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The Kardashians: Saying goodbye to America’s Royal Family

After 14 years and 20 seasons one of the biggest TV shows in the world, ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’, is over.

After 14 years and 20 seasons one of the biggest TV shows in the world, ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’, is over.

But despite it’s huge popularity, the show, and family, in particular Kim Kardashian, are pretty polarising. They have their fair share of detractors, plenty of people talk proudly about how they’ve never seen an episode, and even a decent chunk of the viewing audience are people who happily admit to hate watching it.

But wherever you sit, the influence of the Kardashians and their show is hard to deny. So what does it mean now that it’s finishing up? Critic and writer, Brodie Lancaster, Australia’s foremost expert on the Kardashian clan, joins The Culture this week to help us understand where we all go from here. 


Guest: Writer and critic Brodie Lancaster.

Show Transcript

[Theme Music starts] 

 

OSMAN:

Hey there, I'm Osman Faruqi and welcome to The Culture, a weekly show from Schwartz Media where we take a deep dive into the latest in the world of music, streaming, TV, film and everything in arts and entertainment. 


Archival Tape -- ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ Intro theme song starts

 

OSMAN:

Do you recognise that music? If you do, you’re probably feeling some mixed emotions right now, because it’s probably gonna be one of the last times you’ll hear it. If you don’t recognise the song, well, then you probably have no idea that it’s the theme to a TV show that has shaped your life, and the world around you, without you even knowing.

Archival Tape -- ‘‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ Intro theme song ends

 

OSMAN:

Of course, I am talking about Keeping Up With The Kardashians which just wrapped up last month - that’s right after 14 years and 20 seasons, not to mention the spin-offs. The show that gave us intimate yet still very highly produced glimpses into the lives of some of the most famous people in the world is done! It’s over! It’s finished! No more family feuds on TV, no more iconic memes… at least for now! And I gotta say… I’m pretty sad. The show has been on TV for nearly half my life! I’ve watched most of it, I’ve seen the family grow and change, and I’ve seen the enormous, ENORMOUS impact it’s had on the culture. But despite it’s huge popularity, the show, and family, in particular Kim Kardashian herself, are pretty polarising. They’ve had their fair share of detractors, plenty of people talk proudly about how they’ve never seen an episode, and a decent chunk of the viewing audience are people who happily admit to ‘hate-watch’ it. But wherever you sit, the influence of the Kardashians and the show, Keeping up with the Kardashians, is hard to deny. So what does it all mean now that it’s finishing up? To help me find out, I’m joined on this episode of The Culture by the critic and writer, Brodie Lancaster, who happens to be Australia’s foremost expert on the Kardashian clan. Brodie, thanks so much for joining me on the culture. 

 

[Theme Music ends] 

 

BRODIE:

Thanks, Os. 

 

OSMAN:

Brodie, I feel like despite this show being so enormously popular and successful and Kim Kardashian having such a broad influence on so many things in the culture and in politics, there are still a lot of people that kind of look down on it. Maybe they don't watch it, maybe they hate watch it, maybe they roll their eyes when their name is mentioned.

 

Archival Tape -- ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ Final Season Trailer

“For the past 14 years our family has invited cameras inside our homes, to document our most personal moments. We have shared the ordinary and extraordinary. Our triumphs and our tragedies”

 

OSMAN:

But I want to ask you, if you're someone who has not engaged with the show at all and you may be listening to us talk about this now and you're wondering why on earth we're wasting our time, how would you summarise the importance right now in this moment now 2021, of not just Kim Kardashian, but the family, the phenomenon?

 

BRODIE:

I think if you are a person who has been exposed to popular music, especially rap music, fashion and trends in beauty, skincare, surgery, if you have any fleeting awareness of influencer culture, and also if you paid attention to the fact that for the last four years the American president was a reality star, then you have been exposed in some way to like the Kardashian effect and the fact that they have had this really kind of like hard to pin down influence on so much of popular culture in the last I would say 10 years before that, less so. They were kind of trying to become popular culture for a long time. And once they got there, it's kind of, they've reached kind of unforeseen corners of the world. 

 

OSMAN:

Let’s explore that a bit more, I mean it seems hard to miss the impact that Kim in particular has had on the world of fashion culture and beauty..

