The Inescapable Kardashian Universe : Pop Culture Happy Hour After 20 seasons, multiple marriages, babies and scandals, Keeping Up With the Kardashians is finally coming to a close. The E! reality series is leaving behind quite a legacy (or wreckage) in its wake. It's the end of a reality-TV era, but whatever your tolerance for the brand, the Kardashians won't be disappearing from American culture any time soon.
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The Inescapable Kardashian Universe

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The Inescapable Kardashian Universe

The Inescapable Kardashian Universe

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(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

AISHA HARRIS, HOST:

It's the end of a reality TV era. After 20 seasons, multiple marriages and babies, as well as an untold number of scandals, "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" is finally coming to a close. The E! reality series is leaving behind quite a legacy - or some might say wreckage - in its wake. Maybe you're a fan. Maybe you're a hate watcher. Maybe you only know about them through their inescapable social media presence. Whatever your tolerance for this brand, I'm Aisha Harris. And today we're talking about the Kardashians on POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. So don't go away.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HARRIS: Welcome back. Joining us from her home is writer and editor Ella Ceron.

Hi, Ella.

ELLA CERON: Hi. Thank you so much for having me.

HARRIS: And also with us is Brittany Luse, who most recently hosted "The Nod With Brittany & Eric" on Quibi.

Welcome back, Brittany.

BRITTANY LUSE: Thank you so much. I'm thrilled to be here today.

HARRIS: Oh, good. I'm so glad to hear that (laughter). So before we dig into all things Kardashian-Jenner, let's give a brief rundown of the family, because there are so many of them. There's Kris Jenner, the self-proclaimed momager (ph) who shrewdly negotiates the entire family's various enterprises. Kris was once married to the late Robert Kardashian Sr., who was famous for being one of O.J. Simpson's defense attorneys. With Robert, Kris had four kids, Kourtney, Kim, Khloe and Rob Jr. And by the time "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" began in 2007, Kris had two more children, Kendall and Kylie, with Olympic gold medalist Caitlyn Jenner. Caitlyn and Kris divorced in 2015. The other key characters within the Kardashian-Jenner orbit are socialite Jordyn Woods, Kylie's former best friend, Blac Chyna, a model and exotic dancer who was once engaged to Rob Kardashian, and rapper Kanye West. Kim filed for divorce from Kanye earlier this year after seven years of marriage.

So what exactly have these people done? Well, they built an entire empire of brands reportedly worth billions, including KKW Beauty, Kylie Cosmetics, Good American jeans and SKIMS shapewear. They've dated and married a lot of rappers and professional athletes and dominated social media. The sisters alone have hundreds of millions of Instagram followers. As a family, they've managed to collide with nearly every facet of American culture, including politics. Kim famously met with President Donald Trump about criminal justice reform.

And they've documented all of this over 20 seasons of "Keeping Up With The Kardashians," which ends its run this week on the E! network. However, you won't miss them too much because they signed a deal with Disney to produce, quote-unquote, "new global content," which will stream exclusively on Hulu in the U.S. So all of that said, I'm curious as to what your relationships are to the Kardashian-Jenner universe. Obviously, we all have some familiarity with them. But I'm curious as to where you all are coming from. So Ella, let's actually start with you first.

CERON: Absolutely. I'm from Los Angeles. I used to hang out with my friends at Urth Cafe and Kitson and very much part of that scene in the late aughts, which is where they were filming a lot of the scenes or where they would be seen at by paparazzi. At a certain point, they had just kind of become cultural osmosis. So over the years, it was, you know, turning on E! and watching bits of the marathon because you can just kind of get sucked in. And it's weirdly soothing, almost like just watching goldfish in a bowl a little bit.

(LAUGHTER)

CERON: There's something very meditative about their ups and downs and multiple spin-offs and all the things. And you can kind of click in at any point. And you're like, yep, I know exactly what's going on. I can catch up - literally catch up. No pun intended. And after that, you know, I was also an entertainment editor for a while. So I have done a lot of just beat work of writing about something that either Kendall or Kylie Instagrammed (ph). I actually interviewed Kim at her home when she launched KKW Beauty.

LUSE: What?

HARRIS: Brittany's face just now.

(LAUGHTER)

LUSE: I'm sorry. It's - I'm going to need a follow-up with you after this is over. That's a photo of you two together?

CERON: Yes.

LUSE: What?

