An American institution is falling, and, for once, we're not just talking about our Democracy. Keeping Up With The Kardashians is coming to an end with its final season slated to drop in 2021.
Now, obviously, the Kardashians aren't going anywhere. They're still one of the wealthiest, most famous families on Earth. But with their show coming to an end, it pays to look back on their legacy and marvel at the wonders and ruins they've left behind like they're Ozymandias or one of those other Egyptian pharaohs who couldn't be bothered to pick up their shit.
And there is certainly a lot of shit to look at. They've launched cosmetic lines, clothing lines, a mobile game, and an infamous sex tape. Kim Kardashian is worth close to a billion dollars. Kylie Jenner is also worth (about) a billion dollars. The family has a combined Instagram reach of 744 million people. But I think the Kardashians' biggest legacy isn't just that they invented the digital-age version of "famous for being famous," but that they taught the rest of the world how to do it too.
For this reason alone, I think they're the epitome, for good or bad, of "American Exceptionalism." I know some will burst a hemorrhoid or two at the thought of giving the Kardashians credit for their success, but hear me out. This is a family who leveraged their tiny bit of fame -- being related to a tertiary lawyer in the OJ Simpson case -- and used it, along with a sex tape to start a television show which turned into a social media empire which turned into a fashion empire, and now Kim Kardashian is a household name in China. Think of that astronomical rise. If you could count units of fame like you actually currency (we'll call them "celebreneros"), then the Kardashian Family would be regarded with the same investing prowess as Warren Buffett.
If you want to say Kylie Jenner isn't a self-made billionaire, then that's fine. I agree with you. She inherited a shit ton of cash, but that's not the reason she isn't self-made, because more than the cash, she inherited the exposure and fame. That is the Kardashians' real business, and their true legacy is making the mainstream public recognize fame and exposure as a currency like any other. In 2011, Barbara Walters interviewed the Kardashian family and, entirely baffled by their success, remarked, "You don't really act; you don't sing; you don't dance …You don't have any -- forgive me -- any talent!" It's a brutal takedown, or at least it was back in 2011 when people gave a sagging nut about acting or singing or tap-shoe. Walters didn't realize that the Kardashians had already changed the game. Kim replied:
"I think it's more of a challenge for you to go on a reality show and get people to fall in love with you for being you, so there is definitely a lot more pressure, I think for being famous, for being ourselves."
See, the Kardashians have plenty of talents, and they knew it all along. They understand culture and fashion. They are the Queens (or, in the case of Rob, kind of a Duke maybe?) of social media and viral marketing. They know how to stay in the spotlight. To this last point, obviously, there are a lot of reasons one person marries another person, but I think that Kanye can't stay out of the news is more of a feature and less of a bug in Kim's decision to marry him.
If social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter were the soil from which Influencer Culture grew, then the Kardashians were the fertilizer to make it spring up and take over America. They provided a blueprint for any idiot with an Instagram account to become famous. You do not need a traditional talent to become a star, although that can help, but really not much. What you need to do is to grow and invest your fame as if it were cash. This guy gets it:
Maybe those women are Jake Paul's friends. Maybe they're models he paid to pose for the picture. Either way, Jake knows that whatever time and energy and even money he takes to stage a photo op, he's going to get back tenfold in fame because people are going to be drawn to curvy women and/or controversial topics. Its a play right from the Kardashian playbook.
For the record, I'd say this has done more harm than good for our overall society. If the Kardashians are remembered for having transformed the cultural landscape, it's because they transformed it into a radioactive wasteland. Yes, you can now be famous for being famous ...