 

BRODIE:

Yeah. I mean, Kim kind of started this or created this image of herself, which was like, I'm very specific in saying that what ‘created’, she was not born looking the way that she does. We have seen her change over the last 15 years. And in a lot of ways, her sisters picked up the same physical traits as her, her sisters, friends, who, by association with the family became elevated, have millions of followers on social media of their own. So they created this image of beauty that is so specific to them that it's really hard to remember a time when the ideal woman did not have a tiny waist and enormous like butt and thighs, and these really engorged, overblown lips. This is like a side note, but I've been re-watching, um, The Hills recently and just- it's really kind of jarring to see that the celebrity, like tabloid stars and reality stars of the mid 2000s were just like girls with like brows that sat at a normal level. Their eyebrows weren't arched, their faces weren't completely smooth. Their lips were of a natural thinness. Um, and it's, that has made me really aware of how much, I don't think we're even cognisant of how much beauty standards change until you look at things like that. But, you know, the Kardashians in a weird way, are, I don't want to say victims of it. But recently, Khloe Kardashian, like, there was this big news story that a family member had accidentally shared a photo of her just natural, in a bikini, looking amazing, but it was unfiltered, un-photoshopped, un-airbrushed, and she did not control how her body looked in that photo. And there was this uproar about it, of her wanting this photo removed from the Internet, which had the Streisand effect of that, which had the effect…

 

OSMAN:

Of, like, everyone wanting to see that photo.

 

BRODIE:

Yeah. And she... she kind of uploaded this big statement about how much criticism of her and the way she looks and her body has affected her over the years, especially because in comparison to her sisters, she's taller, she was always bigger. The story of changing her body became her storyline for a long time. And reading that I was kind of like, the call is coming from inside the house, Khloe, like these beauty standards do not just exist in the culture, like your family created them and you are as susceptible to that pressure as anyone. But I also think it's the pressure to exist online and be perceived and have your image be your value that I think they, in a lot of ways, pioneered like their job for a long time was to look good in photographs. And when, you know, they started their show before social media. And so when Instagram and Snapchat and all of these platforms took off like their job was to work on their body and then broadcast their body. 

 

OSMAN:

So they really rode that first wave of Instagram. 

 

BRODIE:

Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And they made that a viable career, which we see influencer culture being, you know, people have taken that and run with it.

 

Archival Tape -- Unidentified Interviewer

“What’s your talent?”

 

Archival Tape -- Kim Kardashian

“It is a talent to have a brand that’s really successful off of getting people to like you, for you”

 

Archival Tape -- Unidentified Interviewer

“You’ve turned ‘you’ into an empire worth in excess of $100 million dollars, I’ve read”

 

Archival Tape -- Kim Kardashian

“So I would think that has to involve some kind of talent”

 

OSMAN:

Alright, let’s talk about the political side of things. You mentioned that Donald Trump is America's first reality TV president. We’ve actually seen photos of him meeting with Kim Kardashian. She's become increasingly vocal on a range of political issues. She's studying for the bar now, to become a lawyer? I think she, I remember seeing her talk on the show about how she failed her baby bar...exam?

 

BRODIE:

I think she found the baby bar twice. 

 

OSMAN:

The baby bar, sort of like a pre-bar exam? 

 

BRODIE:

I think so. I think in California, there's some kind of... I mean, I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on this. Literally, all I know about it is from watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians. But in the final season... 20th season, she takes the bar, which I think is like a seven hour exam, she fails and then she studies to take it again while infected with COVID. Her entire family, including her kids, all had COVID. And she was studying to take the bar again. And I believe she failed the second time. But she's, like, determined to take up her father's legacy and become a lawyer based on this kind of drive she has around criminal justice reform to free, I think it's non-violent criminals, mostly like drug offences, like historical drug offences. People end up being wrongfully imprisoned for decades. 

 

OSMAN:

And that's what prompted her meeting with Trump, is that right? 

 

BRODIE:

Yeah, so we watched on the show, she discovered, um, the case of this woman called Alice Johnson, who was in prison for something like twenty, twenty five years and met with Donald Trump to basically request that Miss Johnson be pardoned.

 

Archival Tape -- Newsreader 1

“One week after that Oval Office meeting Alice was released from prison...It was Kim Kardashian-West who called Alice with the good news”

 

Archival Tape -- Kim Kardashian

“I believe she said she can go home. When she said that, I went into full fledge, pentocostal holy dance”

 

BRODIE:

We watched on the show, her on the phone to Alice telling her that she was free from prison, not realising that she was the first person to tell her this.

