Is Kim and Kanye’s Divorce the Reason KUWTK Is Ending?


In the beginning, there was Kim. Kim courting the press and being courted by professional athletes. Kim purchasing luxury items and becoming one herself. Kim being photographed by paparazzi and Playboy and her own phone. Kim smiling serenely at her own sovereignty as she conducted the greatest celebrity experiment to ever air on television: to see if by chronicling a quest for legitimate fame, a family could actually manifest that fame. Kim, with her mother and her sisters by her side, sucking me and much of the TV-watching world into years of Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

I have now beheld various Kardashian pairings take various American cities and have accosted many people at many parties to extol the Kardashians’ influence on American culture. I have held dissertation-level discourse on the impact of Scott Disick’s insecurities on his relationship with Kourtney. I own a hat appliquéd with a photo of Kim crying after deciding to divorce her second husband, then-NBA-player Kris Humphries. I’ve spent $22 on a cookie iced with Kris Jenner’s face. I am wearing a Skims bra.

As someone who believes that materialism and emphasis on appearance aren’t, like, great, I am trying to figure out why I find the Kardashians so admirable. And with the show ending, now seems like the time.

They changed their faces and bodies and homes and the quality of the events they appeared at. And they did it on a reality show that airs yearly episodes about the drama of photographing a family Christmas card. But the Kardashians’ singularly kind-of-awful, kind-of-amazing genius has done more than give us KUWTK: As they walked down private beaches modeling sand-covered asses and selling us constrictive undergarments and lip kits, the Kardashians showed us how to find the good in being a little bit shitty.

Like in episode 253 (go ahead, fact-check me), Kim gets so angry that Kourtney wants less screen time that they get into a physical fight in which Kourtney draws blood and Kim beats her ass. It’s a disagreement between sisters that’s ostensibly about Kim wanting to stay close to Kourtney but also about Kourtney doing something that might impact the ratings on Kim’s show. (Obviously, the fight was played up on promos of KUWTK to drive viewership.) They eventually reconcile and take a family trip to baptize their children, and it suddenly seems just like the kind of stupid but bone-deep fights I have with my own siblings (albeit with higher stakes and the kind of resolution my conflicts never seem to have).

tktk

Regardless of their motivations, the Kardashians’ deep protection of each other feels familiar. The all-in loyalty is why I have plenty of empathy for Scott, Kanye, Lamar, Tristan, and all the other various partners attracted to a family bound together by such commitment. The men seem to see their romances not just as opportunities to couple with a Kardashian but to actually become one. Like us, they’re drawn to this insular matriarchy. But as anyone who has attempted to keep up with the Kardashians in any way knows, their standards can be impossible to meet.

I feel for those who find themselves satelliting around these extraordinary women, responding to their lower statuses with public displays of drunkenness and infidelity that violate the family’s brand. And I respect the way the Kardashians try to make these mismatches work through basically just sheer force of will. Only extreme public disloyalty can expel someone from the warm and deeply cleavaged bosom of the Kardashians—Kris’s ex Caitlyn Jenner was embraced by the family throughout their divorce, and it wasn’t until she released a memoir that her stepdaughters felt was critical of Kris that Caitlyn was exiled from Calabasas.

3d printed busts of the kardashian family photographed on pedestals on a pink background

But the Kardashians have also shown us that to forgive is divine—as long as the appropriate acts of atonement are made. Almost everyone in their universe has groveled over screwups: Tristan, the cheating father of Khloé’s child, performed a year-plus-long show of celibacy as apology. Scott vowed to address his drinking habits and became a model co-parent after repeated public embarrassments of his former longtime girlfriend Kourtney. After Lamar was caught slurrily rapping “When Khloé’s out of town, I still be going on the DL,” he released a pleading statement about how good the family was to him.

Of course, the Kardashians didn’t invent making amends any more than they invented any of the other things they became known for or got us to buy. But watching them fight and repent and come back together is more aspirational even than Kim twerking in a pool in the Dominican Republic, her tremendous cheeks gently breaking the meniscus of the water again and again as 14-year-old Kylie films.

And speaking of Kim (which we on some level always are), her ass is both the foundation of the Kardashian brand and its most obvious metaphor. It’s a complicated magic trick to turn a perceived flaw—narcissism, a body part in defiance of the prior beauty standard—into a strength. It’s an even more astounding one to turn the quest for that recognition into a virtue. Kim and her sisters are effortful and transparent about their labors. In part so they can turn around and hawk us shapewear and detox tea, and in part because they want to be seen. What’s the point of hustling so hard if no one notices it?

