Omigod Trav. Season 2 of “The Kardashians” is literally coming out this fall.
If you read that in the iconic drawl of Kourtney Kardashian, you are one of the millions that have engaged with the cultural presence of this family, whether of your own accord or otherwise. The rise to fame for the Kardashian-Jenner empire is a unique story involving the perfect storm of scandals, networking, wealth and the genius of momager Kris Jenner. Let’s examine further, shall we?
It’s 1995 and one of the most famous murder trials in a generation is playing out, with Robert Kardashian Sr. defending his client O.J. Simpson. Rob and Kris are divorced, having had children Kourtney, Kim, Khloé and Rob Jr. respectively. According to Amy Tikkanen at Britannica Kris’s second marriage to Caitlyn Jenner occurred from 1991 to 2014, resulting in the birth of Kendall and Kylie Jenner. Kim Kardashian’s sex tape with famous actor and singer Ray J leaks in March of 2007, swiftly followed by the first season of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” airing on E! in October 2007. The show runs for 20 seasons, before a transition to Hulu is made, debuting their new show “The Kardashians.” Are you keeping up?
A multitude of significant events have been left out of this tentative timeline, but perhaps it offers some illumination regarding the mysterious fame and fortune of the Kardashian clan. The sheer volume of businesses, marriages, divorces, famous friendships, memes and utter chaos to come out of Kris’s descendants have been so pervasive that even the most culturally removed individual knows their family name. No really, my roommate did not know who Poot Lovato was, but she was in the loop the day that Kim and Pete broke up. Maybe because I was the one to tell her, but still.
So why are we tuning in for Season 2 of the Hulu show? In the age of the streaming service, the transition to a more accessible medium for the average household was a genius move. According to Isobel Lewis at Independent, “Kris Jenner and daughters Kim and Khloé Kardashian, as well as Kendall and Kylie Jenner, are listed as executive producers on the series.” The selectivity of which clips are included and the tactful storyline presentation are both evident in Season 1.
As someone who never got into “Keeping Up,” I was shocked by how enamored I was with the Hulu revamp. At a mere 10 episodes, with weekly releases, each one was rich with a juxtaposition of comedy and sobriety. Of course, there were cringe-worthy scenes like Kylie and Kris going to the grocery store as a fun, novelty outing (Kris offering the enlightening comment, “There’s tater tots with sweet potatoes! Who knew they made this?!”). However, there was also an entire episode dedicated to Kim’s legal pursuits in advocacy for Julius Jones, among other individuals on death row. One could argue there is certain tastelessness to including her saviorism in their reality TV show. Still, a converse argument could be made that there is value in utilizing her platform for an issue that matters. This is the complexity of their roles as producers; I couldn’t help but feel moved in the way they wanted me to be.
Khloé is another powerhouse, dealing with being cheated on once again by NBA player Tristan Thompson, in addition to co-founding the body-positive jean brand Good American. She spent Season 1 handling each hurdle thrown her way with grace. But again, one must argue, the hurdles of her family’s life are so far removed from that of the average person. She and Kris had the opportunity to construct their dream houses next door to one another. Sharing property lines and hoarding wealth are not relatable or admirable characteristics.
And now I must address perhaps the most difficult Kardashian to redeem, the “Omigod Trav” girl herself, Kourtney. Kourtney has made a myriad of controversial moves, in addition to receiving mockery for her publicly intimate relationship with her now husband Travis Barker. Kourtney was recently named the new sustainability ambassador of the clothing brand Boohoo. Writer Emily Chan from Vogue calls greenwashing on this play, saying, “Collaborations such as these only serve to distract from the wide array of environmental and ethical issues involved in the production of fast fashion.” Kourtney is ammo to the smoke and mirrors that Boohoo, like so many other brands, uses to keep cycling out cheap, unsustainable clothing.
Although these topics only scratch the surface, they offer a decent vignette of this family’s problematic deeds and behaviors often masquerading as triumphs and strengths. So amidst all of the gray ethics of the Kardashian-Jenner empire, why can’t we look away? It’s not the car crash phenomenon; this is a group of people who have attained a tremendous amount of success. My conclusion for my indulgences in media such as this often falls under the term “camp.” If you are unfamiliar with this particular coinage, “camp” means to love, enjoy or appreciate something with a significant tinge of irony. “Glee” and “The Twilight Saga” are key examples of media with questionable plotlines and mediocre acting; but I, like so many others, have an abounding love and appreciation for both. “The Kardashians” may never meet my moral idealism, or speak on topics relevant to my personal life, but I can’t help but feel that watching Kendall Jenner not know how to cut a cucumber correctly is camp.
New episodes of “The Kardashians” are available to stream every Thursday on Hulu.
By Risa Bolash