 

OSMAN:

Wow. 

 

BRODIE:

So Kim Kardashian is like naked, oiled up in the middle of a photo shoot, telling a woman that she's essentially single handedly freed her from prison. Like it's pretty incredible...

 

OSMAN:

And that sort of, in a way, sort of summarises the apex of where she's ended up, which is this extraordinarily influential beauty fashion figure who is kind of leveraging that profile, as well as what seems like a genuine interest in some areas of social justice reform to free Black women from prison.

 

Archival Tape -- Unidentified Interviewer

“You’re now transitioning to become a lawyer. Will you pull back on presenting yourself so suggestively or sex-ily?”

 

Archival Tape -- Kim Kardashian

“I’ve thought about this, and then I thought...you can do it all. You can do whatever you want. Like when- I remember going to the White House one time, and I was like ‘I just posted a bikini pic, I hope, you know, they’re not looking at my Instagram while I’m, you know, in here”

 

Archival Tape -- Unidentified Interviewer

“Right”

 

Archival Tape -- Kim Kardashian

“And then I thought, you know? You gotta be you…”.

 

BRODIE:

Yeah, and she, she, you know, she says she gets letters every week, like hundreds of letters every week from people who are in prison, have heard about what she's doing and want her to take a look at their case. She's working with lawyers, like she has a team around her who bring her the cases to focus on, and she uses her influence and access to celebrity... I don't know about her access to Joe Biden, but, you know, she's working to make that kind of the next stage of her career. She has a reality show called the Kim Kardashian Justice Project as well. So it's kind of combining all of these areas that she's really experienced in for a greater good.

OSMAN:

After the break we’re going to go right back to the very beginning of Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

[ ADVERTISEMENT ]


OSMAN:

Let's wind the tape back and go back to where this all started. Yeah, I'm pretty familiar with Keeping Up with the Kardashians. I've seen, I would say, most of the show when most of the show, I'd say probably 80 to 90 percent of the show. I find it pretty compelling to watch. You know, for me, it can be both like interesting when there are characters involved that I really like. For example, when Kanye kind of entered the scene, that was a moment where I started to invest really heavily in the show but, you know, I've kind of gone back and watched it from the start. But my knowledge of, like, where Kim kind of came from is pretty limited. My- my vague memory is that she was friends with Paris Hilton, and Paris Hilton had that reality show with Nicole Richie and maybe Kim sort of featured on that occasionally. Can you tell me if I'm right or wrong or... 

 

BRODIE:

Yeah, you're almost right. So, I mean, I mentioned her dad before. That's kind of where the story starts. Robert Kardashian Sr was best friends and one of the defence attorneys during O.J. Simpson's murder trial.

 

Archival Tape -- Unidentified Interviewer

“I asked you if you yourself doubt O.J. Simpson’s innocence?”

 

Archival Tape -- Robert Kardashian Snr.

“I have doubts”

 

BRODIE:

I was a kid when I was five years old when that murder trial was going on. So I didn't know if Robert Kardashian was a household name. But I'm going to bet, no, unless you were, like, closely following that world. But as they grew up, the Kardashian sisters - so it's Kim, Kourtney and Khloe, they opened a store. They had a kid's clothing store in Calabasas. And then later they opened Dash, which was kind of this chain of, oh, very bad boutiques. Kourtney, the eldest sister, was the first to appear on reality TV. She was on this show called, ah, Filthy Rich Cattle Drive, which I think was like, you know, rich Californian private school kids being sent into like, you know, wacky series of adventures, which was the premise of a show like The Simple Life. So Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie had to go and make money doing, you know regular...

 

OSMAN:

Regular people stuff. Yeah.

 

BRODIE:

Yeah. So yeah, Kim was this kind of girl about L.A…. 

 

Archival Tape -- Keeping up with the Kardashians - Early Season - Kim Kardashian

“Welcome to my family. I’m Kim Kardashian. The princess is in the building”

 

BRODIE:

...she was invariably like Paris Hilton's best friend. Sometimes they could describe her as a stylist. She describes herself as like her, um, wardro-closet organiser, like she had this job kind of helping her fine tune her closet. I don't know. I don't know how accurate any of this is. I mean, I...

