The Kardashians’ long standing affair with the media began in 1994, when Robert Kardashian Sr. thrust the family into the limelight defending his friend O. J. Simpson. In the following decades, members of the clan have appeared sporadically throughout various media. Kim Kardashian, in particular, was always quick to maximise her media presence, garnering mild buzz by positioning herself as Paris Hilton’s supposed confidante and stylist. Kim and the family, however, both managed to fly relatively under the radar of the general public until 2007. This was when a sex-tape, featuring Kim and her then-boyfriend Ray-J, leaked, thrusting the family into the limelight. Incredibly, and to Kris Jenner and Kim’s great credit, they capitalised on this new found infamy with the production of a reality show based on their lives. Fast forward to today, Keeping Up with the Kardashians is a staple of the TV zeitgeist and the archetype that springs to mind when someone mentions the term ‘reality show’. Kim’s net-worth alone has exploded from an estimated $4.4 million in 2007, to $150 million today. That’s more than Kanye, Drake, and Miley Cyrus. There’s a reason Kim takes the lead in ‘Kimye’. So given how successful the family has been, why is there so much ill-will directed towards them, and why do sentiments still pervade that they don’t deserve it, or ‘aren’t intelligent enough’ to have earned it? Some people may suggest that they’re vapid or shallow but is this really such a big issue? Sure, they can be narcissistic at times, but that’s something we’re all guilty of. They are reflections of ourselves, our obsessions with social media and trivialities. Surely we can’t hate them for being extrapolations of us. Even then, their perceived shallowness never manifests itself aggressively, or with great ignorance. The family and series has even made efforts to highlight the Armenian genocide. Instead, perhaps, an alternative criticism that can be proposed is that they don’t really ‘do’ anything. They simply exist as a family, and they get paid for it. Of course, this is probably the easiest one to debunk. You don’t make that much money without being a shrewd businessperson. Looking around, it quickly becomes apparent just how many different pies the Kardashians have their fingers in. There are two different apps dedicated to just Kim, God knows how many perfume and fashion lines, and even a colouring book. All that probably takes a lot of work.
Keeping up with the Kardashians is a staple of the TV zeitgeist, and the archetype that springs to mind when someone mentions the term ‘reality show’
One could rightly take issue with their confused stance on body image positivity. While they certainly promote a wide range of body shapes, it could be argued this is somewhat inauthentic, given their reliance on cosmetic surgeries. Although the show does occasionally and superficially touch on issues on insecurities, it is usually in a very cursory manor. The show is also, largely speaking, empty and possessing of little intellectual value, but it still provides entertainment. It’s something to have on in the background, or if you want to just be entertained without thinking too much. The often dry and deadpan delivery of the ‘actors’ coupled with the often ridiculous situations they find themselves in makes for great comedy. In addition, anytime Kanye appears on the show is a treat, since his complete unwillingness to cooperate with the tone of the show, and his frequent incredulity at Kim’s excesses make for good TV.
At the end of the day, the show isn’t particularly revolutionary or insightful, but it doesn’t really need to be. It does its job, as is clearly evidenced by its continuing ratings success. There’s much to be said for the shrewdness and capability of the titular cast, and certainly a few valid criticisms to be made. All things considered though, maybe it’s time to set aside some of the Kardashian hate. They don’t need our validation, which is why they deserve our respect.