That’s why millions have borne witness to the Kardashians’ cosmetic procedures, their two-a-day workouts, their chopped salads, the emails typed on camera, the endless scheduling. Even the multipotent Oprah Winfrey has said, “I can’t believe how hard they work.”

tktk

It may be odd to see people putting so much toil into the frivolous pursuit of celebrity, but it’s also weirdly inspiring. In my own relatively unobserved life—especially as I enter a second year of social isolation—I have to find reasons to put on pants in the morning and maintain a minimum level of fitness to be able to zip those pants. (Just kidding—I haven’t worn anything with a zipper in months.) I try to find reasons to maintain my vanity, because people on the Zoom noticing that my hair looks okay means they care enough about me to look. And even if I’m not trying to get rich off an audience wanting to see me, I can at least be proud of giving a shit about how I see myself.

Because, as I learned from Kim, vanity can be a form of self-care—and sometimes you do have to be a little greedy to give, be a little self-centered to be selfless. In the Kardashian dogma, unchecked avarice and damaging diets live side by side with activism and Bible study. Their good deeds aren’t simply an offset of wealth but are achieved the same way their wealth is. If Kim had to pose nude a thousand times to get invited to the White House—and if she had to take a selfie with Trump while she was there—in order to free a grandmother who was in prison for a nonviolent offense, it was worth it.

KUWTK has included plotlines about homelessness and gay rights and gun control, which I doubt the fans have been clamoring for. But the Kardashians have Trojan-horsed social justice work in through beauty and consumerism anyway.

Still, though, their day-to-day acts of decency can fall…short. KUWTK features grotesquely excessive shows of wealth and tone-deaf trips to homeless shelters to teach Kendall and Kylie how lucky they are. The R-word gets thrown around a lot in early seasons. There have been painful instances of cultural appropriation—Fulani braids and accusations of blackface and Native American headpieces and countless other thefts.

because kim began the show, it’s hard not to imagine�that she’s the one who is ending it

There’s no undoing these fuckups. But there is, almost every time, a masterfully composed apology. When Kendall took part in a Pepsi campaign that suggested the soft drink could solve racism, she said she was sorry, in a statement crafted with a coach Kim hired to give the family media training. When Kim learned she had yet again taken from a culture that doesn’t belong to her by calling her shapewear line Kimono, she renamed it. After her sisters told Kim she looked “anorexic,” Kim went on Ashley Graham’s podcast to apologize for gleefully accepting the diagnosis as a compliment.

The family used KUWTK to redress these and many other blunders, with the benefit of hindsight and market research. Maybe it’s this self-serving accountability that has rendered them noncancelable in the wake of many infractions; they always seem to eventually figure out the right way to play a situation. That influence can be felt in the apology videos of YouTubers and the defiant anti-apology of Jennifer Lawrence—a KUWTK fan herself—after her private photos were stolen and displayed online. It’s there when the Real Housewives force each other to own their shit during reunion specials, and it was present in the house I recently rented with COVID-19-negative friends, who I warned not to post photos, citing Kim’s poorly received 40th birthday tropical pandemic bash.

3d printed busts of the kardashian family photographed on pedestals on a pink background

We’ll see what happens when the vehicle for laundering the family’s public perception is gone. There will still be a teeming queue of publications and websites eager to trade a positive story for access, but the institution that created our image of the Kardashians—and fame itself—will no longer be putting out weekly instruction on what we’re supposed to make of them.

Kris will continue to hustle. Kourtney says she is done with reality TV and wants to focus on her family. Khloé has reconciled with Tristan—or at least she had when I wrote this—and runs a high-end denim company. Kylie, the makeup mogul, and Kendall, the supermodel, are finally free from a show they’ve always seemed ambivalent about. Unlike their older sisters, they didn’t choose this. And unlike the next generation, literally born on camera, they can remember a time before it. Rob recently launched a hot sauce.

The Kardashians also have a development deal with Hulu that is reportedly worth far more than the fortune E! was paying. Although the format hasn’t been announced, it’s easy to imagine spin-off-style shows centered on projects and smaller groupings that give the larger Kardashian crew more time off, aka actual personal lives and untelevised screwups.

But starting this summer, for the first time in 14 years, the Kardashians won’t be on TV. And because Kim began the show, it’s hard not to imagine that she’s the one who is ending it.

As this story was being reported, rumors of Kim and Kanye’s divorce loomed over the internet. “No comment from our end,” a rep for the family told me then, adding, “With this type of news, it’s impossible to say that there won’t be any updates by the time your print issue comes out.” She was, of course, dead on: Kim filed for divorce last week, prompting a deluge of push notifications around the world.

It may be Kim’s own promise, repeated many times—“We made a pact from the start, we gotta show everything”—that’s what renders the show untenable now, when “everything” includes what could likely be, if Kanye’s Twitter feed is any indication, the messy end of her marriage to the father of her children. In her final work, Kim reminds us what Keeping Up With the Kardashians has always been about: She’s in control, no matter what.

tktk


Busts created by Brett Klisch/Peru Meridian Studios and Dave Cortes

Props styled by Brian Byrne

Video by Janet Upadhye



Source link

Latest articles

Related articles

Leave a reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here