The Kardashians have crafted a breathtakingly cynical way to live
Reality TV: When kardboard Kendall’s dullness is augmented by other family members, results are grim
The Kardashians: masters of manipulation
In this new era of Kardashians, the clan are clearly obsessed with two things: real estate and fecundity. Someone within the family is always mid-move or mid-pregnancy, a life in a constant state of flux where nothing is ever good enough to satisfy their ceaseless needs. The series (whose updated soft-piano theme tune samples the cry of a baby) is filled with shots of empty, identikit McMansions, an endless display of pure, snow-white luxury that resembles a modernised version of the Imagine video.
There was the season where Kim and Kanye built room upon room of a modernist space that became a strange, incomplete monument to their infatuation with themselves and their wealth or may have been the first sign of Kanye’s instability. It was his own personal Winchester Mystery House, an ideal of perfection that could never be reached and could only relentlessly torture him – which could also have been a metaphor for his controlling, svengali-like grip over his muse, Kim.
This time, it’s model Kendall who is searching for a place. She stands in the construction site of her garden pinpointing the work that needs to be done as if chatting about her Barbie Dream Home wish list. Not yet 25, she is a veteran homeowner who seems positively unmoved by the idea of living in a palatial mansion, perhaps because it’s something she’s been accustomed to her entire life. Kendall, one of the less forceful of the family, is now gamely attempting to build her own brand within the series. Unfortunately, as she is completely devoid of personality, her storylines must be augmented by others. This plodding B-plot is intertwined with the main feature, Khloé’s pregnancy, because even the sight of Kendall being hurled out of a plane while skydiving with Scott manages to feel utterly pedestrian.
Masters of manipulation
The episode is supposed to focus on the imminent birth of Khloé’s longed-for first child but instead devolves into another look at the Kardashians in Krisis. When major news stories arise in their lives, such as Kim’s gunpoint robbery in Paris or Lamar Odom’s hospitalisation, the family repeat the same shrewd trick that made Kim famous. Masters of manipulation, they use a scandal or unfortunate incident to their advantage. They understand by now that by featuring these dramas in the show, they have the ability to frame the gossip in whatever way they see fit. They control the story and, because it’s their show, told from the perspective of the family, the viewers get the thrill of witnessing these shocking tabloid moments from the “inside”.
The news of Khloé’s partner, basketball player Tristan Thompson, being caught with another woman was splashed all over TMZ, with the family finding out about it at the same time as the internet. The Kardashians (and their producers) choose to show Khloé’s sisters seeing this story for the first time by using a bizarre Brady Bunch-style split screen with all four gasping into their phones in unison. Kim (who is in the middle of filming a talking-head segment for the show) immediately breaks the news, blankly stating that her sister will “die” staring down the lens of the camera as if she’s never longed for a moment of privacy, her life truly is her art and she is always ready for her close-up. Youngest sister Kylie decides to send Khloé the article and is seen nonchalantly tapping at her phone while several make-up artists buzz around her. Her older sister’s life may be about to implode but she has to keep those eyebrows on fleek.
It’s a breathtakingly cynical way to live, most evident when Khloé neatly foreshadows the dramatic discovery of her partner’s infidelity (that sends her into early labour) by burbling on about how the series “captures these great moments in our lives” and how it is like “ a well-produced home video” – conveniently glossing over how it also captured the dissolution of her previous marriage.
These interview inserts were obviously filmed after the birth of her daughter, which makes it all the more depressing and exploitative. It’s a truly meta-move where the viewers and the Kardashians are uniquely united in their awareness. Both the family and fans alike are collectively unified in their efforts to keep up with this sensational saga of modern celebrity.