongoing Kardashian soap opera.

From a distance, Jenner would be an ideal candidate to bring transgender issues into focus, as a widely recognizable celebrity who parlayed his flag-waving athletic accomplishments into a media career. But the years spent marinating within the Petri dish of Kardashian-land virtually ensure that this story will be infused with the kind of tabloid tenacity that governs everything else pertaining to the family. Nor would ABC News be handling the interview in such a breathless manner — and devoting such a sizable chunk of primetime to it — if the network didn’t recognize its value in rippling through the ecosystem devoted to chronicling the extended clan’s every hiccup.

In ABC’s latest 30-second tease, Jenner expresses concern about his family, which can’t help but sound laughable under the circumstances. Given their symbiotic relationship with media, it’s hard to envision how anything that generates scads of attention about the Kardashians could possibly damage them.

As the New York Post noted, Kris Jenner has been especially shrewd in monetizing her progeny (hence the odious term “momager”), tapping into an appetite for sensationalism that’s certainly not new but is more inexhaustible and hungrier in this fast-paced modern age, turning it into a gold mine as profitable as it is toxic. Bruce Jenner might have been just one player amid that cast of characters, but if the coverage already is any indication of what’s to come, there’s simply no way to gracefully pull oneself out of the Kardashian quicksand.

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  1. Rafael Alonso says:

    I would have lost my manhood if I was a man living with the Kardashians. The mand doesn’t have balls…he was runner with no balls. But don’t get me wrong. I feel bad for him. He butchered his body and I think he suffers a case of lack of identity, which living in a matriarch family didn’t help him either. But okay he wasn’t too manly but maybe he would have never had surgery if it wasnt because he was in such a sensationalist life with the K idiots women…and because he lives in America who promotes idiots…and promotes the wrong things and elevates fools to fame. The man was no stranger to surgery, Now he got more respect (because this country is full of idiots who call what he did bravery) and because people are afraid of being called trans-phobic….conservative etc..you dont even a right to disagree anymore with such a grotesque circus as this one is. I actually thought he looked like a nice person before, although that wasnt hard taken into account the cold and brainless women he was living with and even now after this I think he doesn’t know what he is doing. He should have left them behind and just be with men if that is what he wanted. Because now as a woman he will be with men. So he HAS TO LIKE men, and before the surgery he liked men whether he was aware of that or not. Here in America a new tedency is being promoted (sorry Freud no more penis envy) people who like the opposite sex and or admire the physical appereance of the opposite sex have the choice now to change their bodies. The less you know who you are the more inclined you will be to have that change surgery.

  2. Kara says:

    Absolutely great read.

  3. Harvey says:

    You hit the nail on the head.

  4. Tom Peffer says:

    cosmetic surgery and vanity = Bruce Jenner… what’s that old saying? “beauty is only skin deep”…

  5. ron glee says:

    I can never forget the first I saw Kim sucking on a big fat D!CK. I new she symbolized the new liberal Amerika and she was a national treasure!

  6. Elle says:

    Should be “more inexhaustible and hungry.” Otherwise you’re essentially saying “more hungrier.”

  7. Thank you for a candid and forthright assessment of the environment in which this interview is occurring. Rather than being concerned, I am looking forward to using the opportunity and publicity around the interview to engage, educate, and advocate regarding a much larger and much more serious issue: that society needs to stop killing us and driving us to suicide. Our youth are particularly susceptible; bullying is a major factor in teen suicides and more needs to be done to provide supportive environments in our families, schools, and communities.

  8. Ana says:

    Great article; very talented writer.

  9. Karen Anderson says:

    Wow, this commentary is so mean and cynical. For someone as famous as Bruce Jenner always in the public eye, coming out transgender would require huge amounts of courage and strength on his part. His expressed fears about possibly hurting his family is understandable. He is referring to the potential emotional hurt and confusion that his transition could cause his immediate family, not about so-called “damage” to the family brand. I’m surprised Variety would publish such a hateful and judgmental diatribe as this.

  10. Bill B. says:

    He’s probably the most sane one in this joke of a family. I don’t know how they can appear anywhere without people laughing at them. They are ridiculous.

  11. these people are vapid, ignorant and a total waste of time. they’re famous because they’re pretty. kim is a self absorbed brat married to another self absorbed brat. the mother exploits her family for money and allows her younger children to do whatever they want. if she lived in the real world, dcf would probably pay her a visit. i can’t believe people follow them on social media, watch their show and buy their products. they literally make me sick. i wish people would stop buying into their routine and stop making more money for them. i can’t stand filthy rich people who have a sense of entitlement. they have no clue about the real world. people pay kim to show up in the middle east and attend a party because she has a big ass. it’s disgusing.

  12. Edgar says:

    By glaad’s assessment, Jenner is normal and perfectly sane. Everyone else is crazy.

  13. Carl says:

    He’s needs mental help. He’s a sideshow freak.

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