Written by Amelia Butterly
BBC World Service
After 14 years and 20 series, Keeping Up With the Kardashians is airing its final episode this week.
The show has been shown in dozens of countries and has been a hit with Kim Kardashian West, her mother Kris Jenner, and her sisters Kourtney, Khloe, Kendall and Kylie.
With Forbes estimates Kim’s net worth at $1 billionIt made them very wealthy, too.
Regardless of whether you love them or hate them, it is hard to deny their widespread influence.
Here are eight ways the famous family has influenced them.
1. (seems to) advocate being emotionally open
Part of their success comes from seemingly wanting to be open on camera.
“They played their part consciously and deliberately,” says Dr Meredith Jones of Brunel University in London, explaining how this level of credibility appeals to audiences.
Dr. Jones hosts 2nd Kardashian Symposium – O chymposium – Later this year she is an expert in popular culture and gender studies. For her, humor is also one of the main reasons behind the show’s longevity.
“People don’t think the Kardashians are funny, but they are really good at producing humor,” she says.
“While women constitute a matriarchal system, men [such as Scott Disick, ex-partner of Kourtney] They are these comedic idiots and so in many ways, in a patriarchal society, that’s really attractive.”
2. They sparked conversations about female beauty
“I would say that Kim in particular has had a profound impact on universal perceptions of what we think beautiful women look like,” says Dr. Jones. “Part of that is the ways in which it presents itself as a work in progress.”
The show frequently portrays Kardashian’s “glam squad,” who provide professional services such as makeup, tanning, styling, and hair care.
“The audience will get to know people who look more like them, so if this was a show for tall, skinny, blonde women, I don’t think it would have had nearly the same success,” says Dr. Jones.
But she notes that in recent years especially, the Kardashian family’s looks have become less relatable.
“You can light yourself up, wear professional makeup, and pretend in all kinds of ways to make you look like a Kardashian but you can’t have ongoing plastic surgery, you can’t afford personal trainers, and you don’t have a glamor squad there every day,”
“There is a limit and I think their fans realize that.”
But some people go to great lengths to achieve these types of looks. Surgeons in the UK previously said have “fears” About a trend to achieve a bigger bottom, with implants, lifts and fat injections, but that’s far from risky.
“In 15 to 20 years, we’ll see some fallout as fashions change and the aging process takes hold,” says plastic surgeon Mark Pacifico.
Meanwhile, the Kardashians themselves say they’ve been “judged and broken up” for their looks. Earlier this year, Khloe attempted to remove an unfiltered photo from social media because she feels “unbearable” pressure to meet the “impossible standards” set by fans.
“In fact, the pressure, the constant mockery, and judgment my whole life to be perfect and to live up to others’ standards as to what I should look like has been too much for me to bear,” she wrote on social media.
3. They became “pioneers” in social media self-promotion
The Kardashian family is closely associated with social media – Kylie and Kim are in the top 10 following accounts on Instagram, while Kendall, Khloé, and Kourtney are all in the top 20.
For Dr. Jones, family is a “pioneer”, shaping the way we use social media to present an organized form of our identities and images.
“It’s impossible to separate their photos and their success from that of Instagram,” she says. It wasn’t long before the Kardashian family started monetizing their followers.
“They created touching characters,” says comedian Marcy Garrow. It’s half Kar Dishin It Podcast, who splits the reality show episode after episode, discussing the latest Kardashian news headlines.
Fellow comedian and host Jessica Jane Jardine adds: “They’ve made it not so weird to use social media, which is designed to serve as a peek into your life for your friends, as a complete marketing and distribution system for their own business.”
It is these companies, which include Kylie’s cosmetics lines, Kim’s Beauty and Shapewear products, and Khloé’s overall jeans brand, that have helped make millions of dollars for the family.
Jarrow says, “All of Kim’s famous friends do the exact same thing, but they do it [the Kardashians] I did it better.”
4. They showed a different kind of family
One consequence of opening up your family life to the reality TV crew is that viewers will also experience conflict in your relationships.
For many fans, these arguments are the most compelling moments. “I’ve always been so impressed that they are a family that can fight and still love each other,” Jarrow says.
“As much as people want to talk about their lack of values and morals, I honestly think they are some of the healthiest people you can see on TV.”