CERON: I have a photo of her and me in the MirMir. It was...

HARRIS: Listeners, Ella just held up a photo of herself and Kim Kardashian.

LUSE: At close range, too...

HARRIS: It looks like a photo booth. It looks like a photo booth shoot.

LUSE: Like, next to each other - this is intentional.

CERON: It was the MirMir photo booth, which I think is also Kardashian adjacent. And we can get into this. But I do feel like it is pertinent to say that I have been in the same room and spoken to Kim. And she told me at the time that North West's favorite name was Ella.

HARRIS: Wow.

CERON: I relived that interview in the process of prepping for this show.

HARRIS: We have a bona fide Kardashian-Jenner adjacent person here with us today (laughter).

LUSE: You've been to the inner sanctum.

HARRIS: I know. Seriously.

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS: Brittany, I don't know if you can top that, but...

LUSE: I can't.

HARRIS: What is your relationship with the Kardashian universe?

LUSE: So I actually have been watching the show since, like, shortly after Season 1, I think, wrapped up. Sometime later that year, like, around Christmas time, there was, like, a marathon on E! of the first season. And one of my sisters had started watching it. And they're like, oh, there's this family. And they're kind of like a regular family. But they, like, live in Hollywood. And there's, like, a bunch of weird stuff going on. But they're kind of funny. And honestly, like, slowly, little by little over the course of a couple of days, every member of my family got, like, stuck to the couch. And we ended up watching the entire first season marathon, like, back to back to back. It was like nothing.

It was really interesting to see, like, a reality show about a family that seemed like they actually were related and, at the beginning of the series, liked each other. I think that's initially what got us into it was like, I'm from a household of three girls. And, like, initially, the show was really focused around Kim, Khloe and Kourtney. And so they had a chemistry as sisters that actually felt real. And I think that's initially what made the show work because if you really think about it, Kim, even though she's really, like, the crown jewel, I think - like, she's the Kardashian that you need to sort of enter into their whole family. Like, without Kim, the whole thing, I don't think, could have started. But in order for the Kardashian enterprise to have worked, you needed the other sisters. You needed the rest of the family. You needed their chemistry together. So yeah, I started watching initially. And then, I think, over the years, I couldn't keep up with them in the same way.

(LAUGHTER)

LUSE: And also, I just couldn't relate to them in the same way. I wouldn't necessarily call myself a fan. But I think that it's hard to not be at least somewhat curious about what the Kardashians are doing at any given moment in time. Even if you don't really like them, you still kind of wonder what they're doing.

HARRIS: Yeah.

LUSE: I hate that about myself, but it's true.

HARRIS: (Laughter) That's such a true point. And I'm glad you used the term cultural osmosis, Ella, because up until preparing for this conversation, I'd watched maybe one episode of this show in my entire life. And that was because, like, when I had a roommate, the roommate was watching it. Other than that, I know about all their exploits because of the news and because of social media and whatever basketball player they're dating or rapper, whoever. But it was weird to watch it now knowing a lot of the details, whether it's their various marriages, the cheating scandals - all of that. And it made me dislike them even more. But I don't like watching rich people reality TV. It makes me...

LUSE: (Laughter).

HARRIS: ...Really angry. And it makes me really upset because the way in which they flaunt their wealth is just, like, sickening to me. I hated most moments of it. But I got to shout out our producer Candice Lim for creating the Kardashian Bible for me - so called - because she made 24 episodes that I should watch with little detailed notes. And I feel like I got exactly what I needed out of that Bible. So thank you, Candice.

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS: I may not have watched every episode. I know there's hundreds of episodes. But I've seen, like, 24 of them. And so I have a sense of what's going on. And I think that's a good segue to sort of the main things you can't talk about the Kardashians without talking about, their proximity to race and Blackness specifically. They seem to have a thing for - the women especially, but also Rob Kardashian - for dating people of color. And now Kris is also - I had no idea Kris was also dating a Black person now (laughter), who is significantly younger than her, which, like, good for her. But let's talk about their proximity to race. So Brittany, for "The Nod" podcast that you did with Eric Eddings, you talked about the moment where Jordyn Woods, who was Kylie's BFF, allegedly had a brief moment of kissing Tristan Thompson, who is an NBA player who at the time was dating Khloe and also had a kid with him. And the show documents that moment. And the sisters tell each other and tell us, the audience, that Jordyn did admit to kissing him at a party.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS")

KHLOE KARDASHIAN: So Jordyn said that they did make out.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KYLIE JENNER: Wow.

