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Keeping Up With The Kardashians: the end of an era?

ByEmily Anderson

Sep 29, 2020

The rise and rise of the Kardashian family has been, as was always intended, well-documented. Premiering in late 2007, their eponymous show featured Juicy Couture-laden Kim and her wealthy, wannabe family in their daily disputes in the Hollywood Hills.

As the series has rattled on, the family has morphed from wealthy and connected to culturally dominant; in a fan-favourite ironic twist of fate, Kim has overtaken her former boss, original socialite Paris Hilton, in relevancy and influence. Like Hilton, a key part of the Kardashian brand has always been exposure.

Mid-2000s Kim Kardashian could be the poster child for the succes de scandale: the show was greenlighted after a sex tape featuring her and her ex-husband was illegally published. ‘Keeping Up’ grabbed and ran with the idea that there is no such thing as bad publicity, capturing the family at their most dramatic, whether that be base-level squabbles or an internationally reported gunpoint robbery.

As their fame has grown exponentially, the show has become somewhat futile, broadcasting months after widely documented events have aired on the screen of social media. If Kanye West is tweeting with reckless, slightly terrifying abandon in the present (as happened this week), you cannot wait 4-6 months to address the issue on a television show watched by a measly portion of your audience.
A recent lengthy post from Kim, addressing her husband’s unstable mental health, had a level of sincerity that could never be reached on a reality show that could often pass as a scripted drama. The drama has become too real, too unspeakable, to capture in a forty- minute edited episode of television.

The idea of the celebrity, especially the brand pushed by the Kardashian-Jenners, has progressed into something that is instantly accessible; they are visible at all times of the day, rather than for one allotted hour per week.

In an increasingly inter- connected online age, social media and their own fame have meant they have outgrown their own foundation blocks, no longer needing a show whirring distantly in the background to keep them relevant. They ooze relevance now; it is in the family DNA.

Instead, the show now serves as an aesthetic backdrop; a meeting point that every sister and momager can agree upon. Their paths have jutted off in every entrepreneurial route imaginable, but shared appearances on the show keep them locked in the family unit for which they became famous.

Even as various family members became vastly successful alone, they have kept one foot in the door of a show that inextricably linked them to a booming dynasty. But the fame has increased, the viewing figures dwindled, and it has become apparent that their show is not how most people consume the family.

Media is not consumed in a vacuum, which makes a show like ‘Keeping Up’ obsolete. What point is there in a programme that dissects events that have already taken place so publicly days, weeks and even months earlier? Maybe in 2011, when she wasn’t enormously famous, people were interested in a show that depicted Kourtney Kardashian taking her son and boyfriend out for a meal.

Nowadays, you need only read the endless Snapchat articles depicting the family’s day to day lives. They’ve outdone themselves. They’ve come full circle. To begin with, ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ was a fame-creator, a shot in the dark for a wealthy E-list family to creep up a few places. It has become so wildly, inexplicably successful that its very existence is no longer needed.

The Kardashians have achieved what they surely didn’t dare dream of in their Juicy tracksuit days: to no longer need to broadcast their fame, as it simply broadcasts itself.

Image: Eva Rinaldi via Wikimedia Commons