Here’s why the Kardashians should be canceled. Check out Jezebel’s Cancel Tournament to see what ultimately got canceled.
What else is left to say about the Kardashians, America’s self-appointed Royal Family, famous for being famous, rich for being famous, and using their fame to sell products that they are now also famous for. The wealth-obsessed celebrity culture of the 2000s, epitomized by Kim’s former employer Paris Hilton and her many blonde lackeys, created the family, bolstered by their pre-existing notoriety for Robert Kardashian’s involvement in the O.J. Simpson trial. But it wasn’t until Kim Kardashian, Superstar—a sex tape with still disputed origins—was released in 2o07 that the family’s celebrity was somewhat cemented. A television show, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, soon followed, as did product endorsements, clothing lines, spin-off shows, multiple marriages, multiple divorces, a hundred feuds, and a billion-dollar empire.
In many ways, the Kardashian’s slow unfurling over the American culture was illustrative of the changing dynamics of popular celebrity. Instagram brought the rich and famous to our phones, more present and tangible than tabloids. The beauty standards they pushed, sculpted for maximum effect on Instagram, disseminated quickly. “Kardashian face” became a well-known descriptor for various fashion and beauty trends: high cheekbones, heavy contour, arched brows, massive eyelashes. Kim’s hairstyles and clothing choices, lifted heavily from black culture, were copied en masse by fast-fashion retailers. Of course, fast fashion and the Kardashian’s made the perfect commercial weapon. Both relied on quickly turning around trends for profit without much thought for sustainability or long term use. (Look at a Kardashian’s makeup or outfit even a few years ago. They’ve aged terribly!)
It wasn’t just fashion and beauty that Kris and her Fit Tea Federation was interested in conquering. After a run of terribly damaging press concerning Kanye West’s belief in the MAGA ethos, Kim pivoted to legal counsel for the White House and “prison reform” advocate. She’s since helped free at least 17 people—including Alice Marie Johnson, who recently modeled Kim’s shapewear—and met with Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and Donald Trump numerous times. But as I reported in June, some of her work in the White House seemed mostly for the benefit of her public image, and the corporations in proximity to the president and the good press it generated. Like her “partnership” with Lyft and Cut50, who supplied rides for recently released prisoners to job interviews. The press conference announcing the program, held with Donald Trump in attendance, came mere weeks after the largest worker’s strike Lyft had ever seen. The demands of the laborers were buried by the flood of press covering the Cut50 partnership and also placed Lyft in the same room as a president hell-bent on dismantling worker’s protections. (Lyft spokespeople, meanwhile, kindly informed me after the press conference that: “We are partnered with Cut50, who is also pattered with KKW. We aren’t partnered with the White House—but are nonetheless proud to be supporting the work Cut50 is doing.”)
Elsewhere, the Kardashian’s also generated numerous headlines for feuds they’d staged with celebrities—many black women—who came across the path of their warships. When Taylor Swift tried to outmaneuver Kanye West’s continued obsession with their VMAs run-in, Kim released footage documenting the many, many lies of Taylor Swift. When Blac Chyna announced her pregnancy with Rob Kardashian, the family ran a militant press campaign dubbing her an interloper, homewrecker, and gold digger. Similar energy was directed at Jordyn Woods after she maybe did, maybe didn’t sleep with Khloe Kardashian’s ex-Tristan Thompson. The public eventually sided with Jordyn, I’d argue, but the Kardashian’s relentlessly beat their war drums for the better part of the year. The campaign culminated in a lackluster episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians that revealed, more than anything, the heavily produced and overly scripted nature of the family’s internal lives.
With a new decade swift approaching, Kris and her ko-hort have already set their sites on the next conquest: religion. Kanye West has staged countless, revivalist gatherings of worshippers out in the hills around Los Angeles. He’s also hosted services at mega-churches like Joel Osteen’s, where the congregation prays to Jesus the Entrepreneur. Perhaps a foothold into the spiritual lives of Kim’s Instagram disciples will keep the family steadfast in the 2020s; perhaps it won’t. There is a generation of new Kardashians coming, and they might weather a few more decades in their parents’ place. Regardless of the outcome, I’m mostly sick of talking about this family, even if I will be writing about them again this time next week. Someone has to!