KIM KARDASHIAN: Here's the thing about Khloe and Tristan, it really took a lot of strength from Khloe to try to make this work for her family and give it a second shot after everything that she had been through.

HARRIS: So Tristan Thompson, an NBA player, she was dating him. He's cheated a couple of times. And Jordyn Woods apparently kissed Tristan Thompson at a party. And you did a great episode for "The Nod" about their proximity to Blackness. And I'm curious of, like, what your take is in general on the way in which they've interacted with all of these various people of color and how that has either helped - I think, in many ways, it's helped their careers in ways that, like, are very strategic. So can you talk a little bit more about that?

LUSE: Well, it's interesting because when the Kardashians first appeared, the big, like, mystery or fascination for many people - for many white people, especially - with their race was that, like, they seemed not quite white to many people. They're Armenian. They're an Armenian family. And I'm from metro Detroit. There's a lot of Armenian families where I'm from. But for much of, I guess, white America, these people were just a source of fascination. They could not understand what their race was. They couldn't understand their bodies. They couldn't understand the way that they looked. And I don't know if it's giving them too much credit to say that they, like, basically, took that and ran with it, but they did. They took it and ran with it.

And they realized that for a lot of white people, like, they registered as ethnic white people. And I think a lot of people think of them as, like, what is commonly called spicy white. But at the end of the day, they are white women. But they took advantage of the fact that they kind of exist in this liminal space between mainstream whiteness - actually, very well-represented by Paris Hilton. Kim Kardashian was her, quote-unquote, "stylist" or closet organizer or hanger-on. And that was sort of the heiress standard before Kim and before the Kardashians, the sort of very skinny, like, blond-haired, tall, lanky sort of girl. That's, like, the standard for sort of mainstream American whiteness.

The Kardashians weren't that. And basically, because they weren't that, they kind of made a habit of borrowing the way that they styled their bodies - I guess is the best way that I could put it - and how much they seem to want to look like a stereotypical image of a Black woman. They have done things to balloon their lips and manipulate other parts of their bodies to almost give them the illusion of having Black features without actually being Black. And, you know, in Kim's case, like, her butt is very famous. She already, I believe, was a pretty shapely person. You can see that in the early episodes of the Kardashian, you know, reality show.

Khloe looks like a different, like, forgotten R&B star of the 2000s every three months. She's constantly changing her features and filtering an angle. I don't know who she's trying to look like now. I'm like, is it Ashanti? Is it Amerie? Like, is it Tamia? I don't know. But, like, the way that they present themselves, they're always constantly borrowing from Black culture - and Black women, specifically. But then, additionally, they're constantly dating Black men. And I think that that has to do with the fact that in sort of like the social and racial and sexual hierarchy, rich, white men typically are not interested in Kardashians, I think because they present a departure from mainstream whiteness. So it's weird. It's like, they kind of are in this in-between space. But at the end of the day, they are white women.

And so even after - you know, they've stolen plenty of boyfriends from Black women and, you know, kind of double-crossed their Black girlfriends in trying to get to a certain guy, rapper, athlete or whatever. Khloe was completely undone by Jordyn Woods kissing Tristan Thompson. Khloe - and also, too, I think, once Khloe realized that, like, she wasn't going to be able to sort of manipulate that narrative because Jordyn Woods is so well-networked in Hollywood in her own family. Like, through her own family, she's connected to the Smiths - Will, Jada, Jaden and Willow, you know, all them. Like, Jordyn had chips of her own to sort of, like, lay on the table. And the Kardashians were kind of beaten at their own game by a Black woman.

So even though the whole mess of it is so dirty, their careers are always helped by their proximity to Blackness. But in their wake are so many Black people of all genders, really, and of all sorts of relationships to them in the family who are - they're worse for the wear after the fact. So it's really curious. Like, they play up everything about them that's not mainstream white. And they borrow heavily from Black women. But at the end of the day, (laughter) when things go down, they lean really heavily on their white-womanness (ph). And it's just - it's sickening. But it's also fascinating because it's like, you know, it's a micro-example, I think, of how things play out sometimes in real life.

