The Kardashians. Much like ‘Mufasa’ or ‘Beetlejuice’, the name alone has the power to do things to you. Whenever you hear ‘Kardashian’, your brain will automatically transport you to one of three distinct camps: You either love them, you hate them, or you love to hate them. But one thing’s for sure, you darn well know them.
The Kardashians have never had a shortage of haters. They are, after all, famous for being famous. But the vitriol towards them seems to be hitting an all-time peak across the interwebs.
When we post Kardashian stories on Facebook, we’ll usually get some negative comments and hey, that’s cool, it’s a free country and all that jazz. And opinion is welcome.
But despite being told we’re damaging our brand and seeing people post that Kim’s “a dumb bitch” (more on why this is pretty much the WORST later), we’re going to keep posting about the Kardashians.
Because the Kardashian lovers camp wins over the haters camp. Every time.
I’m writing this as someone who did not ‘get’ the somewhat ~mystical~ and irrevocable appeal of the Kardashians. At all. A few years ago, I would most definitely have bemoaned their inescapable existence all over my newsfeed, so I understand why people lose their shit over the constant coverage, I really do. You literally cannot escape the Kardashians.
Yup, firmly in the hate camp, I’d indignantly ask/whine: “But what are they famous FOR?” when friends were absolutely frothing over Keeping Up With The Kardashians. It seemed dumb to me that we were celebrating a reality TV family with no discernible talent (see, I was proper ridin’ dirty on that high horse).
Then, I consumed Kardashian stories at a ridiculous rate. Working at Cosmo in the UK, it was inevitable I’d need to get on-board with the family who were shaping the face of reality TV and becoming pop culture icons before our very eyes.
And I got sucked in. I got sucked in real bad. There is something so utterly endearing about them. Inexplicably, I cared that Kim got a vampire facial (seriously, WTF?), I cared about the dynamics of Kourtney and Scott’s turbulent relationship, I pretty much fell in love with Khloe (who is one of the nicest celebs I’ve interviewed), watched Kendall and Kylie grow up under the most intense media scrutiny, been captivated by Caitlyn’s transition and horrified by Lamar Odom’s brush with death.
And while I’m now firmly in the “Sure, I blimmin’ love Keeping Up With The Kardashians” camp, they remain a source of utmost contention. What is it about the Kardashians that drives us all batshit crazy? I’m going to attempt to debunk a few pieces of common Kardashian hate, or at least try to explain it.
Argument: Kim’s only successful because she made a sex tape
Counter: That sex tape brought Kim Kardashian to notoriety. There’s absolutely no denying that. But bringing it up now? It seems a bit redundant, IMHO. She made the absolute best out of the absolute worst situation and somehow managed to capitalise on it. If anything, well done Kimmy, you’re a savvy businesswoman. And momager Kris, obvy. The sex tape might have propelled Kim (and indeed the rest of the Kardashians) to fame but they’ve bloody well worked hard to keep it. A sex tape does not a lucrative career make. It’s been seven years since KUWTK first aired and their empire speaks for itself. They ain’t forcing anyone to buy that shit but we be buying. We be buying BIG time. Also, why don’t we continually bring up the fact Rob Lowe has a sex tape, or Colin Farrell? Reeks of sexist disparity. And on that note, it’s not a very feminist argument either, is it? We shouldn’t be judging a chick for her sexual past.
Argument: The Kardashians exploit those around them for ratings
Counter: TMI isn’t a familiar concept to the Kardashians – this we know. We’re present for births, for weddings, for divorces, for bikini waxes. I know how they preen their bushes for Pete’s sake. But do they exploit people for ratings? Yes. And no. They will carefully craft and control the timing of pretty much everything. But some things are out of their control. I personally found Piers Morgan’s MailOnline piece on Lamar Odom revolting. Morgan tried to say Lamar’s biggest failing was the fact he “couldn’t keep up with the Kardashians”. BULLSHIT. Anyone who watched KUWTK knows Khloe did nothing but love him and tried to shield him from negative press. It wasn’t on the show. She even hid his addiction struggles from her family. His college basketball coach acknowledged Lamar’s demons and said Khloe was “the best thing to ever happen to him.” Yes, he got sick of the media circus surrounding him and Khloe but anyone who thinks that it contributed to his recent reported overdose in a Nevada brothel doesn’t know jack about addiction. I don’t think the Kardashians exploit anyone but themselves and it’s very carefully controlled. And I actually think the way they rushed to Lamar’s bedside was admirable – they’re a tight, loving family who’ll always look after each other. Kardashian overlord Ryan Seacrest sums it up best: "No one could have predicted the Kardashians' and Jenners' success. But when you spend time with them, what resonates is the family unit. There are so many things about them that are glamorous, crazy, and unlike our lives, but the sense of family is universal. They love and stand by one another no matter what."
Argument: “We’re sick to death of the motherflippin’ Kardashians.”
Counter: Yep, some of you most definitely are, and heck, this article might be polarising opinion even further (soz if it is, I’m really trying here!). But figures speak for themselves and ‘the google’ knows what people click in to. Our Kardashian stories get a higher click rate than any other celebrities. So yes, we're going to continue to post what people are interested in. Because that's what we're here for. Our Khloe Kardashian cover was one of the most popular in sales this year so despite many believing we’re damaging our brand, this proves we’re actually giving the majority of our readers what they want. Which, again, is the aim of the game! Google analytics isn’t lying to us. Just because you don’t like the Kardashians, ask whether it’s acceptable to ridicule and lambast what other people might enjoy? The Kardashians for some (myself probably included) are simply a ‘guilty pleasure’, an escapism, something you don’t have to think much about to consume. There are also some quite sinister undertones in some of the trolling because it is that, trolling. Calling out Kylie or Kim for being “dumb bitches” – that’s not just mean, it’s misogynistic too. Maybe you do think they’re vapid, vacuous and live lives of excess but for millions (and millions) of fans, they’re a source of entertainment.
And, in the aforementioned 'love to hate' camp, they're the source of pant-wettingly funny satire too. Seth Rogen and James Franco's 'Bound 2' impression? The endless memes when Kim tried to 'break the internet' on the Paper cover? The UGLY CRYFACE.
In short, do I think their lives are over-indulgent? Yes. Does it annoy me that Kylie Jenner could literally sell impressionable girls her snotty tissues and call them cleansing wipes? Yes. And yes, sometimes I still think it’s funny to take the piss to a certain extent as they’re totally fair game in some regards. But am I obsessed? Abso-fricking-lutely. I probably can’t put my finger on the appeal of the Kardashians. Maybe that IS their appeal.
Kris Jenner and all five of her girls, Kim, Khloe, Kourtney, Kendall and Kylie, feature in the December 2015 issue of Cosmopolitan Australia.