Love them or hate them, not Keeping Up With The Kardashians is the end of an era
The first family of reality television is going off the air – leaving quite a mark on the pop culture landscape
I have never watched an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. I have never sat down, switched on E! and sat through 30 minutes of uninterrupted Kardashian happenings. Although I love reality television, the appeal never clicked for me, and I resigned myself to missing out on the daily goings-on of the Kardashian clan.
But for all my avoidance of the KUWTK empire, I sit here now, able to name every member of the Kardashian family without stuttering. I know their spouses, their children, their flings, their affairs. I know the timeline of their relationships. I know their spin-off businesses, which ones are billionaires and which are models. I’ve learned the terms ‘momager’, ‘bible’ and I even know who Todd Kraines is.
Such is the pop-cultural impact of KUWTK that I have absorbed multitudes of information about this family — against my will, I might add — purely through osmosis. You cannot be a twenty-something in 2020, living on social media, getting the majority of your information through a screen, and not know the ins and outs of the world of the Kardashians.
Coming to an end
And now, it’s all coming to an end. In the cherry to top off what has been a terrible year, Kim Kardashian posted a statement to her social media channels today, announcing the end of the Keeping Up with the Kardashians series. After 14 years on the air and 20 seasons of massively successful television, Kim said: “This show made us who we are and I will be forever in debt to everyone who played a role in shaping our careers and changing our lives forever.”
How can you overstate the impact of this piece of television? When future trashy TV lovers look back at the history of the medium, KUWTK truly stands above its counterparts as a piece of the early 00’s Zeitgeist. Everything from fashion trends, to slang terms, to how we use social media, how we shop, who we define as a celebrity, and how we view women in the public eye — it has all been impacted by the KUWTK universe.
This is not to say that the results of the Kardashians’ reign have been all positive — far, far from it. In 2011, U.S broadcaster Barbara Walters summed up millions of people’s opinions of the family in an interview, saying “You don’t really act; you don’t sing; you don’t dance. You don’t have any — forgive me — any talent.” The Kardashians have made a multi-billion dollar empire not from any discernable talent or acumen, but simply from being themselves.
They have had a massive impact on the biggest fashion and beauty trends of this generation, but many have accused them of cultural appropriation; promoting everything from lip fillers to braided hairstyles, profiting off Black women’s natural appearances and fashion trends that they had already been wearing for generations prior.
The youngest of the clan, Kylie Jenner, was accredited as ‘the youngest self-made billionaire in history’ by Forbes Magazine in 2019. However, many were quick to point out the discrepancy in the use of the term ‘self-made’ — Kylie grew up in a very affluent environment and grew her business off the back of the popularity of the KUWTK series, which began filming when she was just ten years old. Hardly the journey through poverty and beating the odds that we expect from a ‘self-made’ mogul.
The show opened up conversations about relationships, family, even transgender rights. The family’s father figure Caitlyn Jenner began her transition in 2015, after her divorce from the family’s matriarch Kris Jenner earlier that year. The series documented the family’s reaction to Caitlyn’s transition and their relationship difficulties with her throughout the process, shining a light on what is often a taboo subject.
As the show wound down over the past year, even issues with fame became a theme of the series. The oldest Kardashian sister Kourtney quit the show during season 18, after citing time away from her children and strained relationships with her sisters during filming.
After almost two decades of Kardashian-tinted television, saying goodbye will be both a cause of celebration and of sadness for many. It’s truly the end of an era, paving the way for the hoardes of other reality TV stars on our screens looking for a taste of fame.
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