CERON: I mean, yeah. I agree with everything Brittany said. And I do also want to bring up, actually, your guest that you had on "The Nod." Sylvia Obell at BuzzFeed in 2016 had a phenomenal essay breaking down at the time what was the very early timeline for Blac Chyna and Rob Kardashian Jr. And she points out that also part of the greater scope of the Kardashians, quote-unquote, "borrowing" from Black culture and Black women specifically is that, then, media would write it up as, oh, look at this new trend. And so there was a lot of complicity happening, whether it was Kim's, quote-unquote, "boxer braids" or any of the other natural, protective hairstyles that they would debut. And after a certain point, you would hope that they would know better and stop doing it. But there was always just some other instance. There was some other issue.

There was - when Kim launched KKW Beauty, people were really concerned that the images she launched what looked like blackface. And she pulled them back. She said, nobody on my team flagged that. And then you have to wonder, can you have people on your team to flag that? Like, that seems like a very important thing to, you know, even consider before even the first shutter of the camera happens. You know, time and time again, it's worth looking at the totality of exactly how they rose to fame, which is, ostensibly, as themselves. But that opens up a host of questions. And we're also seeing this play out again on TikTok, where non-Black creators are appropriating dances made by young Black creators who aren't getting the fame that white creators are getting just for copying these dances. And so to Brittany's point, it is really a great example of a broader societal issue.

HARRIS: Yeah. And I think what's frustrating to me is sort of - there's a period, obviously, where the Kardashians were C-level reality stars. That was at the beginning of "Keeping Up With The Kardashians." Then at some point - Kanye was sort of a tipping point in bringing Kim and the rest of the family into a higher echelon of celebrity culture and moving her from D-list to A-list and getting her on the cover of Vogue, which she had always wanted to do. But, reportedly, Anna Wintour was not into that idea because she didn't think that Kim Kardashian was worthy of that until she linked up with Kanye.

So you have that period. And then I've also noticed there's been a trend of people saying, well, the Kardashians, hate them or love them, they are really smart businesspeople. And I kind of bristle at that because, yes, they - obviously, Kris Jenner is very dedicated, makes sure that they get to all of their things on time, scolds her children if they are not doing what they need to do. Like, that's great. But I also think that there's sort of this attempt to overcompensate and be seen as promoting some sort of feminist thing to say that they're good businesspeople, because they are selling something that people want in part because of their racial ambiguity, to certain people.

If they had been much darker or Black, I don't think would've ever rose to this sort of fame. And I think this is just - it's a combination of, yes, some smart business decisions, but also just the fact that they came at a time where it became cool to be, quote-unquote, "ethnically ambiguous" and walk that line. Think of all the Black people who have attempted to take all the steps that the Kardashians have taken to get to where they are. And I don't see that happening for them because that is not what mainstream - quote-unquote, "mainstream" America wants. And so that is another reason why I find their racial appropriations and their proximity to Blackness and the way in which they kind of delight in this - Kourtney, I think, is the only one who's not really dipped her toe in that. Now she's apparently reportedly dating Travis Barker. So she does her own thing.

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS: But it's really weird to see that. And it just kind of makes my skin crawl and - I don't know. What do you all think?

LUSE: It's interesting to hear your thoughts on this, Aisha, because you're watching the whole thing, like, in hindsight...

HARRIS: Right.

LUSE: ...Because you're seeing, like, compounded - you're seeing, rather, the foundation for all the different Kardashian effects compounded back to back to back in a short period of time, which is maybe the best way to actually understand the show. What they talk about on the show is running basically contemporaneously with what's happening in real life. It seems very innocuous in the moment. I'm not going to lie - SKIMS, very tempting. But then - because, I mean, of course, someone like Kim Kardashian, who's always constantly manipulating their body shape, of course she's going to make great shapewear. But to see her take it from, like, a shapewear company that was originally supposed to be called Kimono, which nobody on her team had noticed was culturally appropriative either, it's tempting. The SKIMS tank tops look very soft and very shapely. But I can't bring myself to engage in purchasing Kardashian products...

HARRIS: Yeah.

LUSE: ...Just because of how - like, how slippery their business is. Like, I mean, I'll say this - one of my siblings said a long time ago if timeshares hadn't been invented, Kris Jenner would invent them.

HARRIS: (Laughter).

LUSE: But, yeah, it's - you make a really good point, Aisha. They're selling something that people want. And if they weren't doing it, somebody else would be doing it.

