In “Terminator II,” there is a scene in which young John Connor–desperately trying, along with his mother and the android killing machine sent from the future to protect the boy, to prevent the apocalyptic future that waits for him—sees young children gleefully pretending to murder each other with toy guns. “We’re not going to make it, are we?” he asks the Terminator. “People, I mean.” The fact that a bank has chosen the Trashy Kardashian Sisters to promote a credit card aimed at teenagers prompts approximately the same sense of futility. At a time of crisis in which our culture that desperately needs to encourage responsible fiscal conduct led by financial institutions we can trust, this is what we get.
In a saner time, not too long ago, the idea of a using the Kardashian girls to promote a pre-paid credit card supposedly aimed at teaching teens how to spend responsibly would have surfaced at a spit-balling session among Saturday Night Live writers. The Kardashians, after all, stand for the proposition that if your Daddy is rich, your bod is hot and your cosmetic surgeon is on speed dial, nothing else matters. Kim, Khloe, and Ko-Ko (or whatever the other one’s name is) are reality show and tabloid stars without having to utter a pithy word or display a nano-second’s worth of maturity among them. Kim, the most famous of the women, celebrated for her shapely caboose, once spent $2,500 on a pair of booties. ” A Kardashian Kard! We can have the commercial right after “Weekend Update!”
But no, this is real. Just as in the run-up to the housing melt-down that got us in this mess, businesses embrace the fact that the bulk of Americans are suckers who are trained to spend their money foolishly, and, like any smart enterprise (not ethical, but smart), set out to make it easier for their prey, er, customers (sorry!) to do so. In a nation that was not doomed, making ridiculous, irresponsible, dim-bulb celebrities like the Kardashian sisters the symbol of a new product would be truth in advertising, and would drive potential users away. 21st Century Americans, however—especially young Americans—spend a large amount of its time wishing they were like the Kardashians, so these trivial, irresponsible, sex and appearance-obsessed women are considered…role models.
Yesterday, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal warned consumers about the Kardashian Kards, and demanded that University National Bank, which issues them, explain itself and its creation to the state. He said they were “laden with pernicious and predatory fees that swallow card value” and were “feckless financial tools designed to promptly diminish in value with virtually every transaction — and even when consumers don’t use the card at all.”
So we have a credit card that really is a financial trap, being hawked by a trio of girls known for irresponsible behavior to parents and teens who are so devoid of sense and values that they regard the Kardashians as credible advocates…being criticized by a state attorney general who just got elected to the U.S. Senate despite repeatedly lying about his Vietnam War service.
This is the United State of America, 2010.
We have a lot of work to do.