Over a decade of short-lived marriages, rapper boyfriends, sex tapes, and billion-dollar beauty brands
Love them or loathe them, the Kardashian-Jenner clan has been the American answer to a royal family. And now, they're saying goodbye to the original source of their fame: Keeping Up With the Kardashians, the reality-television show that had viewers transfixed for twenty seasons over fourteen years.
This week, the E! mega-show aired its final episode, bringing forth conversations centred around their legacy, from critics and fans alike. The finalé notably had Kim Kardashian, previously married to rapper Kanye West, explain why she chose to file for divorce. The family also created a time capsule towards the end of the episode, with momager Kris and each of her daughters selecting objects that delineate the past decade or so.
Yet, that capsule can hardly summarise just how major the Kardashians have been in the world of pop-culture, business, and entertainment. Yes, there’s been a whole lot of chaos, drama, and media frenzy. But beyond the light-hearted, often laughable, Kardashian-style whimsy is something far bigger.
A world without the Kardashians is, quite frankly, hard to picture. It would be one without billion-dollar celebrity beauty brands, an infamous sex tape, short-lived marriages (72 days!), and the rise of the celebrity influencer. It would also be one without blatant plastic surgeries, a surprise pregnancy, and countless opulent parties. The family achieved unthinkable fame, shaping the cultural consciousness of the twenty-first century. As critic Lovia Gyarkye points out, “no one has managed to capture the nation’s attention quite like them.”
Consider the Jenner sisters. When the show first aired, Kendall was just 12 and her sister Kylie, the age of 10. These two, in particular, have been raised in the eye of the storm, present for the paparazzi and the age of Kardashian prominence. The youngest of the family are a testament to the Kardashian mentality: strive and succeed. After all, they sought to carve their own path as they aged: Kendall, as a fashion favourite and runway fixture, Kylie, a make-up mogul and “self-made” billionaire. The Kardashian formula of dreaming big and achieving bigger, has been touted as something of an inspiration to viewers.
Sam Tabahriti, a 24-year-old journalist, says, “I must admit they have had a big impact in realising what I wanted to achieve in life. They’ve sort of pushed me to become a better version of myself indirectly - always wanting more and knowing more. They've offered us, through a screen, dreams of a better life and the idea that anything is possible when you want it. “It is a shame it’s [now] come to an end,” he tells BURO.
Another fan, 22-year-old fashion student Sana Punjoo, says, “The family paved a way to reshape the preconceived image of reality television. The whole experience was elevated for the viewer. I’ve gotten so emotionally involved in the drama, scandals and love lives of all the members of the family because, over the years, they have stayed insanely relevant.”
In that vein of thought, the show has arguably put forth a new version of vulnerability (albeit for the big bucks). The Kardashian-Jenner dynasty have undergone the most intimate, trying moments of their life in front of a camera crew. There was the untimely demise and damning infidelity of Khloé and Tristan Thompson; the tender Kanye-Kim family dynamic and ultimate separation. Dr Meredith Jones, Communities and Society Director at Brunel University said that the family “consciously and deliberately played themselves”. The emotional exposure and openness of the family was a window in the realities of life that would normally take place behind closed doors.
The end of their television presence is definitely not the finalé of the Kardashians in the world. In true Kardashian-style, new deals have already been signed with the likes of Disney and Hulu. No matter how they choose to do it, the Kardashian-Jenner empire will surely find a way to remain at the forefront of today’s culture.