 

OSMAN:

As in, like, what the perception versus what was actually happening…

 

BRODIE:

Or how much they describe it as this, versus Paris just being like you can come to nightclubs with me and be photographed with me, you know, which I think is probably more the case. They, at the time, I think it's important to remember, like I mentioned, The Hills was kind of going on at the time, The Simple Life. But then also shows like Newlyweds, um, and The Osborn's where famous people got reality shows. Um, it's this genre called ‘celeb reality’. This was like pre-recession where we wanted to see how wealthy people lived. And the Kardashians kind of were in this middle ground, I think, between true celebrity and just like, they describe it as like The Brady Bunch, like this really dysfunctional Brady Bunch. Ryan Seacrest came to a dinner, I think at Kris Jenner’s request, saw the family all interacting and was like, 'OK, let's put a camera crew in here'. And that's kind of where history was made. Kylie Jenner was 10 years old and was pretending to dance on a stripper pole, like it was wild scenes. Um, that was in 2007 and a few months, uh, before filming started, Kim Kardashian's sex tape with Ray J leaked. That's what made her a household name

 

OSMAN:

Yeah, I think that's probably when she kind of burst into mainstream news headlines. I mean, 2007, in a way, was not that long ago, but also it was so long ago in terms of the way that we talk about women, in particular and sexuality. And I think a lot of people now look back and reflect on how a woman like Kim was so savvy in being able to leverage that moment to build this billion dollar reality empire. But no one was saying that at the time. Back then, everyone was being very, very critical of Kim, who seemed to be the victim of revenge porn. 

 

BRODIE:

Yeah, absolutely. She absolutely was, in a similar way to Paris Hilton. You know, her, uh, sex tape of her and her boyfriend was, came out, I think, a few years earlier, again, around the premiere of The Simple Life. So yeah Kim's sex tape came out early in 2007 and the show premiered in October of that year. So there were more eyeballs on the show than would have been otherwise. She said in the reunion of the like the final season that if she could take back one thing in her career, it would be the sex tape. But also undoubtedly it made the show, you know, more relevant or made more people tune into it. So it's this real kind of push and pull. You know, like you said, we spoke about women and revenge porn, we didn't even have that term at the time. So for a lot of her career, um, it has been described as like this opportunistic thing where, you know, rumours of her and her mother having some deal to get the tape out there because it would make her more famous. But I kind of think you look at what happened to someone like Paris Hilton. People didn't look kindly on the women involved in these things.

 

OSMAN:

Yeah, it's a pretty long bow to draw to say that, like, women really succeed when they become headlines because of their sexuality, or when they're, um, when their private sex tapes are released. And it's sort of like this retroactive narrative, I think, that we're putting on it when it was not at all obvious at the time that the leaking of a sex tape would lead to someone becoming immensely powerful and successful. 

 

BRODIE:

No, absolutely not. And I think it would, it would frame Kim as not very- you know, in an unfavourable light, which was not what they wanted going into her starring in a reality show. She's the first to admit, though, that in that era she was eager to be known. 

 

Archival Tape -- Kim Kardashian

“Did you guys know that I’m like the number one Google search last week?”

 

Archival Tape -- Khloe Kardashian

“Oh my God, Kim, shut up. You’re so into yourself”

 

Archival Tape -- Kourtney Kardashian

“Do you also know that you were the number two on the dumbest people...in the New York Post?”

 

Archival Tape -- Kim Kardashian

“As long as they’re talking about me honey”

 

OSMAN:

So the show comes out in October 2007. You said that, you know, I don't think you're totally right. It gets more eyeballs and more media hype because of the events preceding it, particularly the sex tape. We're going to talk a lot about the show. But for people that have never seen it before, let's start by just explaining how it actually works. You said that Ryan Seacrest, the executive producer, walked in to a family dinner and said, 'I need to film this dynamic'. So obviously, there's quite a big family. The family's grown over the years. Some characters have moved in. Some have moved out. There's also characters around the periphery of the Kardashians themselves. But what does that actually look like in practise? Because when you describe that as a concept it doesn't seem super exciting. 

 

BRODIE:

Yeah, I think the best way to think of it is this is a family sitcom. You know, they, they construct, pretty obviously constructed like high jinks to get into

 

Archival Tape -- Kim Kardashian

“Wait mum, I have to talk to you. This has all been a prank”

 

Archival Tape -- Kris Jenner

“Are you <beep> out of your mind?!”

