On Tuesday evening, Kim Kardashian posted on her social media accounts announcing the end of her family’s long-running and popular television show, Keeping Up With the Kardashians. The show’s final season will air in early 2021, marking 14 continuous years (and according to Kim, 20 seasons) of the Kardashian family being on television. The pop culture-shifting reality show began back in 2007 when the only fame-adjacent member of the family was Kim, who was known primarily as Paris Hilton’s personal assistant until the release of her sex tape with then-boyfriend Ray J—an event that set her, and soon her whole family, on the path towards stardom.
The impact of KUWTK was undeniable—not only did it turn every member of the Kardashian-Jenner family (and some of their various significant others) into internationally recognized celebrities, it also shifted what “celebrity” even entailed. Over its years on air, the show spawned countless memes and pop culture moments, millions of arguments on the internet about cultural appropriation, and a small village of Kardashian/Jenner children. But in recent years, it was impossible not to notice that KUWTK had begun to feel redundant and behind the times. Not to state the obvious, but the way we interact with celebrities (and celebrity gossip), is drastically different now than it was 13 years ago. The prevalence of social media has dramatically changed the access that the average person can potentially have to the lives of the wealthy and famous, and the expectations of fans have shifted accordingly.
Many of the show’s most dramatic storylines in recent years have been in the news as they’re happening in real-time, leaving KUWTK to try to find a way to make the events feel newly dramatic many months and thousands of news cycles after they’ve already been hashed out by gossip blogs and internet commenters. Think of the Jordyn Woods and Tristan Thompson cheating drama, or even about any of Kanye’s recent antics—odds are you heard about them on Twitter long before the show had the opportunity to talk about them.
It seems possible the decision to shutter KUWTK at this moment could also have been influenced by the shifting societal views on celebrity and wealth. We are no longer in the days of MTV Cribs, when society was fascinated and awe-struck by extravagant displays of wealth. The U.S. is currently experiencing its second recession in less than two decades and is in the midst of a literal pandemic, leaving people with less and less interest in the attempts of the rich and famous to flex on the rest of us with their expensive cars and luxurious vacations.
But regardless of whether you kept up with the Kardashians enthusiastically or reluctantly, it’s impossible to deny the impact the family had on not only reality television but on the entire landscape of popular culture. Although it would be laughable to believe that KUWTK is the last time we will see any of the Kardashians on television, this is certainly the end of an era.
Kim seemed to recognize that herself, as she ended her Instagram post announcing the news by thanking their fans.
“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. 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.
With Love and Gratitude,