What will a 70 year-old Kardashian look like? How does a Brazilian Butt Lift age? What are the longterm effects of filling your lips for decades on end, never mind the surreal experience of being able to binge watch your whole life on your deathbed?
I can picture the year 2050, a Kardashian walks the red carpet, she hasn’t aged a day. All the Kardashian attributes – mega boobs and bum with barely a hint of tum – are in place but all is not what it seems. Kim, Khloe and Kylie are now holograms, having opted to retire their bodies when the upkeep became a little too Death Becomes Her. Most of the family’s consciousness resides inside a vast computer network while their holographic counterparts attend events and provide content for their followers. Only Khloe opted to remain body-bound.
There are currently 271 MILLION hits on the search term ‘Kardashian’, which, to give some context, is many times more than that of ‘Dystopian Nightmare’ which yielded just 3 million!
Where does it all go from here?
The Kardashians have variously been called “self-absorbed and downright despicable” (The Washington Post) to “downright boring” (PopMatters). And while I’m inclined to agree, I also (along with many others – specifically an average of 2.5million viewers per episode) file it under guilty pleasures and gleefully tune in regularly. And while the narrative arc is always absorbing stuff – remember when Kim and Kris went pole dancing? Or when Kylie wouldn’t let Kendall borrow her brown dress? – I find myself distracted, endlessly wondering; where does it all go from here?
The Kardashians are arguably the most future-focused family of our time. They’re a living experiment in advances in technology, social media, consumerism, business and cosmetic surgery. They’re probably on a par with Elon Musk in terms of jumping feet first into the future for better or worse, they’re at the coalface of what future living can be. In many ways in them we will see the long terms effects of so many things (physical and psychological) played out as they age and evolve.
Essentially the Kardashians are a living microcosm of the reality more and more of us are living on a smaller scale. The main ingredients of the Kardashian soup is 24/7 broadcasting of banal activities, feverish shaping and manipulating of their images, feverish shaping and manipulating of their bodies and a hella lotta contouring. Sounds kind of familiar, right?
Lunchtime botox and fillers
Back in 2007, when the Kardashian’s first blasted onto the cultural landscape, surgery and reality stardom was off limits for all but the rich and famous – or at least the ex-famous seeking to rejuvenate their ailing careers with a stint in the Jungle or the Big Brother house. However, fast-forward 11 years and while we may not all have the money, the audience or the production values the Kardashians command, we civilians can (and do) broadcast our lives in much the same way. We post stories on Instagram updating our meagre following on everything from what’s for dinner to outfits of the today. We’re all running little micro-reality shows on our social media channels. Equally, lunchtime botox and fillers is no longer the preserve of the wealthy and this too is directly influenced by the Kardashians. In the 24 hours after Kylie Jenner (the youngest iteration of the Kardashian clan) admitted to using lip fillers to achieve her pout, there was a surge in enquires about the treatment, one clinic reported a 70% rise in bookings.
The idea of fly-on-the-wall series’ documenting famous families wasn’t new when the producer, Ryan Seacrest pitched Keeping Up with the Kardashians in the mid 2010s. We’d already fallen in and out of love with The Real Word, The Hills, The Osbournes and The Newly Weds. The Hills proved too bland while the short-lived Anna Nicole Smith TV series was too car crash.
For over a decade, The Kardashians have managed to balance a winning formula of dramz and hotness to create a Karnival of Kooky that’s simply impossible to wrest our eyes from.
Hyper-hot aunts, mothers and grandmothers
“It’s just the beginning. It probably will at some point be as popular as the boob job.”
Arguably, their secret is their willingness to boldly go where no one has gone before. They’ve stage-managed their lives into unprecedented cultural relevance. They’ve choreographed every life event from divorce to marriage to babies into a reality spectacular. Occasionally Too Real life gets in the way of the plot of course, Kanye’s 2016 hospitalisation reportedly “impacted the filming schedule”. However, the Kardashian’s empire is practically built on the “when life gives you lemons make lemonade” maxim, as evidenced in their very earliest tabloid “event”, what could well be called the precursor to the show itself, Kim’s Sex Tape with ex Ray J. A PR nightmare which many credit with kickstarting the Kardashian obsession in the first place. As matriarch, Kris Jenner said of that time, “It was devastating… You cry yourself to sleep for a few nights. Then you hire a really good attorney and try to make something… happen.”
The closest thing we may have to compare with their experience is that of child stars, not a group known for their happy endings sadly. As the Kardashian’s age we’ll be able to observe firsthand how the very rich will be able to swerve the inevitable march of time, what tech advances and wealth will defy time and gravity. The only snag in this plan is that with millions of followers, a whole new instagram-addled generation are leaping into the unknown right after their pouting pristine idols.
In England, the London-based Plastic Surgery Group (TPSG) reported a 500% increase in consultations for the ‘Brazilian Butt Lift’ in 2016. This procedure, popularised by the Kardashians, combines bum augmentation with liposuction and body contouring.
One practitioner, Dr Horn’s of the Harley Street clinic, spoke to BBC Radio 1 for the documentary The Kardashian Effect. “It’s just the beginning. It probably will at some point be as popular as the boob job.”
While intellectuals may dismiss them, they’re sitting pretty on the cover of Forbes (Kylie Jenner fronted the women billionaires issue earlier this year) and seem set to continue churning out plot lines and spinoffs. But what is the real cost of a life lead under such heavy surveillance? Already brother, Rob has suffered excruciatingly publicly with his mental health. And how will the next generation of the Kardashians fare, being born under the glare of the ring light and surrounded by an army of hyper-hot aunts, mothers and grandmothers? I somehow doubt we’ll be left wondering. They’re never withholding on the content after all.