News outlets have been following the story of NBA player Lamar Odom, 35, who was found unconscious on Oct. 13 after a three-day stay at a Nevada brothel. Medical reports and witnesses claim Odom overdosed on ten tablets of herbal Viagra and cocaine, among other substances. Odom is now reported to be responding and breathing on his own.
But no one cares about that. We want to know about his not-legally ex-wife, Khloe Kardashian, who “rushed to his side” and dropped everything to focus on Lamar. Overall, the headlines aren’t so much about Lamar and his condition but rather what the first family of reality television has to do with it.
We could talk about how twisted and screwed up the media is, but this isn’t really a reflection of them. It’s a reflection of us and how we’ve turned reality into episodes of a television show.
The stories written about Odom focus less on facts and more on the reactions of the Kardashian-Jenner clan, similar to dramatic events that happen on “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” The producers will let a fight break out or a nasty comment be repeated over and over again before cutting to personal interviews with family members about how betrayed or insulted they feel. America as an audience has become so used to this format that we confuse real life with television. We conceive Odom’s death scare as a moment in an episode instead of a scary and serious event. We let our opinions coincide with the Kardashian-Jenner clan who have been showing their support on Instagram and asking for the public’s condolences and prayers (and if anyone can make America pray, it’s them).
The good news is that this story is changing the way women are defined and portrayed in media. In most celebrity-journalism stories, women are usually defined by the men in their lives as “their wife” or “their ex-mistress”, but the articles surrounding Odom pin him as “Khloe’s ex” and put her in an active role (she is reportedly the one making medical decisions for him).
The flip side is that no one seems to be bothered that Odom was found unconscious in a brothel with copious amounts of drugs in this system. Instead, he is babied by the Kardashian-Jenner clan and praised by NBA players, such as Kevin Durant, who claims Odom “took him under his wings.” If the gender roles were reversed, Odom would be slut-shamed for even knowing what Viagra was.
Overall, Odom’s rock-bottom moment is getting a lot of coverage, but we’re not having the right conversation about it. Instead of focusing on drug abuse or near-death prevention, we’re focusing on who’s driving Khloe’s Range Rover back home. If we’re going to talk about Lamar Odom’s drug overdose, let’s shed light on him being found in a compromising (and embarrassing) situation instead of spinning this like a trailer for next Sunday’s episode of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”