They’re the family that everyone loves to hate: The Kardashians. And while everyone knows them now, a mere 10 years ago they were nothing but a headline splashed across a tabloid cover. So where exactly did it go right for the family shamed by a sex video scandal? Why is American so obsessed with the Kardashians as an empire? It’s the ultimate tale of turning lemons into lemonade — served up in gold-plated glasses, natch.
Americans love nothing as much as a collective obsession. In the ’60s, it was all about Jackie and Bobby. In the ’90s, it was the kids from 90210. In our modern day, the closest thing Americans have to royalty is the Kardashian family. In fact, the late patriarch of the family, Robert Kardashian, hailed from a family known as the “Armenian Rockefellers,” a title which the Hollywoood Reporter still bestows on the fam. Rich, privileged, and excessive, the Kardashians live a royal life while Americans watch.
Warts and All
You have to hand it to the family — they don’t censor. Anything. From Kim’s cellulite treatment to knockdown, drag-out fights between Kourtney and her partner, Scott Disick, the K’s don’t mind letting it all hang out. While it might make you squeal and cover your eyes, it also makes the entire family more relatable, according to Success, which in turn makes you want to tune in again and again. Sure, they might have millions, but they also have real people problems like relationship woes and cat allergies.
Social Media Mavens
The Kardashians have managed to build an empire out of nothing. After all, none of the famed siblings have any marketable talents like signing or acting. But their use of social media makes them complete stars. When they chat with fans via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and anything else, their fans feel more connected to the fam. You get to hear what Kim is up to during a photo shoot or learn how Khloe is spending her weekend so you’re never disconnected from your favorite dysfunctional family. It makes them omnipresent and never far from the collective consciousness.
Self tanner? Done. Diet pills? Of course. Makeup and clothing lines? Why not? The Kardashian’s fearless leader and “momager,” Kris, is known for plastering her married name on just about any product or service. While the K’s are often spokespeople for various brands, they got smart and managed to create their own brands. While a line of men’s socks might seem a dubious match for brother Rob Kardashian, it’s yet another way the family permeates your life — you see ads and the logo in stores, and the Kardashians have wheedled their way into your life again.
The Kardashians were always popular, but obsession reached fever pitch during the planning of Kim’s wedding to Knicks player Kris Humphries — and their subsequent divorce. Somehow, someway, that quickie, 72-day marriage ended up on the plus side of the coin by making the Kardashians more relatable. Instead of hiding their heads in the sand, the implosion of the marriage was filmed and aired as part of Kourtney and Kim Take New York, as Americans shoved popcorn in their mouths and watched.
Speaking of their shows, the Kardashian empire isn’t limited to just their titular show. Several other spinoffs have been created for the First Family of Gossip, including on-location shows in both Miami and New York. That means that anytime you turn on the E! Network, there’s a good chance you’ll get caught up in the drama of the Kardashians, whether you like it or not.
In the end, while you might hate on Kim’s ugly crying face and roll your eyes at Kris’ cutthroat ways, you have to admit that the Kardashians boil down to a loving family. Sure, it’s dysfunctional and weird and excessive, but they love each other. It’s something that almost any American can understand and appreciate.
It’s a guilty pleasure and it might be ridiculous, but the Kardashians have learned how to market themselves, their problems and their family to the highest bidder. And, since there’s no escaping them for the foreseeable future, you might as well pop some popcorn, sit back and watch it all unfold.