“Because he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now.”
Of course, this is the iconic line from Commissioner Gordon at the end of The Dark Knight, as the Batman raced away on the Bat Bike, running from the police and also probably trying to catch the Wendy’s drive-thru before it closed at 4 a.m. The line managed to encapsulate everything the Batman represented for Gotham and for us. Also, on at least one occasion in 2008, it was an effective pickup line for me. (“I’m the hero you deserve, girl.”)
As I think about this line today, I can’t help also thinking about two very famous families: The Obamas and the Kardashians.
Why? Well, as I type this, Malia Obama is probably sitting in some advanced-astrophysics or Toni Morrison critical-theory class; debating attending Harvard or Yale or Spelman next year; or just postponing school altogether to become the first 18-year-old black astronaut. Her little sister, Sasha, is probably skipping school. But not to catch a movie or hang out at Arby’s, but to volunteer at a homeless shelter and then to head to the library to continue working on the dystopian young-adult series she’s been writing in her spare time.
Their mother, Michelle, is probably in the gym training for an intercontinental CrossFit tournament while texting legal advice to Sonia Sotomayor (and looking flawless the entire time). While their dad, Barack, is probably in the White House basement, doing Mikan drills with a group of surprisingly ambidextrous Martians, who fly all the way to Earth once a week to chop it up with the prez.
That the Obama family is America’s official first family will never not be absurd. Not because they’re black but because they’re so damn perfect. They’re each impossibly smart and tall, and the kids are ridiculously cute and talented and well mannered, and they all appear to adore one another. Oh, and they’re black. Beautifully and unambiguously black. So black that they actually have a “Big Momma” (Michelle’s mother) living with them. And the names of their daughters could very easily also be the names of days in Kwanzaa. It is literally not possible to have a more perfect first family. We will never do better than them.
And we … well. We are a country full of idiots, sociopaths, gun nuts, homophobes, hoteps, chicken hawks, chicken thieves, racists, Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood cast members and Cowboys fans. A year from now, we might actually elect the monkey squirrel who hosts The Celebrity Apprentice as our actual president. Our national pastimes are Netflix and chill and eating bacon.
You know that guy at the Golden Corral who goes back to the buffet with the plate he just ate from, even though they explicitly tell you to get a new plate every time you get food? And then, with steak bones and cheese crumbs still on his plate, hovers over the seafood line and grabs an entire tray of breaded shrimp before anyone else can even get some?
That guy is America.
The Obamas are not the heroes we deserve. Because we do not deserve them. The only thing we deserve is diabetes.
Which is why, when Cosmopolitan called the Kardashians “America’s First Family,” I couldn’t be too upset. In fact, I wasn’t upset at all. Because it was right.
If our first family is supposed to be an accurate representation of the American people, who’d be a better choice than this absurd, problematic and inexplicably wealthy crew of bad-rapper-enabling Instagram mavens from Hidden Hills, Calif.? Who’d be a more appropriate leader than the dangerously opportunistic Kris, and who’d be a more effective diplomat than the aggressively and impressively vapid Kim?
They are, like it or not, the most American family in America right now. We want to see the Obamas when we look in the mirror. But all the reflection will show us is Khloe Kardashian leaving a Hollywood Waffle House with French Montana, with a selfie stick in one hand and a take-home bag of soggy waffles and soy sausage in the other.
The Kardashians might not be the heroes we need right now. (Or ever, for that matter.) But they are who we deserve. And the sooner we accept that, the better for us all.
Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VerySmartBrothas.com. He is also a contributing editor at Ebony.com. He lives in Pittsburgh and he really likes pancakes. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.