Courtesy of E!

Screenshot from 'Keeping Up with the Kardashians'

October 19, 2020

The Kardashian Sparkle Dims

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A sex tape propelled the Kardashian clan into the spotlight 14 years ago, but Kim Kardashian’s anticlimactic Instagram post seemed to just as swiftly bring it all to an end. Hundreds of episodes later, on Tuesday Sept. 8, the Kardashians announced that they will be airing their final season of Keeping up with the Kardashians this coming year of 2021. Kim wrote in her Instagram post: “It is with heavy hearts that we’ve made the difficult decision as a family to say goodbye to Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” She then goes on to thank her fans, “who’ve watched us for all of these years – through the good times, the bad times, the happiness, the tears, and the many relationships and children.”

The only proper way to end an era of the Kartrashians on TV is to recall one of their finest moments of the trashiest reality TV. I hope that reading this highlight transports you to a better time – perhaps a cozy, family couch in a pre-pandemic period – just as sifting through episodes of KUWTK did for me.

“The Earring:” Kim’s most iconic moment on KUWTK. Even non-Kardashian fans know this one. This single episode transcended reality TV and appeared on meme pages and news headlines. Allow me to set the stage. It’s Season 6, Episode 10: The Kardashians are vacationing at Bora Bora. Kris Humphries, Kim’s then-boyfriend now-ex-husband, throws her into the ocean and she lands sideways. Kim emerges from the blue-green water and immediately notices that her $75,000 diamond earring is missing. She has a tantrum in the lagoon, and gathers her sister posse and momager, Kris Kardashian, to find this infinitesimally small diamond in the infinitesimally large ocean. Kourtney puts the whole situation into sensible perspective with her most infamous line: “Kim, there’s people that are people dying.” All’s well that ends well, though, as Kim is finally reunited with her precious carats.

The Kardashians resurrect this episode in an interview with E! News in 2017 when Kourtney recites her line, and Kim explains the reason for her melodramatic reaction. This scene came to full fruition with its many memes, and its legacy is now everlasting. The memes that emerged from this episode, though, are only a small, still snapshot of Kim’s outburst. To appreciate the spectacle in its entirety, one must watch the episode in its entirety.

Since this episode, the Kardashians have gone through husbands, fiancées and life-long entanglements. They’ve produced numerous additional offspring, shocking their fans each time with ridiculous baby names – Kendall, we’re still waiting! ­– and racing the media in its coverage of their private lives. We saw Scott Disick struggle with substance abuse, Caitlyn Jenner transition to womanhood and Kanye West suffer from Bipolar Disorder. To us, the Kardashians seemed only to represent wealth, privilege and fantastical displays of drama, but behind this façade, the viewers were also invited into their legitimate heart break.

These past few seasons, however, I’ve noticed a shift in the layout of the show, and, I might add, not for the better. KUWTK seems more fabricated than ever before. Khloé’s face is virtually unrecognizable, and so is the show. This idolization of perfectionism and enhancement has infiltrated their story line at unprecedented levels – with Kylie Jenner’s Cosmetics empire taking up much of the air time. It’s as if the Kardashians were manufacturing the plots of their own show in an attempt to show the viewers what they wished they had seen off the screen. Kourtney became increasingly isolated from her sisters, Khloé’s baby-daddy cheated on her days before she gave birth and Kim’s husband either skipped his meds or relapsed into some delusions of grandeur disorder, running for presidency just months before the 2020 election.

Don’t get me wrong, the current episodes of KUWTK are still worth watching, but the viewers noticed fractures in the production several seasons before they declared its official end. Each sister has gone her own way, and the Kardashians have been wrought with familial rifts for the past few seasons now; the show no longer provides the viewer with this comfortable sense of family unity we could always count on in the old KUWTK episodes. And I’m not the only who’s been unimpressed with their production as of recent. Fewer than one million viewers per episode – a stark contrast to Kim’s 189 M followers on Instagram ­alone ­– watched the most recent season. Though increasingly uninspired by the new episodes, I still made sure to clear my schedule for Thursdays at 8 p.m. to watch each one and satisfy my itch for some quality, reality TV. I was amazed at all the people who turned their noses up at such juicy gossip! Was I the only one who reveled in their family drama?

I don’t think it’s just me. I think people are too ashamed of admitting to themselves and to others that they actually do enjoy watching KUWTK. There’s always been this stigma surrounding reality TV ­– that it’s trashy and, therefore, any pleasure you might take in watching it reflects poorly on you. We feel the need to interject: “it’s my guilty pleasure” when we admit to watching any type of reality TV. But what if we weren’t guilty about it? What if we admitted that we actually revel in watching their lives unfold into messy, family drama, and ridiculously-successful business pursuits? Imagine how much more enjoyable watching the show would be if we didn’t have to do it in secret.

Now, more than ever before, young adults are carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. We’re highly sensitive to socio-political issues, so it makes sense that some feel that watching KUWTK opposes our serious efforts towards a more equitable society. But I urge us all to put down the weight of the world for just 30 minutes, and enjoy a judgement-free episode of KUWTK. After this final season, we won’t have any new content to appreciate. Cherish this last season, and know that, when it’s all over, there will be hundreds of hours of episodes to rewatch on Netflix.

 

Isabelle Pappas is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at icp6@cornell.edu.