Someone needed to burst the bubble of the "storybook wedding" fantasy.
It's been five days since Kim Kardashian divorced her husband 72 days after her lavish, nationally televised wedding, and people are still freaking out about it. In fact, the backlash has only gotten worse. People continue to tweet about their disappointment; media outlets are consulting image experts, worrying that the failed nuptials have tarnished Kim's reputation; even a couple of my very reasonable friends, one of whom is engaged, feel rattled by the debacle. But I have to admit: I'm glad she made the move.
From the moment we learn to talk, we are bombarded by messages of the "dream wedding": a one-kneed proposal with a big shiny rock, a virginal white dress, an overblown party, a shower of congratulations, a promise of happily ever after. There are hundreds of magazines, movies, and reality shows devoted to brides and their special day, encouraging the worst kind of warped consumerism and ignoring the fact that many marriages lead to divorce, result in unhappiness, or never happen in the first place. Kim's "fairy tale" was that cliché on steroids. And the illusion has been shattered in the most spectacular way possible.
People seem to be particularly pissed off about the money—how much the wedding cost, how much Kim reportedly got paid to go through with it. "I got caught up with the hoopla," Kim explained on her website. "[W]hen I probably should have ended my relationship, I didn’t know how to and didn’t want to disappoint a lot of people." A little reality check: Normal people bank a hell of a lot on weddings, too. The average American couple spends between $18,050 and $30,083 on their wedding, up to three-quarters of the average U.S. salary. Given the stakes involved in most weddings, it's no surprise that Kim's cowardice has hit a cultural nerve.
For some, it's not just about the money—it's that Kim and Kris have made a mockery of love. Countless gay couples deserve to be married before her, she shouldn't have given up so easily, she wasn't ready. But it's not love that's the problem; it's our culture's emphasis on matrimony itself. Some unions—gay or straight—work out beautifully. Others end in disaster. Either way, it's dangerous for a culture to have so much riding on a rapidly evolving institution that, according to Millennials, isn't even that important. Plus, did we really want her to stay in a marriage she "rushed into"? This latest travesty is a reminder that not every relationship fits into a predetermined model that often sets us up to fail; human relationships are too complex and risky to be tied up in a perfect bow. If we weren't so wedded to her fairytale in the first place, perhaps Kim would have spared us the scandal.