HARRIS: I mean, some - other people have done it. But they haven't been successful, in part because - the thing is, they don't have any talents.

LUSE: No, they don't have any - you can't think too hard about that, Aisha. I...

CERON: Yeah. I can't. I can't. I can't.

LUSE: You got to just let it go. They don't have any talent. But that's where Kris' magic is, I have to say. She's managed to keep a business with all these kids going and not a single one of them has talent. But they're selling something that people so want.

HARRIS: Yes.

LUSE: Like you said, we've reached this point by the late 2000s, by the late aughts - a point anyway as a society where, I think, people were hungry for an ethnically ambiguous, beautiful, vapid superstar...

HARRIS: Yeah.

LUSE: ...Despite the fact that lots of Black and Latinx women are doing the same thing, doing the same thing as the Kardashians and not being rewarded for it. There wouldn't be, like, a Kardashian-sized hole in society if they didn't exist. I think somebody else would have come upon the same scam and sold it anyway. So what that - to your point, it doesn't make them necessarily great businesspeople but like...

CERON: Yeah.

LUSE: ...Really good opportunists.

CERON: I think it's also worth thinking about how, you know, right when they were coming up - and especially with Kim being Paris Hilton's BFF - this was also the era of Lindsay Lohan and Rachel Zoe and just very, very tiny, tiny white women that almost nobody could relate to. But that was what Hollywood and these tabloids were basically propping up as the ideal, which is not the Kardashians' fault, per se. But I do think that Kris and Kim and everybody else kind of saw that as an opportunity. And once they got the foot in, possibly, ran with it.

I also think, too, that part of why they did kind of create that Kardashian-sized hole for themselves is that it was a perfect confluence of paparazzi and that kind of culture, as well as the start of social media - where traditional celebrities still weren't on social media, and the Kardashians really capitalized on it. And they did so at a time where - now social-first stars don't need traditional media because fans have always known to go just directly to their Instagrams, directly to their Twitters to get all of that content. The Kardashians still kind of relied on the more traditional media-scopes (ph) while having social media. And so they kind of got the best of both worlds, which is why if you're at an outlet and one of them does something, you write it up immediately because that's going to give you your clicks for the day.

Do I think that they got, you know, kind of discounted down and out because they have the, quote-unquote, "Valley girl speak" and the vocal fry? Yes. Jessica Roy has written about that and how people have kind of undercounted them maybe as being reality TV stars. And I do think that might have played into just people writing them off until they were the force that everybody had to reckon with eventually. But at the same time, feminism needs to also look at these things that are so-called feminist and really break down, what do we mean by this? Gloria Steinem said, white feminism is not feminism. Feminism needs to include Black women. It needs to include so many different women and uplift them. And while - to Brittany's point, SKIMS looks really comfortable. I was at Nordstrom the other day. And I was like, wow, this is really good fabric.

(LAUGHTER)

CERON: And you look at that. And you see that in all of their branding and in all of the Good American branding, there's a lot of size inclusivity. There's a lot of, you know, skin tone inclusivity that kind of breaks away from this idea of what nude is, because one nude is not everybody's nude. But you have to look at everything within the full context of, yes, Kim wanted to call it Kimono at first and announced it before somebody reeled her back and told her that was a bad idea. You know, just looking at things at the full context and really understanding just every single step along the way, you hope they learn. But you do have to kind of - especially after so many stumbles - keep everything in full view.

HARRIS: Yeah. I love that you make that point. I do think that there is a sort of push and pull with them where it's like one step forward and then two steps back. There is something good about the fact that, yes, there is more inclusivity being seen across fashion brands everywhere. I don't know how much of that lies at the Kardashian-Jenners' feet. There have also been plenty of women of color in that space for years now. And you also can't discount someone like Rihanna, who, I think, has taken it even higher from that. But at the same time, when I watch the show - one of the things that I think is interesting is that I've seen people say that they are relatable. I wonder where that comes from. I see them often saying, I have insecurities. I have insecurities. It's like that scene in "Mean Girls" when the Plastics are all analyzing their bodies in the mirror.

LUSE: (Laughter) Yeah.

