A Defence of the Kardashians
I have spent the last ten years devoted to a family that is not my own. I laugh at their jokes, cry at their tragedies and rejoice in their milestones. Oh, and I have never met them. This Autumn, Keeping Up with the Kardashians turned 10 and I am still as heavily invested in the family members as I was when the show first aired in October 2007. I am fascinated by the minutiae of their lives: the colour of their lipstick, the food that they eat, the holidays they go on and the relationships that have. And I am not alone.
Since 2007 the Kardashians have built up one of the most potent and profitable pop culture brands in the world. The show which launched them to stratospheric stardom never shies away from the innermost details of their lives. The 13 seasons document substance abuse, debilitating depression, transgender transformations and marital collapse. As Kris Jenner said when explaining the decision to welcome a production team into her home: “nothing is off limits.”
Every Sunday night when I sit down to watch the show, I inevitably deal with scoffs from the kitchen from disapproving family members who refer to them as the ‘Kartrashians’ or worse. But I persist. I can’t help it. I love how much authority these women have in a society which, at the moment, seems to be unearthing more and more inequality every time I turn on the television.
The Kardashian family, whether they know it or not, have become unlikely feminist figures. They are a tribe who fiercely love and support one another, in an industry where women too often get airtime for backstabbing and bitching. Yes, they are obsessed with the way they look but they are completely true to themselves. They are not defined by the men in their lives rather they celebrate who they are and have capitalised off their own highly-polished honesty.
The audience of KUWTK is predominantly female and for that reason is easily dismissed. Too often, the sisters are labeled as dim-witted, narcissistic and unengaged by people who have never even watched the show (arguably they did more to raise awareness of the Armenian Genocide than any other show and the transformation on screen of their long serving stepfather, Bruce Jenner, now Caitlyn, made difficult but informative viewing). The argument that Kim is only famous for a leaked sex tape, regardless of the fact it was a gross infringement of her privacy, is dismissive of her dogged hard work which has earned her a reported fortune of £48 million.
This is a stark example of how shaming women for their sexuality remains an easy way to diminish their success. But this hasn’t stopped Kris Jenner’s daughters from building enormous business empires. The youngest of the siblings, Kylie Jenner, with her mesmerising trout pout, who was cut off by her mum three years ago when she was 17, has built Kylie Cosmetics which is now worth $420 million. You might turn your nose up at the frivolously named ‘lip kits’ which Kylie has made her fortune from but she has tapped into an almost insatiable market and made a fortune in the process. Good for her I say.
Kim and her perfect frozen face, is undoubtedly the star of the show and has really come into her own over the past few years as a fashion icon and well respected business tycoon. It is frustrating though that we accept her more now that she is a mother and a wife. Following the dissolvement of her marriage to Kris Humphries after only 72 days, Kim embodied the biggest threat to society that she could, a fully emancipated single women who didn’t care what people thought. Her potent sexuality seems contained and manageable for widespread consumption now she is married regardless of the fact she earns far more than her husband, arguably the most famous rapper in the world, Kanye West.
A part of me feels that if society and the media had demonised Harvey Weinstein, or any other number of powerful, perverted men that have come out of the woodwork as much as they have the Kardashians over the past ten years we would not be dealing with such a endemic now. I don’t think the sisters are the answer to decades of patriarchal misbehaviour but if you need an example of women who have chosen the lives they want and made them their own, look no further than the Kardashians. And they said they have no talent.