We’ve seen them deal with complicated issues, like Caitlyn Jenner, who was married to Kris, came out as a transgender and later converted; Kim and Kanye West’s use of surrogate, divorce proceedings – and all kinds of mixed family situations.
“The idea of your life, relationships, and career remains constant, I don’t think that is what people relate to anymore and they are [the Kardashians] Model that time and time again,” says Jardine, adding that she has ‘created a mirror’ for people who live in unconventional family structures.
Caitlin, a former Olympic athlete, said her “identity” is her greatest achievement. “I trained for 12 years for the Olympics,” she said. “I trained for 65 years for the transition in 2015” BBC.
“It was less accepting. Everyone loved the games. Lots of people when they see you transition hate your guts. Look at the quotes on Instagram. That was a lot more difficult.”
Caitlyn has received awards for her advocacy. But she has also faced criticism from rights activists for her policies and support for former US President Donald Trump.
5. Accusations of “racial ambiguity” and cultural appropriation
The Kardashians may echo the diversity of American life, but they also reflect some of the negative aspects of society.
They have been accused of cultural appropriation and the so-called “Black Hunting”, when someone pretends to be black or mixed race, often on social media.
“They grab a lot of what makes them,” Garrow says. “From their bodies, to the clothes, to the way they do their hair, a lot of other cultures, especially black culture, have been taken over.”
“The Kardashians are seen as white and non-white,” says Adria Y Goldman, associate professor of communications at the University of Mary Washington.
“Kardashian’s continued popularity and success despite criticism, shows that on some level there is an acceptance of cultural appropriation, a lack of understanding of cultural appropriation, or a combination of the two.”
6. There were a lot of romantic relationships – and breakups
A number of interracial relationships were featured on the show, including between Kim and Kanye West, Khloe and Tristan Thompson, and Kylie and Travis Scott, all of whom have children together.
On the surface, says Dr. Jones, Kardashian “embodies that fantasy of a mixed-race family.”
But while these relationships are presented in the show as uncomplicated, things in a broader context are not entirely clear. Professor Goldman says the relationship between Kim and Kanye (who now looks on the rocks) contributes to her “racial ambiguity” and debates over her appropriation of black culture.
“Her association with Kanye and their children contributes to her placement at the intersection of white and black,” she says. “Some might argue that Kim’s children with Kanye give her access to black culture. However, some might also see Kim’s family relationship as heightening the need for cultural sensitivity, understanding, and appreciation — rather than appropriation.”
7. Criticize flaunting their wealth
Kim has credited Kanye with changing her attitude towards her business ventures. Having endorsed products like toilet paper and custom-made emojis, she’s now focusing on marketing things that fit her brand.
“He just taught me as a person to never compromise and to truly hold ownership,” she said. Forbes. “Before, I was really the opposite. I would throw my name at anything.”
Part of the penultimate season and all of the final season were filmed during the pandemic, and some of the fortune images have made these episodes even more difficult to watch.
“We get into them a lot: private trips to the islands, flaunting the billionaire’s fortune, they have a full staff, and their nails and makeup are clearly visible while the intense suffering continues,” Jardine says.
8. They planned life after reality TV
Although the series ended, the family has signed a new deal with US subscription service Hulu and they will premiere later this year.
Details haven’t been revealed yet, but we’ll likely hear more about Kim and Kanye’s divorce. In the meantime, the clan will continue to pursue its own opportunities.
“Kim is the person most likely to have an incredibly successful solo career,” says Dr. Jones. “She says that once she finishes her law studies, she will open her own law firm focused on sentencing and prison reform. I have no doubts that will happen because Kim Kardashian is doing what she says she will.”
On a recent episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Kim revealed that she failed her first-year law exam. “I’m not giving up and am getting ready to take it again soon,” she wrote on Instagram.
Dr. Jones thinks Kim may have a future in politics. “The moment I heard Kanye West was going to run for president, I thought it should be Kim,” she says.
Reality TV star [Donald Trump] He was already President of the United States, and as I speak now, Kim Kardashian, who has half a law degree, is better qualified.”
Another family member who is also trying to work in politics is Kaitlin, who is a member of the Republican Party and ran for Governor of California this year.
It seems unlikely that a show – or group of people – will emerge to rival this success.
“I feel like they’ve really made a niche for themselves that no one else can fill,” Garrow says. “I don’t know there is going to be one family that can captivate the audience enough to justify being on TV for a decade.”