HARRIS: And then they expect Cady to say something. On the one hand, you can say this is very open for them to be transparent about the way they feel about their bodies. But at the same time, they have contributed to all of this body dysmorphia that, I think, has happened within Instagram and social media. I actually want to listen to this clip of the three sisters talking about Kylie's lips. There is a whole thing where her lips suddenly appear bigger. And she was reluctant to talk about why they had become bigger. And this is the three of them talking about Kylie's lips.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS")

KIM KARDASHIAN: Kylie has always been so insecure about her lips since she was a little girl. And, I think, over time, she decided she wanted to plump up her lips a little bit with filler. And I get that. I mean, we all have insecurities. I just want Kylie to stay strong and positive.

KHLOE KARDASHIAN: The lips, they changed her life.

KIM KARDASHIAN: You know what the problem is? She still draws her lips way over. And she still goes - like, pouts it out in photos.

KENDALL JENNER: You know, Kylie's lips, it's not permanent. It's not going to stay there forever if she doesn't want it to. And if it makes her feel better about herself, then why not? I just don't want her to take it too far because she's a beautiful girl. And I don't think she needs anything.

HARRIS: The irony of them talking about how she is a beautiful girl but it - again, it's just the contradictions that are always at work with them. And, look; we all manipulate our bodies in some way to make ourselves feel better about it. I'm not judging them for that. But the fact that, A, Kylie was only a teenager and we're already talking about this and, B, just the focus and attention on looks, as opposed to everything else that makes up a person is, like, part of the reason why I find this so frustrating (laughter).

LUSE: To hear that clip and to, you know, consider your words, Aisha, when, like, someone that we haven't talked about in the family - and I don't necessarily think demands too much of our time - but is Rob. It's been really interesting to see over the course of the series their brother, like, disappear from the frame. And that has to do, I think, with a lot of reasons. I get the sense that he has probably felt, like, long left out of sort of the family business, because what they're selling is feminine attractiveness. And they're selling, like, feminine sexuality, which he can't necessarily trade in.

And he also just seems more of a camera-shy person who just isn't necessarily suited to that. I don't know that I would call the Kardashian-Jenner women charming. But if they are charming, Rob is not. More to the point, his disappearance from the show has to do with him gaining weight, I think. I don't think that that's always, necessarily, explicitly been said. Like, oh, Rob's not on the show anymore because he's fat now. But it's something that, like, I think the other members of his family have talked to him about. I remember his mom buying him a whole bunch of different food.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS")

KRIS JENNER: You know, actually, I don't really want to deal with Rob right now because they, you know, went on his Instagram and posted all these pictures making fun of the food that I bought just because it's really healthy. And it really hurt my feelings.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

KRIS JENNER: I tried to do a really good job at stocking Rob's pantry with some healthy food. So I'm kind of shocked that he's making fun of what I just did for him. That pantry has to be stocked for several different family members. It's not just Rob. So shoot me because we like quinoa. He loves...

LUSE: It's interesting that, like, there's this focus on looks within their family that is - I think, very obviously, it comes out with someone like Rob. So it's like, all of them are trying to manipulate their bodies and their faces, sometimes their hairlines. I remember Kim had her baby hairs lasered off. And I was like, this is something.

CERON: And then she regretted it when baby hairs were then considered cool again, which is another instance of cultural appropriation.

LUSE: Exactly (laughter). Exactly. Exactly. It's just interesting to see them, like, constantly chasing their tails like this on a very surface, pop-feminism level. Like, as they gained in popularity and as we all have been, basically, flooded with their imagery, people, I think, wanted to project on them that they were breaking beauty standards. And now they claim that they feel trapped by these beauty standards that they set and that they manipulate and that they also profit from.

HARRIS: Yeah.

CERON: Somebody on Khloe's team posted an unretouched image - or an image that seemed less retouched than the others. I'm not sure exactly what the schematics of it were. And she took it down. And people got really upset because they loved it. They thought it was refreshing that it wasn't Facetuned (ph). They, you know, wanted more of, quote-unquote, "the real Khloe." And she put out a whole statement about how she really wished people would stop sharing it because she's been dealing with body image issues her entire life, especially because historically, Khloe was seen kind of, like, as the outsider with regards to looks, especially among her sisters.

And again, I sympathize with that. I get it. But you do also have to look in the full context of these sisters also - you know, were spokespeople for diet lollipops and waist cinchers and just so many - I mean, Chroma Beauty, Kardashian Beauty, now KKW Beauty, Kylie Cosmetics. They're in the business of helping people adhere to a very specific beauty standard. They almost want to have the cake and eat it, too, which feels really complicated.

