The Young And The Brainless: E!’s ‘Rich Kids Of Beverly Hills’ Provides Nauseating Glimpse At Children Of 1%
Every single frame in E!’s season 3 premiere of Rich Kids of Beverly Hills was completely insufferable, bursting at the seams with the narcissism and absolute privilege of its titular subjects. I was actually grateful when the ads would come on, appreciating their comparably subtle celebration of consumerism. The opening scene, which introduced the cast looking like they just walked off the set of Hunger Games portraying the hyper-fashionista inhabitants of the Capitol, was enough to make me want to throw my computer off the highest peak of the tallest mountain and live as a mountain hermit for the rest of my days.
Range Rovers, selfie sticks, high fashion, decadent spreads of expensive food and liquor, these are a few of their favorite things. Want to get some friends together? Well, why not just rent out an entire pool at some chic hotel like us? Duh! What’s that? What do you mean you don’t have money for that? What happened to your trust fund, silly? YOU MEAN YOUR PARENTS AREN’T RICH AND FAMOUS?!?! Away with ye, peasant!
Just how ridiculous are these sons and daughters of the 1%? Did I mention that they rented out a pool at some ritzy hotel for a casual hangout? Let me give you some more highlights. According to one cast member, Morgan Stewart, her recent forays into the cutting edge world of Snapchat has made her eminently qualified for a fashion video-journalism gig she lands. Snapchat isn’t just for throwaway laughs or audio-visual drunk sexting anymore, it’s resume material! Another cast member, Brendan Fitzpatrick, wonders aloud whether an engagement ring costing $100,000-$500,000 is really big enough for his girlfriend, and then he laughs about how it’s going to cost more than his car. Oh, what a cad! We get treated to an earnest conversation between two scions of wealth, Magic Johnson’s son, EJ Johnson, and David Hasselhoff’s daughter, Taylor-Ann Hasselhoff, about their shared burden of being born to the rich and famous, how much they have to struggle because every professional door is opened to them by people who want to chat about their parents’ escapades. Forget about all the college graduates burdened by ungodly amounts of debt and forced to scrape by on poverty wage jobs, landing whatever dream opportunity you want at the cost of having to pretend you want to talk about Papa Hoff’s Baywatch glory days is the real #struggle!
Alright, so they’re an easy target, granted. But why does this show exist? Who on earth watches it for pleasure or enlightenment or intellectual stimulation? Someone seems determined to worship at the altar of such extreme wealth and privilege, even as our nation receives the dubious distinction of having the greatest level of inequality in the developed world. Interestingly – and disturbingly – enough, beyond all the usual reality show banality and obviously scripted conflict, this program actually provides a glimpse into the brave new world of American wealth and power; an oligarchical system in which power over government, business and society is concentrated into even fewer hands by those with inherited wealth, or “patrimonial capitalism,” as the famous French economist Thomas Picketty phrased it in his seminal Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Paul Krugman, the New York Times columnist and Nobel Laureate economist, summed it up succinctly: “Those of you who talk about the 1 percent, you don’t really get what’s going on. You’re living in the past. You’re living in the ’80s. You think that Gordon Gekko is the future. Right now, what we’re really talking about is Gordon Gekko’s son or daughter. We’re talking about inherited wealth playing an ever-growing role.”
So, keep in mind that if you ever happen to flip by E! and pause a few seconds on Rich Kids of Beverly Hills to get a few laughs at the vanity and pompousness of those depicted onscreen, you’re actually watching a documentary about the rise of the forthcoming masters of the universe.
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