 

BRODIE:

You know, like 'Let's prank mum and dad” 

 

Archival Tape -- Kris Jenner

“What in the hell are you guys doing!”

BRODIE:

Let's sabotage Kim's big photo shoot by, like, pulling faces at her behind the camera'.

Archival Tape -- Unidentified Photographer

“Say what?”

Archival Tape -- Kris Jenner

“Got you!”

BRODIE:

This is kind of like hijinx really defined a lot of the start of the show.

Archival Tape -- Kim Kardashian

You what we should do, we should TP mom’s home”

Archival Tape -- Khlow Kardashian

“For what?”

Archival Tape -- Kim Kardashian

“For...TPing my home…”

BRODIE:

You're watching people who aspire to be famous, become famous before your very eyes, um, but you're also watching them kind of, uh, lean into these like 'We're just like any other family. We're really normal and, like, play pranks on each other' and that was essentially what the show was for a really long time. Like, you would not have gone back fifteen years ago and thought this show will run for twenty seasons and by the end these will be the closest thing America has to a royal family. You just would never think that watching the early seasons. 

 

OSMAN:

OK, so I feel like even if you've never seen an episode of the show, there's no way you've missed memes, right? There are so many iconic moments from this series that have popped up in- they've been referenced in other forms of popular culture. They've been GIFed. The stand out when I feel like throughout the past decade that just keeps coming up more and more and more and more, and has come up so much in the pandemic, I think, when you know, the disparity between people who have a lot of money and the rest of us has been so obvious is the moment with Kim. I think they're in the Bahamas or...

 

BRODIE:

Bora Bora. 

 

OSMAN:

She loses like an earring?

 

BRODIE:

A diamond earring 

 

OSMAN:

A diamond earring. And she's like really upset. And Kourtney...

 

BRODIE:

...With like a baby on her hips, just stands and watches her sister crying in the ocean and says, do you wanna do the line?

 

OSMAN:

You do the line, you do the line

 

Archival Tape -- Kourtney Jenner

“What’s wrong with you guys?”

 

Archival Tape -- Kim Kardashian

“My diamond earring came off in the ocean and it’s gone”

 

Archival Tape -- Kourtney Jenner

“Kim, there’s people that are dying”

 

BRODIE:

 'Kim, there's people that are dying'

 

OSMAN:

That's perfect

 

BRODIE:

'There's people that are dying' is like beautiful syntax. Like it's incredible. 

 

OSMAN:

It's iconic. It's iconic. 

 

BRODIE:

You know, there's 'You're doing amazing, sweetie'

 

Archival Tape -- Kris Jenner

“Kim, you’re doing amazing sweetie”

 

BRODIE:

Which, Ariana Grande cast Kris Jenner in a music video to say that line a few years ago. It's wild 

 

OSMAN:

And so obviously, the relationships between the sisters as well are huge, like sort of influences on how the show works. Kim has been married three times during the course of the show. 

 

BRODIE:

She's been married over the course of the show twice. Kim very famously married Kris Humphries, a basketball player. They got divorced after seventy two days famously. And then she and Kanye West, uh, admitted that four years of hovering around each other, both of them being in and out of relationships at the wrong time, they have always been in love with each other and they got married in the most beautiful spectacle you've ever seen. 

 

OSMAN:

And that is, as I said before, that that is the moment in which I started to really hook myself into this show. You know this...

 

BRODIE:

This that's where they went to another level

 

OSMAN:

Yeah. So let's talk about that as well, because I think, you know, it's sort of hard to talk about because you don't want to be super reductive and say, well, Kim needed, you know, someone like Kanye to elevate her. I think, I think that's kind of the broad narrative. A lot of people say that Kanye gave Kim this sort of legitimacy, led to them both being featured on the cover of Vogue. When you follow this stuff as closely as you and I do, it's certainly a very mutual, symbiotic kind of relationship where Kanye could bring things and connections in a certain kind of, quote unquote, legitimacy from some people to her, but also vice versa. Kanye found not just a muse, but almost like a sort of canvas. 

 

BRODIE:

He also found a family, which is not something to sneeze at. You know, he, his mother died, um, very early in his career. He once said, like, the thing he's most sad about in his life is that his mother never got to meet Kim and North. This was before they had three more kids. Um, they really felt they really seemed like to use what the teens are saying now. They found they were twin flames, like they really...

 

OSMAN:

Is that what the teens are saying?

