Everyone under the age of 35 can name at least three members of the Kardashian clan. But I guarantee you that less than a fourth of these people actually watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians. So how has the family become such a huge part of our common knowledge?
On the one hand, their popularity is a result of our wish to live vicariously. When we see the Kardashians—or really any mega-celebrity—we indulge in the drama and their lack of responsibility. Even in the case of children, the Kardashians don’t seem to have the typical parental worries—as is evident in Kim Kardashian’s forgetting her daughter, North, while leaving a building. We envy the Kardashians’ wealth and want it for ourselves. The family makes it seem as if money can truly lead to happiness; even their “scandals”—such as the recent news of Khloe’s cheating husband—are manufactured to rake in more money.
In reality, we know there are many parts of the Kardashians’ lives that we don’t want. The empty relationships and the constant media coverage are not at all the desires of our own lives. But the Kardashians do make their lives look glamorous, and we often end up comparing their absurdly lavish lifestyles to ours. We belittle them for being simple-minded, but we appraise them for building a multi-million dollar empire. We venomously insult them, and yet we yearn for their freedom.
The Kardashians’ media monopoly is harmful in more ways than just the jealousy it instills in us. The more we indulge in this media rabbithole, the more wealth and power the family gets. The more we click on “news” articles about them, the more influence they gain. This influence could be anything from what makeup brand you buy from, to who gets to visit the president.
The children of these celebrity marriages are also used as props to amass even more wealth. Whether or not these are the Kardashians’ intentions, it is impossible to say that Kylie and Kendall have added nothing to the family’s fame. But these bids for fame disrupt the lives of celebrity children. Khloe Kardashian’s daughter, for example, will be born into a world where everyone knows the details of her parents’ split. Her child deserves her privacy, but no one from the Kardashian family will be ever be able to experience such a thing.
Because of their immense fame, the Kardashians are given an endless number of second chances. No matter what offensive or terrible stunt they pull, the Kardashians will always be forgiven, as their presence is seen as an inevitable, unavoidable factor of daily life. For example, back in 2015, Kylie Jenner used a wheelchair as a prop in a problematic photoshoot. And yet, in the next week, her transgression was forgotten, and she remained as popular as ever. And consider Kendall’s infamous Pepsi ad. Unfortunately, any outrage the Kardashians can spark only contributes to their social dominance. If the family is quiet one week, Kim Kardashian can simply endorse a controversial product and regain any lost revenue.
The Kardashians have also ushered in an era of celebrities who attract viral attention for no apparent reason. Danielle Bregoli, for example, got her start from insulting her mother on national television. Now, she goes by “Bhad Bhabie” and produces rap songs. Before Cardi B became the first female rapper to win a Grammy, she drew viral attention through her life as a stripper. None of these celebrities were initially noticed for their talent; rather, they did something outrageous, made a lot of money, and then fell into a popular vocation. The birth of this new brand of stars is only encouraged by social media’s fixation on the next outrageous thing. Nothing shocks us anymore, and so people must become increasingly controversial in order to maintain fame.
The issue with this new wave is that it makes people who legitimately yearn for fame seek unconventional and even problematic routes. Talent is not desired so much as scandalous behavior, and nowadays people are willing to pull ridiculous stunts in pursuit of fame. They only ever see social media rewarding the controversial.
There is no solution to this new Kardashian-centric, emotive wave of social media. People want the messy shoe fights and the split-up marriages. People want sensation. And every news story that emerges simply gets swallowed up in the massive march toward the next absurd article. I don’t believe that any of the grievances I have named so far are truly new information for anyone reading this article. In the back of our minds, we all know what an issue social media has become. The difference lies between noticing these things subconsciously and actually analyzing our decisions. We can choose to feed into the artificial Kardashian scandals, the tragic tales of troubled celebrities. Or we can begin to let these fixations go. In the 21st century, we must question what is genuinely worth our time, what is truly worth reacting to.