When I first heard about an E! reality show titled The Rich Kids of Beverly Hills last week, I quickly pushed the rising bile back down my throat and filled my mind with sugar plum fairies to make it go away. Soon, though, I couldn't avoid it. In the end, like so many others out there, morbid curiosity got the best of me, and, I confess, a desire to write and rant motivated my search. So, as if slowing to see a car wreck, I started to peruse the internet in search of the show.
Google quickly coughed up myriad articles on this impending disaster. So, first the facts: tumblr has a site called "The Rich Kids of Instagram." Although this proposed E! show certainly could be accused of being a direct rip-off, and some of the kids on the show may have shared photos on the site, tumblr and said site have no official affiliation with the new show. The show will apparently follow the wildly extravagant lives of five extremely spoiled and, obviously, rich Beverly Hills 20-somethings. A press release from E! Vice President Jeff Olde said, "These kids are larger than life personalities who are charismatic, shockingly wealthy and born into lifestyles that are outrageously spectacular." "I think viewers will be drawn into the fact that they are genuinely good …"
OK. Who are they? I’m not going to tell you. They all have their own Instagram accounts and I’m sure you might even find their old Facebook accounts if you look for them. But I refuse to be a party to feeding their narcissistic and bottomless desire for fame and adulation. So I am not going to mention their names in print. Instead, I am just going to rant here.
A show about a bunch of kids who simply got really, really lucky to be born into fabulously wealthy families — some of whom, I am sure, worked hard to attain that wealth — and used their families' resources to attain some small level of notoriety through their continuous gloating about their beautiful and vapid lives on social media. Not one of them, from what I could find, has dedicated their lives to anything worthwhile yet. Instead of being celebrated for harnessing their vast resources to help fund cancer research, build schools, feed the hungry, house the homeless, or even save stray dogs and cats from euthanasia, we celebrate them for riding in Ferraris, drinking jeroboams of Crystal, and accumulating as many pairs of Jimmy Choos as they can fit in a G5.
Why do we have to obsess over the vapid desires of the Kardashians, the Shahs of Sunset, The Real Housewives of Anywhere, and now these five super rich kids? Recently, This is the End lampooned Hollywood celebrity culture by suggesting that it might actually be a sign of the apocalypse. There are plenty of humorous piece of 'evidence' to choose from if you want to make the argument about the real world. Extreme weather is a daily occurrence; North West is no longer solely known for being a direction on the compass; Fukushima is contaminating all the fish in the Pacific Ocean; and Duck Dynasty is one of the top-rated shows on cable.
Having worked in Hollywood for most of my life, I can tell you that Reality TV is here to stay. It has become a permanent thread in the sad fabric of our celebrity-worshipping society. The reason most TV execs will fight to produce more of these Lives of the Rich and Famous shows is that they provide some sort of "Wish Fulfillment" to the American public. Call me a hypocrite if you like — I have certainly made some drivel in my time in Hollywood — but something about the obsessive and exhaustive examination of real world idiots — as opposed to those created in a writers mind — strikes me as a slippery slope. Maybe it’s the narcissism that scares me. Maybe it's the lack of self-awareness or shame. Maybe it’s our insatiable appetite for vapid entertainment. Or maybe the last laugh is actually on me, and Hollywood have simply found the easiest and laziest way to make a buck and attain their own slice of the American Dream. But something about the relentless assault of Reality TV shows now increasingly focused on the most socially irresponsible and shallow members of our society is making me question my faith in humanity. If it weren’t for The Walking Dead, I’d have lost all hope. And a show about a zombie apocalypse is maybe closer to this vision of the viewing public than I'd like.