 

BRODIE:

Yeah, it's not soul mates anymore Os, it's twin flames. Um, they really seemed like, not to sound like a nerd, they seemed like soul mates. They seemed, it made sense to see them together and to finally know that they had found each other. And like you said, it's not that Kim needed Kanye's legitimacy, but I think she and Kris, you know, they weren't shy about the fact that they had a plan for Kim's career. It was always about Kim. The family made the show work. Kim could never carry a show on her own. But as far as the, like, figure of celebrity, it was always about Kim. And I, I just don't think that they could ever have imagined the levels that Kim could get to, until Kanye came into the picture. You know, the first time Kim ever went to a Met Gala, she was Kanye’s plus one, and she was cropped out of photos from, like fashion publications. She was not supposed to be there. This was like, you know, this upper crust, high level celebrity event. And she was like a C list, if that, you know. Um, and now you look at her and her sisters are collaborating with- or Givenchy are begging to dress them. She wears Balenciaga to her, you know, rehearsal dinner. When they got married, they had like, was it Donatella Versace?, Like touring her home, you know, like they Kanye exposed them to this level of celebrity fashion, um, and just fame and culture that I don't think they could have achieved without him. It was much more about tabloid fame before that. 

 

OSMAN:

And it also sort of led into that idea of, you know, Kim Kardashian cursing Kanye artistically, which seemed, not even seen, it was obviously deeply rooted in a kind of misogyny in terms of the impact, like when Kanye released My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy and then his next album, after his relationship with Kim was publicised, was Yeezus, which was a controversial record in that it just sounded very different. A lot of people didn't think it could live up to, uh, Twisted Fantasy, but is a superb, stand out album. And I think because a whole track- I mean, a lot of that album talks about Kim. There's Bound 2, which is the final track, which is, you know, basically a biographical retelling of how he met her and how they fell in love. 

 

Archival Tape -- Bound 2 by Kanye West

 

“Uh-huh, honey

What you doing in the club on a Thursday?

She say she only here for her girl birthday

They ordered champagne but still look thirsty”

OSMAN:

The iconic music video of those two on the motorbike together. It was very different for Kanye. I think it's still- I was listening to Bound 2 on the way into the studio this morning. It's an amazing song, it's fun...

 

BRODIE:

It's an amazing song. Yeezus is an amazing record

 

OSMAN:

It's an amazing record. And it's an amazing moment in pop culture. Do you remember when I think Seth Rogen and James Franco sort of took the piss out of it, but it sort of elevated them both in and established them as the king and queen of pop culture in the world. 

 

Archival Tape -- Bound 2 by Kanye West

 

“Bound to fall in love

Bound to fall in love

Bound

Uh-huh, honey”

OSMAN:

And Kim, for a long time, was sort of seen as this negative influence on Kanye. But as time went on, it became even more and more obvious how wrong that was. Kanye benefited from Kim's enormous popularity, particularly on social media, like it got to the point where Kim would tease his album releases on Instagram. And there's no question in my mind that that led to enormous financial success for him. 

 

BRODIE:

I think there's, yeah, I think you're getting at something really interesting, which is people thought of it as embarrassing for Kanye to be associated with this family. We're kind of forgetting, though, that, like my Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy came out before they were publicly together, but one of its best songs, Lost in the World, started as a poem he wrote for Kim.

 

Archival Tape -- Lost in World by Kanye West

 

“You’re my devil, you’re my angel

 

You’re my heaven, you’re my hell

 

You’re my now, you’re my forever

 

You’re my freedom, you’re my jail

 

You’re my lie, you’re my truth”

 

BRODIE:

They're kind of, the Kardashian legitimacy went pretty hand in hand with the rise of the Kimye relationship. And I think, you know, maybe it was just their branding powers combined. Maybe it was just that their lives turned into something very different. You know, he was doing his big fashion shows at Madison Square Garden. The entire family was there. Kendall became the world's biggest supermodel around the same time that Kanye started becoming a fashion designer. Like these things that they were doing kind of... I'm making a motion of like brading something together...like it all became really, you couldn't separate one one thing from the other. Kanye was an integral part of the family from like I think it's 2012 onwards. But, you know, the Kanye of it all on the show, it was really interesting. Um, you know, he was on it occasionally. He did some talking heads in the last couple of seasons, which was really bizarre. Like, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. 

