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Keeping Up with the Kardashians and How It Caused a Cultural Reset

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When E! Network’s long-running reality television show Keeping up with the Kardashians announced in early September that their latest season will be the last, many fans and social media users began to reminisce ways in which it had influenced pop culture. The show, which has been on air for almost 13 years, paved the way for the Kardashian family members to become some of the biggest social media influencers and entrepreneurs of the late 2010s. Silverscreen India takes a look into how the “first family of reality TV” managed to influence fashion and culture.

Humble Beginnings

When the reality show started in 2007, the family was known for its patriarch Robert Kardashian for famously defending former football star and actor OJ Simpson in the murder trial of the latter’s wife. Today, the family members – Kim, Kourtney, Kylie, Khloe, and Kendall- have become fashion influencers and successful entrepreneurs who run multi-million dollar companies.

Catapulted to fame for her infamous sex tape, Kim Kardashian has come a long way since being known for her 72-day marriage to basketball player Kris Humphries. Dubbed as “famous for being famous” Kim started off as hotel heiress Paris Hilton’s assistant. But it was not long before she bagged her own all-access television show that showcased endless drama, three weddings, divorces, cheating scandals, and the inside scoop on their lives.

Starring the five sisters, mother-cum-manager Kris Jenner and her ex Caitlyn Jenner, the show has gone on for 18 seasons. While they dealt with a barrage of criticism from the audience and celebrities for “not having any real talent”, they have each become social media stars. After capitalising Instagram, the family soon began to use social media to their advantage. After hundreds of Vogue cover shoots, Met Gala appearances and personal brands worth millions, there’s little doubt that the family has established itself as a cultural and fashion phenomenon.

Influence on fashion and culture

This might have started off with their store Dash and their velvet, heavily-sequinned clothes. Today, Kim runs an innerwear company Skims, and makeup brand KKWBeauty. Her net worth is estimated to be around $900 million. The youngest in the family, 23-year-old Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics fetched her the heavily-disputed Forbes title of the Youngest Self-made Billionaire. Not far behind, Kourtney runs a lifestyle website Poosh, Khloe owns Good American Jeans, and supermodel Kendall Jenner owns a stake in the brand Moon.

Credits: Evening Standard

Rising from the ranks of being “lowly reality TV stars”, Kendall, Kylie, and Kim make it to the annual fashion event Met Gala every year, styled by renowned fashion designers like Donatella Versace, Alexander Wang, and Thierry Mugler.

Known for their iconic bicycle shorts, latex dresses and matte makeup, the Kardashians have become a brand by themselves. From collaborating with luxury brands like Carolina Lemke to Balmain to starring in David Letterman’s show (rare for reality television personalities to be called for such high-profile talk shows), they have established themselves as mainstream celebrities.

The family that social media sees today is vastly different from the one that they originally set out to be. When Kylie Jenner tweeted “sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad”, Snapchat lost over $1 billion. Similarly, when she admitted to having gotten lip fillers injected, the Independent reported that there was a 70% increase in enquires about the procedure.

Credits: Caroline Blumberg/EPA via Shutterstock

Their physical appearance has constantly attracted media attention. Despite facing criticism for opting for cosmetic surgery, their bodies have been hailed as ‘desirable’ with more and more women hoping to get a a similar physique like the Kardashians.

Despite the power and influence that these women hold, it has not come without problems. Accusations of cultural appropriation (Kim originally named her shapewear collection Kimono and has faced backlash for blackfishing) and promoting unrealistic body standards have irked feminists. With each of them raking almost $1 million for a post on Instagram, activists have repeatedly called them out for using their platforms to indirectly promote body dysmorphia. For instance, actor Jameela Jamil called out Khloe Kardashian for endorsing the brand Flat Tummy Co’s shakes.

Political influence

It is no secret that the Kardashians have been family friends with US President Donald Trump for years. Kim’s husband rapper Kanye West had openly expressed his support for the politician. This year, however, West is running as an independent candidate for the United States presidential elections. This move caused people to speculate and accuse him of entering the race to split the votes to ensure Trump’s re-election. His controversial comments on “slavery being a choice” and conservative stance on abortion have earned both flak and praise.

In 2019, Kim announced that she was planning to study law. She was lauded for using her influence to get President Trump to release a 63-year-old black woman from jail for a non-violent drug offense. Recently, she and her sisters Kourtney and Khloe recognised their Armenian heritage and took to social media to support the country against the ongoing war with Azerbaijan.

Despite their show ending its run next year, the Kardashian-Jenner clan’s prowess over social media may keep the show alive through various fan pages that are devoted to showcasing clips from the show. As the show continues to provide drama that spawns into memes, here is a list of five iconic moments from the show:

  1. When Kris Told Kim “You’re Doing Amazing, Sweetie.”

During Kim’s first shoot for Playboy magazine in season one, Kris delivers the iconic line to show her support for her daughter.

  1. Kim and Kourtney’s Physical Fight

A fight that left the famous make-up stain on Khloe’s wall and caused the internet to erupt in laughter. Soon, Kourtney announced that she will be taking a step back from the show.

  1. The Tristan Thompson Cheating Scandal

When Khloe Kardashian was pregnant, news came to light that her then-boyfriend was caught cheating on her. Subsequently, it was alleged that he once again cheated on her with Kylie’s friend.

  1. Scott Disick’s Constant Sarcasm

Kourtney’s ex-boyfriend’s presence on the show is filled with him pulling the sisters’ legs and giving them reality checks.

  1. When Kim Lost Her Diamond Earring in the Ocean

While on vacation in Bora Bora, Kim Kardashian lost her uninsured diamond earring causing her to burst into tears.

 

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