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The Kardashian-Jenner empire and the swan song of Keeping Up With The Kardashians

There is a grain of truth when TS Eliot once said: “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” Truth is always stranger than fiction, after all. When it comes to the Kardashian-Jenner clan’s reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians (or KUWTK), some people love them, and some don’t; but it’s quite undeniable that most of us are obsessed with their family’s often-petty drama and extravagant lives. We witnessed every wedding (and every single divorce), and when transwoman Caitlyn introduced herself to the world. KUWTK, to some extent, literally became some people’s bible.

Fans all over the world are so obsessive that apart from not missing an episode of their reality show, they also follow them on their social media accounts, and gush at the lavish parties, stylish OOTDs, and extravagant vacations. Just recently, Kim Kardashian surprised fans and her 188M followers when she announced in a long-winded posted that the iconic KUWTK would be bidding TV goodbye with their final episode scheduled to air early next year.

“After what will be 14 years, 20 seasons, hundreds of episodes and numerous spin-off shows, we are beyond grateful to all of you who’ve watched us for all of these years,” Kardashian West wrote on her Instagram. “Through the good times, the bad times, the happiness, the tears, and the many relationships and children. We’ll forever cherish the wonderful memories and countless people we’ve met along the way.” The Kardashian-Jenner clan also expressed gratitude to all “individuals and businesses that played a role in helping make the show”.
Season 19, its recent, stopped filming in March because of the pandemic crisis but it is set to premiere in September 17.

“Without Keeping Up with The Kardashians, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am so incredibly grateful to everyone who has watched and supported me and my family these past 14 incredible years,” she wrote. “This show made us who we are, and I will be forever in debt to everyone who played a role in shaping our careers and changing our lives forever,” Kardashian West added.

A look-back at some GIF-able and meme-worthy moments

Keeping Up with the Kardashians first debuted on E! Channel on October 14, 2007 and has eventually become one of the longest-running reality TV series. KUWTK focuses on the professional and personal lives of the blended Kardashian-Jenner family: Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, and their half sister Kendall and Kylie with their parents Kris and Caitlin, and brother Rob. Consistently slammed since their premiere, with critics claiming that some of its storylines are actually fictitious or fabricated to gain viewership, the show has attracted a cult following, resulting to high ratings, and raking in several audience awards. Despite its negative reviews, the show’s success was undisputed with the numerous spin-off series such as Kourtney and Kim Take Miami, Khloe and Lamar, Dash Dolls, among others.

People either laughed at or loathed the unforgettable scenes involving Kim, like when she took selfies as Khloe was sent to jail, her handbag fight with siblings (among many other hair-pulling, shrill-shrieking catfights), her 72-day marriage, when she lost her $75,000 diamond earring in a Bora-Bora vacation with Kourtney telling her: “There are people dying, Kim”, her epic meltdowns (tagged by family as “ugly-crying”), and her wedding to Kanye West. Other iconic moments include nude photos, Kris getting the FBI involved as the video sex scandal of Kim leaked, and Bruce (now Caitlin) revealing plans to her children about transitioning.

Fans and non-fans say the Kardashians are the last ladies standing in reality TV because they made themselves believe they were celebrities relentlessly amused with themselves and their vanities, yet perpetually oblivious to lives outside theirs. The drama they have presented has created stir because it is blended with their gigantic egos, trivial distrusts, eye rolls when reciting their infamous lines, and their frivolousness made for a successful reality TV show. “At their core, the Kardashians are an incredibly bonded, loving, large family who live an incredibly large life. And if you actually look at the history of television, there is a pretty large number of families with that blend resonating with viewers,” KUWTK’s executive producer Ryan Seacrest said. Indeed, despite the brawls and sarcasm at the heart of the series, there is a familiar dynamic of this family that makes them one Hollywood household that is sure to entertain.

The Kardashian-Jenner empire and the swan song

It’s not a secret how the family is reeling in cash. The fact is, 21-year old and beauty mogul Kylie was named as the youngest billionaire in the world, by Forbes in 2019 and is still currently holding that title this year. Kylie’s beauty empire is now valued at valued at $1.2 billion, and she still handles the company’s Creatives and marketing.

At KUWTYK, inside sources claim that the family is getting $150 million for their work and the money is divided evenly among them. Matriarch and momager Kris Jenner, in an interview with Ellen DeGeneres, revealed: “Everybody gets paid pretty much equally, because we all film a lot and we all work hard, and we’ve created this show and this brand for the last decade.” So, break the amount down, and with each season’s 20 episodes, each Kardashian-Jenner takes home about $930,000 per episode. So why say goodbye?

It was Kris Jenner who pressed the stop button as Kim, Kourtney, and Kylie expressed desire to quit the show, reportedly because Kim would rather allegedly attend to her husband’s presidential campaign. Kylie, obviously, has a multi-million business to take care of, while Kourtney found the environment toxic and the show, consuming a big chunk of her day.

With the advent of social media, fans still follow the Kardashians, obvious especially on Instagram where they all have hundreds of millions of followers—one reason why KUWTK’s viewership has also dwindled. It was also reported that the Kardashians initially used their TV series as a channel to market themselves and the plethora of products they sell or endorse. But with the increased advancement of social media and other streaming platforms (possibly threatening the fate of TV), inspiration to continue the series weakened.

Each Kardashian-Jenner has their individual net worth, projects, companies, and endorsements and their social media channels are raking in more and more money, enough to impact some young people’s desire to be anew breed of social media influencers. Roughly three-fourths of the Gen Z do not only trust the influencers, but also want to become one. In fact, 86% of millennials say they want to post in social media and monetize their content. This is apparently because most of them have seen how the Kardashian-Jenner family has successfully smashed social media, reaping millions of dollars in just a single IG post or tweet. They share (or overshare?) their best candid photos, willing to become vulnerable, in exchange for attention, admiration, and more importantly, endorsing a product or their own brand. If that’s the case then, KUWTK may bid goodbye, the clan’s fortune will continue its meteoric rise.

Why we’ve kept up

KUWTK is a story of financial freedom, drama, overwhelming privilege, love triangles, fantastic management, and overexposure unraveling before each viewers’ eyes and watching it means more than just obsessing over the show. In our reality of economic hardship, we usually look out for simple family entertainment that can make us feel part of something bigger. It gives us the chance to somehow participate in the love-hate kind of family relationship, while we wow over wealth, and imagine how affluent their actual lives are. We connect with the siblings, we relate to their angst, and to a certain extent, their self-indulgence, and narcissism.

We live in a FOMO generation, and this riptide of contemporary reality TV series has its unique ability to satisfy us and provoke our emotions—from the brawls and the posh parties, to the journey they share as a family, all-out for each other despite the drama. KUWTK gives us everything raw, festive, dreadful, revolting, hilarious life, with all the polished sitcom incidentals, to probably offer our lives its own dramatic narrative, which it otherwise lacks.

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