 

Archival Tape -- Kanye West

 

“This is my first time doing this. I’m not actually attempting to do good. This interview is because of the movie The Incredibles. It starts off with the interviews. The superheroes are giving interviews. The wife got a big butt. And I just see our life becoming more and more and more like The Incredibles, until we can actually fly”

 

BRODIE:

He famously, they were on a trip once and he was doing a tour of like a design school. And in between shooting him speaking to like a professor, he starts directing the cameras to shoot him from the other end of the table. And he's like, no, it'll just look better. And he said, you know, in the start of their relationship, 'I don't really want to do the show because I don't respect the way it looks'. He wanted them to shoot it like Kubrick.

Archival Tape -- Kanye West

“What if they did a shot, right at the end, so you could see the entirety?...They’re shooting my wife’s show and I keep on asking them to shoot it like it’s Stanley Kubrick…”

BRODIE:

He just had this very pure, like, artistic reason for not doing, it was like, it's kind of like no shade to Kim, but I just would do it differently. So I'm not going to do it. They've always been very, uh, I think very careful of only showing the parts of Kanye that they wanted us to see. And that gets really interesting when you start seeing not very flattering parts of Kanye. And, you know, he's had a very up and down journey and his personal and mental health journey, but, you know, there was a year when Kim went to the Met Ball wearing this kind of wet look outfit, it’s very fitted. I don't think she could go to the bathroom. It was like full latex moulded to fit her body, as if she just emerged from the water. And there's a scene in the show where he's telling her essentially, like, my wife shouldn't be dressing like that. 

 

Archival Tape -- Kanye West

“Being a rapper, looking at all these girls, looking at my wife...Like “Oh my girl, needs to be just like the other girls, showing her body off, showing this, showing that. And I realise that was affecting my soul and my spirit as someone that's married and loved and the father of, now, four kids,

 

Archival Tape -- Kim Kardashian

“You built me up to be this sexy person and confident, and all this stuff and just because you’re on a journey, and you’re on your transformation, doesn’t mean I’m in the same spot with you”

 

BRODIE:

And it's a really dark moment where he kind of you you get the sense that she could use her body and be photographed and kind of show off her body, when she was single or in other contexts, but when she's next to him, she shouldn't or or he gets to decide when and where she does it. And that was a really dark thing to see. But also, you know, I used to be a huge fan of Kanye and having watched the show so much and knowing that they kept that in there for a reason. We only see what they want us to see. Something that I've been thinking about a lot since the finale aired is this idea that they let cameras into their family for the last 15 years and showed us everything they were like, we filmed everything. We.. I saw Kourtney Kardashian pull her baby out of her body on TV and they give you this intimacy and they give you this access to their lives as their lives become increasingly wild and like... unrelatable to anyone. And I think they use that access to then hide all the stuff that they don't want us to see. So they'll be like, 'We'll film our vacation or we'll film us having fights with one another and like literally ripping skin from each other's bodies' but that means that when Kim says, I'm not talking about the breakdown of my marriage on camera, they expect us to believe that we're seeing the truth...

 

OSMAN:

That does remind me a lot of the royal family, right, where they have this relationship with the media and the public, which is like 'Here's some morsels for you, will throw you some red meat to keep you distracted. Yeah, but let us deal with certain things in house'. 

 

BRODIE:

Yeah, yeah. And that's really interesting because I remember at the start of the Oprah Megahn-Harry interview where Meghan kind of naively said, like, I didn't really understand royalty because in America we don't have anything like this. We have celebrity. And I think the Kardashians live at this really weird apex of celebrity-tabloid culture. And like, like people are going to hate that I say this, but like royalty, like they, they have reached a kind of unreachable place in terms of the level of money and protection around them and how much power and influence they have over the media that reports on them.

OSMAN:

We’re gonna take a quick break, and we’ll be right back.


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OSMAN:

I mean, one thing that I think about a lot when I watched this show and everyone accuses me of making everything about race, but, you know, it's not my fault, everything is about race, um, the Kardashians, and you know, much smarter people than I have made this point, they have always wanted to associate themselves with Blackness, with Black culture, whether it's through fashion, the way they look or the people that they're in relationships with. When we're talking about the way that the Kardashians have sort of set a new standard of beauty and the way that, you know, you said that the physical look has transformed over the last decade and a half. The most obvious way that that has occurred, at least from where I sit, is in terms of skin colour. Can you talk to me a little bit about that?

