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Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom: A reality check darkens a reality show romance

Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom: A reality check darkens a reality show romance
Khloe Kardashian had a strongly worded response on Twitter to those who say she's cashing in on estranged husband Lamar Odom's health scare. The couple is seen here at a 2012 event. (Evan Agostini / AP)

Khloe Kardashian has had enough.

She's striking back against the legion of Khloe-haters accusing her of cashing in on the health crisis suffered by her estranged husband Lamar Odom.

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"Shame on you all for thinking the worst of me," Kardashian tweeted Wednesday. "It's been a tough few weeks. I don't need your ... energy."

Kardashian's tweet was her pointed response to an onslaught of criticism that has greeted her exclusive cover story in People magazine where she discusses her renewed relationship with the former Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers star, currently undergoing treatment after being found unconscious after a drug-fueled binge at a Nevada brothel. Kardashian rushed to his side, supporting him while also making medical decisions.

But while Kardashian beats back her critics, she displays either denial or a lack of awareness of her own role in the saga. In many ways, she has been the primary force in making people think "the worst of her," diverting focus from her husband's personal traumas during their relationship to focus on their more upbeat love story. It's that manipulation that has fueled much of the vicious backlash she now finds distasteful.

In the midst of the media frenzy surrounding Odom's collapse and recovery, reports surfaced that the couple had put their impending divorce on hold, solidifying the theories of numerous Kardashian devotees that the sexy love story spotlighted on their E! reality show "Khloe & Lamar" and "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" had weathered the storm and might be back on a happily ever after track. (In the People interview, Khloe denies that the couple has speficic plans for reconciliation.)

One of those devotees was my colleague Amy Kaufman, who penned an eloquent defense last week of Khloe and her sisters, Kim and Kourtney. Her passionate essay targeted the so-called "haters" who continually chastise the Kardashians for what they feel is unearned success propelled by their reality franchise and relentless self-marketing.

Rather than being committed narcissists, Kaufman called the Kardashian sisters "women with rich emotional lives. Women who have dealt firsthand with divorce, alcoholism, depression, child custody battles, fertility struggles and their father's sex change."

The relationship of Khloe and her husband was Kaufman's principal focus. Numerous observers had attributed Odom's emotional decline and his exit from pro basketball to Khloe inducting him into the nonstop frenzy of the Kardashian machine. In interviews, he expressed reluctance about the forced lack of privacy, and both he and Khloe admitted his obligation to "Khole & Lamar" had put a strain on him.

Despite Odom's troubled past and his fragile emotions that may have led to drug problems before he married Khloe, Kaufman wrote that the show downplayed his "addiction struggles," portraying Odom "as a warm-hearted gentle soul" who loved candy. Marrying into the Kardashian clan gave him a sense of family that had eluded him most of his life.

When Odom's personal troubles intensified on "Keeping Up With the Kardashians," Khloe mostly kept her family in the dark because she was "adamant about protecting" him, wrote Kaufman.

It was clear in the shows that Khloe and Lamar had electric chemistry, and cared deeply about each other. But although Kaufman makes a convincing case in giving their romance a glow on the scale of a Nicholas Sparks movie, it's arguable that Odom, though willing because of his love for his wife, was emotionally ill-equpped to handle the Kardashian media circus he was compelled to join. If Khloe had been a caring and compassionate spouse who put her husband's well-being ahead of her own agenda of fame, his story might have taken a different turn.

Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom have called off their divorce entirely. Kardashian plans to stay by Odom’s side as he goes through a lengthy rehabilitation. The Times' Christy Khoshaba reports.

But real-life traumas don't really play well in the "reality" of reality shows, where rose-colored images and sales of perfume (the couple had a unisex fragrance called Unbreakable) are at stake.

Odom already had fame, fortune and a thriving career before he met and married Khloe Kardashian in 2009 following a whirlwind courtship. But Kardashian needed their love story to be her equalizer in the sibling hierarchy. Since the eruption of popularity for "Keeping Up With the Kardashians," Kim and Kourtney always far outdistanced Khloe in glamour and sex appeal, drawing the lion's share of media and tabloid attention.

In one particuarly pointed sketch several years ago on "Saturday Night Live," then-"Weekend Update" anchor Seth Meyers had trouble telling the sisters (played by "SNL" cast members Nasim Pedrad, Abby Elliott and Vanessa Bayer) apart. "Kim," "Khloe" and "Kourtney" each responded with a distinctive whine and an exaggerated sexy pose.

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"I'm Kim, the pretty one"

"I'm Kourtney, the smart one."

"And I'm Khloe."

Odom gave Khloe leverage and juice in the franchise. But he may have paid a heavy price. Reality shows are not a substitute for therapy.

As Kardashian battles the backlash, let's hope she will also look at herself in the mirror and consider who should be shouldering more shame at this moment -- her critics, or her.

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