Culture

Dear Kardashians: please kool it with this kraven kattiness

As ratings drop, the scripted drama of reality TV’s most famous family extends to the digital space.

Culture

Dear Kardashians: please kool it with this kraven kattiness

As ratings drop, the scripted drama of reality TV’s most famous family extends to the digital space.
Culture

Dear Kardashians: please kool it with this kraven kattiness

As ratings drop, the scripted drama of reality TV’s most famous family extends to the digital space.

I’m not going to pretend I’m above consuming Kardashian Kontent; I’ve spent many a Sunday afternoon on an E! binge, falling into their world for a few hours when there surely were more important things to do. The show is entering its 15th season because it presents a familiar kind of American family, fueled by extremes of love and hatred and millions of dollars. They’re wealthy and well-known to an unfathomable degree, but they caricature the recognizable tensions of any blood relationship, and more specifically sisterhood: minor, dissolvable resentment that occasionally spills over into palpable dislike.

But this has been a down year for the Kardashians, relatively speaking. Ratings for Keeping Up With the Kardashians, their flagship show, have continued to lag; Kim’s once untouchable aura has been dented by her proximity to and tacit support of Donald Trump. It’s debatable how empowering their wealth porn ever was, but at the very least, it feels like more of a sour note under the current administration. And in a transparent effort to generate hype for their new season, the Kardashian sisters have been feuding on Twitter. Ahead of the August 5 season premiere in which Kourtney calls Kim “a very distraught, evil human being,” over the last week their accounts have been plastered with tweets of back and forth finger pointing.

The argument in question — which involved a scheduling conflict for their family Christmas card, and also Kim calling Kourtney “the least interesting to look at” — actually occurred last fall. It’s only being revisited now, online, for all to see. By purposefully airing their supposed dirty laundry so messily, we are meant to believe we are witnessing some small implosion of their sanity, and the extent of their secret anger towards one another. Everyone understands reality TV is partially scripted, but to believe these thirty-something year old sisters are spontaneously reviving dormant arguments in perfect conjunction with the airing of the new season — from which they all profit — is a very thick pill to swallow. Unsurprisingly, clever people on Twitter have already called out the whole thing as a ratings ploy.

Keeping Up With the Kardashians was a much better experience — probably for the sisters, too — when it felt like the family didn’t care who was watching. Now, with too many lost viewers in mind, the work they’re putting in to entertain us is increasingly exhausting. Stooping to the patheticness of a scripted Twitter fight would have seemed above them only a few years ago, but as their approval rating sinks, it has become a viable option. Whether it works depends on how next week’s ratings go.

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