Volunteer writer, Katrina Maria Sweeney, explores the Kardashians influence on the modern world
The Kardashian-Jenner family has become a large part of not only American culture but worldwide popular culture.
Casting their influence over reality TV, the internet, fashion, and even created a few memes along the way. With the family’s soon-to-be 20th season series coming to an end, we will reflect upon how the family has influenced our everyday society and if these effects are for the better or worse.
The show began with Kris Jenner and her then-husband Bruce Jenner, (now transitioned to Caitlyn Jenner), raising their daughters Kendall and Kylie, and Kris’ children from her previous husband – Robert Kardashian (known for representing OJ Simpson) – Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, and Rob. Following their every-day, wealthy lives in America, viewers witnessed the family at fashion shows, being on famous magazine covers, and wearing specifically-designed outfits for numerous events. The women’s display of wealth seen in the series is also seen through their Instagram posts. In 2019 Kylie was criticised for posting her latest car, a Bugatti Chiron worth $3 million, receiving comments that she was flaunting her wealth. There have been many examples of these women posting their glamourous lifestyles, which can create some inadequate, negative feelings for the everyday social media user to see. However, the series also showed the negative effects of flaunting your wealth, from Kim’s learned experience, after she was robbed at gunpoint in Paris. The culprit had seen her show off her wedding ring all over social media, leaving Kim to reconsider what she posts. In some essence, the show’s influence can be positive for showing these women’s genuine learning experiences and relaying relatable themes of; love, break-ups/co-parenting, family, health, and careers.
While some episodes may be watched for the drama, by displaying their highs and lows, viewers may be comforted to know that these women, despite their status and wealth, go through similar issues and emotions many women face.
However, being famous means a lot of magnification, expectations, and scrutiny, whereby the family has controversies, primarily involving cultural appropriation. Kim Kardashian West’s brand ‘Kimono’, now renamed ’Skims’, faced negative criticism for appropriating the traditional Japanese kimono dress, many of the sisters have been criticised for having their hair braided into cornrows which is traditionally a protective styling technique used among black women, and wearing a Niqab- traditionally worn by Muslim women. Additionally, these women have also been known to advertise appetitive suppressants on social media, and arguably exhibit an unattainable body ideal for young women which they gained through surgery, dieticians, etc. Their impressionability online is paramount, with a reported 70% increase of lip filler requests, after Kylie admitted to getting lip fillers. Yet, these women have also used their platform more beneficially, with Khloe releasing a body-positive, inclusive clothing line ‘Good American’ and Kourtney’s healthy lifestyle website ‘Poosh’ encourages natural products and the importance of wellbeing.
Thus, these women have created positive influences using their family’s name and status, namely, Kim becoming a criminal justice lawyer. Kim’s meeting with President Donald Trump secured clemency (a pardon for a criminal conviction) for 63-year-old Alice Johnson who was serving a life sentence for a non-violent drug offence. Kim has helped the release of 17 people from American prisons, having a tremendous effect on those liberated, and on the American justice system. This positive influence has gained admiration and respect for Kim’s use of her platform to shed light on injustices and help others, stating herself she would like to ‘give up’ being ‘Kim K’ and focus on being a lawyer who helps others. The family was also instrumental in speaking about the Armenian genocide -the mass murder of 1.5 million Armenian people by the Turkish government executed. The sisters visited the memorial on the show and frequently discussed their family heritage whereby after many years of this being unrecognised by the USA, a U.S. policy was made to commemorate the genocide. Furthermore, supermodel Kendall Jenner often discusses her struggles with anxiety, and Bruce’s transition becoming Caitlin Jenner highlights themes of mental health and LGBTQ+, whereby viewers can feel recognised.
Therefore, while this family is primarily influential in popular culture, there are some political, and societal issues that these women advocate. Thus, the Kardashian-Jenner family are both positively, and negatively influential. Should they acknowledge and be responsible for the image they influence upon others? Or are these women who possess this platform subject to more judgement and expectations that would not be placed upon others.
Hopefully, they can use their platform for good, acknowledge and apologise for their mistakes, as all any of us can do. Whatever your opinion on this family is, it is clear their name will remain known and influential in modern society.
Header by Assistant Head of Design, Christos Alamaniotis
Edited by Sophie Alexander – Entertainment Editor