Conservatives have rightly reacted with amusement to various elements of the modestly titled blockbuster ABC special, “Bruce Jenner, The Interview.” After all, Diane Sawyer was literally more shocked that Jenner came “out” as a conservative, than she was that he came out as a woman.
Also, much of the highly-rated two-hour special felt much like an exercise in pushing the public to embrace, or even celebrate, something that many believe to be an acquired mental disorder (including some in the psychiatric community). Understandably, conservatives get very nervous when a liberal media monolith determines that only one opinion on a subject (theirs) is valid and all variance from orthodoxy is immediately deemed to be a grievous violation of decorum.
But as someone who respects good storytelling and journalism (both of which are sadly in decline), I was most offended by how Sawyer completely blew it when it came to explaining the real story of how this bizarre interview ever came to be in the first place. Specifically, Sawyer somehow totally left out how the murder of O.J. Simpson‘s wife and her friend created the series of events which directly led to anyone caring about Jenner’s sexual identity.
Remarkably, the ABC special only very briefly showed Robert Kardashian’s photo but never touched on his key role in this soap opera. This is roughly the equivalent of telling the Hillary Clinton story without mentioning how she was basically handed a Senate seat after having endured the Monica Lewinsky embarrassment.
Those under the age of 35 who watched the ABC special would probably be shocked to know how this current-day incarnation of Bruce Jenner became “re-famous.”
The real story is this: Robert Kardashian was the man who read O.J. Simpson’s apparent suicide letter on live television in the prelude to the infamous “Bronco Chase,” an event which changed television news forever. He was also the person who stood next to Simpson during the reading of the outrageously false “not guilty” verdicts. The stunned look on his ashen face said more about the grotesque injustice which had been done that day than anything the prosecutors or the victim’s families could have possibly said.
At best, Kardashian helped a friend he knew to have likely brutally murdered two people beat the charges against him. At worst, he was an accomplice to double murder, after the fact.
Regardless, the celebrity Kardashian gained from his role in the case was critical to how the rest of this saga has played out. When his daughter Kim did a sex tape (back in the dark ages of the internet when such things were still excitingly new and not yet clichéd), the only reason the tape got such notoriety and public traction was because people recognized her last name from the Simpson case. (And it helped that the boyfriend involved was a famous singer.)
Without Kim’s sex tape exploding into the public consciousness, there never would have been a Keeping Up with the Kardashian’s reality television show. Without that program, which featured Kim’s stepfather Bruce Jenner as a minor (mostly mocked) character, the media wouldn’t care if he is going through gender transition, because the ratings, especially among younger demographics, simply wouldn’t be there.
If you doubt this premise, ask yourself how excited ABC would be if Nadia Comaneci — a far bigger star from the 1976 Olympics than Jenner — decided today that she was becoming a man. There is zero chance that news would get a network primetime special (unless Jenner agreed to take part in it, perhaps with Kim and Kanye as well).
It seems as though Jenner’s role on the Kardashian reality TV show may have played a small but significant part in his decision to publicly go through gender transition in the first place. It had to be gnawing at him all these years to be an Olympic champion being mocked on television by far more famous step-children who had accomplished nothing discernable in their lifetimes. When he told Sawyer that during all those years of the show it was he who really had the best story, I sensed that there was more than a little “let’s see who the real star is now, girls!” in his delivery.
At the very least, this resentment was clearly a part of why he decided to make this decision in such a dramatic public fashion (even announcing his own TV reality series documenting the process). If he actually goes through with the surgery and fulfills his promise of using his platform to make life better for those deal with issues similar to his, I will be more than willing to believe that this entire situation was at least entirely sincere, if not also likely very misguided.
However, until then I remain skeptical that, very much like Sawyer’s extremely stunted version of the Kardashian-Jenner family narrative, there isn’t a lot more to this story than was presented during ABC’s two-hour special.
>> John Ziegler is a conservative documentary filmmaker who focuses on media-related issues. He is also a nationally-syndicated radio talk show host. His commentary on this particular topic can be heard in the first hour of his most recent radio broadcast here. Follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud.
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