BRODIE:

I think it's I think it's notable to say that the Kardashians take from blackness, but don't acknowledge it. Maybe it was like ignorant of me to give them all the credit at the start of it undoubtedly was, because a lot of the trending that they have done has been kind of poached from Black people, either in the wider world or in their personal lives. Whether it's in terms of beauty or trends or like just their place in pop culture, you can't separate the conversation about the Kardashians, from a conversation about whiteness and the way that whiteness pulls from, and exploits elements of Black culture. Khloe Kardashian is on the cover of some magazine talking about how cool boxer brides are, and those are cornrows for Black people with Black hair. They are Armenian on their dad's side, but they have you know, they fake tan to the point where they look, you know, as if they are as mixed as their children that they've had with Black men. Um, there's also a conversation that has been going on online, which I don't feel entirely qualified to talk about. But it's, it's something that I think maybe if people are interested, they could read up on, is the idea of like the way that, um, the Black people in their lives are disposed of in ways that white people are not. You know, Khloe Kardashian married and then split up from Lamar Odom, who had a very public kind of downfall, overdose, very sad, kind of like addiction scenario. He's not in their lives anymore. And Scott Disick, who had three children with, uh, Kourtney, has had similarly public issues with alcohol, sobriety. We watched him on the show like shove money into a waiter's mouth. We've seen Kourtney, like with a baby scream that he can't be in their lives anymore. He's still on the show. He still has a relationship with these people. And he's like a white Jewish guy from upstate New York, like there are very kind of like harsh contrasts to be drawn between the way that mental health, addiction and the personal relationships with the Black people, and especially the Black men in their lives are kind of retained versus the ones with the white men in their lives. 

 

OSMAN:

Ok so Brodie, looking at everything we've just been talking about... everything the Kardashians have contributed to the culture, changing the way we look, changing the way we use social media, the way that we consume television, the way that we make television… how do you think we should be thinking about the family, now that the show is coming to its end?

 

BRODIE:

 I think to disregard everything that they have achieved is to really do a disservice to like the, the like nouse that went into it like this did not happen accidentally, that the corporations are not famous for being famous, which is always the thing used to denigrate them. Um, I think it was Kris who said on one of the reunions, like, we're not famous for being famous, we're famous for having a TV show. And how many reality stars do you know who had a TV show in 2007 and are now billionaires? Like that is not... they are not just any reality stars. They are not just any like marketing people. They are not just any kind of like influencers or beautiful women or like shapewear creators, like this is not normal is the thing that I think it's important to remember. Like, you can not respect them if you choose to. I'm not telling your listeners that they need to, like, be fans. I'm very like I have a complicated relationship to all of this. But I think it's just to ignore them is to ignore like trends, the way media works, the way that celebrity is created and sustained, I think that's the big thing, is that they have sustained this for a really long time and that is incredibly unusual.

 

OSMAN:

And talking about that sustainability, I mean, we're talking about the show ending, but they've just signed a deal with Hulu, the streaming platform owned by Disney, the biggest media company in the world. So they're not actually going away are they?

 

BRODIE:

Yeah, they're not going away. Who knows in what like what form that new deal will take? They have they birthed a legacy truly, like quite literally in that, in 20 years, I'm sure that teenagers will be like, 'Oh, wait, Northwest's mom was a reality star?' You know, like, that's...No teenager in 15 years might know who O.J. Simpson was, but they're going to know who Northwest is and they're going to know who Penelope Disick and True Thompson and, you know, the children of the core group of Kardashian/Jenner's. Stormi Webster, you know?.

 

OSMAN:

I already feel so old just hearing you say all of that.

 

BRODIE:

I mean, Stormi!? Look out...That little girl has got some attitude and I can’t wait to see her reality show, truly!

 

OSMAN:

Brodie, thanks so much for joining me on The Culture this week. 

 

BRODIE:

Thank you.

 

OSMAN:
Thanks for listening to the show, The Culture will be back in your feeds next week, as usual. If you’ve missed our previous episodes, go and check them out! So far we’ve covered true crime, The Fast and the Furious, Olivia Rodrigo. There’s lots to get your ears around.

 

The Culture is a weekly show from Schwartz Media.

 

It's produced by Bez Zewdie and Atticus Bastow, Our editor-in-chief is Erik Jensen, and our theme music is by Hermitude.

 

I’m Osman Faruqi, see ya next week.

 

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