HARRIS: Yeah. Yeah. Well, we've obviously talked a lot about the Kardashian-Jenner family. And I'm curious to hear from you about what you think their legacy is and sort of where the brand can take itself following the end of "Keeping Up With The Kardashians."

CERON: I do think, to their credit, as their stars collectively and individually rose, they did push for a conversation about the legitimacy of reality TV as a genre that people should take seriously. I do also have to shout out their just endless meme-ability (ph). There are so many moments, whether it's Kris Jenner saying, you're doing amazing, sweetie, during Kim's Season 1 Playboy shoot...

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS")

KRIS JENNER: Kim, you're doing amazing, sweetie.

CERON: ...And adjacent social media moments, with Kylie Jenner singing "Rise And Shine" very badly.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KYLIE JENNER: (Singing) Rise and shine.

CERON: So many things. I think my favorite moment, though, which also crystallizes to Brittany's point how these systems function as a unit, is a moment in the Kris Humphries era, where Kim gets thrown into the water, and the worst possible thing that could happen to her at the time ensues.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS")

KIM KARDASHIAN: Kris, he's so playful. He throws me in the water. I land on the side of my head. And I feel my earring is gone. I'm pretty upset.

(Crying).

So I just want to run away because Kris has never seen me cry before, and I'm kind of embarrassed.

KOURTNEY KARDASHIAN: What's wrong? What happened?

KIM KARDASHIAN: My diamond earring came off in the ocean, and it's gone.

KOURTNEY KARDASHIAN: Kim, there's people that are dying.

LUSE: Oh, my God.

HARRIS: Oh, man.

(LAUGHTER)

CERON: I hadn't watched the show, but even I knew that meme (laughter). Kourtney putting things into such oblique terms honestly feels like me and my sister kind of, like, putting each other in our places. But the Kim, there's people that are dying, just feel like Kourtney's, as she says, living life.

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS: Brittany, where do you see the Kardashian-Jenners going from here?

LUSE: It's hard to tell. But something I think is really interesting is, like, Kanye getting involved with Kim was, like, the catalyst for launching the Kardashian-Jenners, really, to the A-list. It's interesting to consider the fact that now that Kanye and Kim are separating - before, their relationship was parasitic, where, like, the Kardashian-Jenner clan really needed Kanye to sort of, like, climb socially. But now, they're their own independent enterprise, for better or worse. And I hate to say that the sky is the limit, but I think, depressingly enough, that it is.

It's interesting and terrifying that someone like Kim could get an audience with the president, and affect, somebody's, like, prison sentence. It's, I suppose, nice that she did that for somebody else. But it is terrifying to think of somebody having that much power and then - and doing so little with it. And now that Kim is starting to, you know, turn toward becoming a lawyer and focusing more on social justice, I am very curious to see how that's going to turn out and also how that is going to be reconciled with the rest of the family business. I have no idea what's going to happen, but I sense that they are always going to land on their feet. Something tells me that they're always going to land on their feet.

I don't necessarily think of the Kardashians' existence as a positive or a negative, a good thing or a bad thing. I think there's been a lot of negative effects to their reign, I suppose. But I also just think they're inescapable. And I think that there is something that is always going to be fascinating about someone whose fame is inevitable. And that's how I think about the Kardashian-Jenner family. And, like, sometimes I want out, but sometimes I'm, like, confounded. I'm like, how did you get here? Like, I want to untangle this thing.

HARRIS: I mean, it's hard to squander a billion, 100 million-dollar, however much they're worth...

LUSE: Yeah.

HARRIS: ...Enterprise, especially if they keep doing what they do.

CERON: And there's a Kardashian for every generation...

HARRIS: There is.

CERON: ...You know? Whether or not people relate to them, whatever that means, you know, Kris Jenner is the mom, the matriarch, now the grandma. Kim and Khloe and Kourtney, I guess, are Gen X. And then Kendall and Kylie are Gen Z-adjacentish (ph). And now with the younger ones coming up, it's an unstoppable train.

LUSE: It is. And the other thing, too - the next generation of Kardashians is undeniably Black. And I was wondering - I was like, oh, is that going to be in conflict with the overall goals of the family business? But actually, I think it's just going to give it more legitimacy.

HARRIS: Yeah.

LUSE: (Laughter).

HARRIS: Yes. We will always be keeping up with the Kardashians. OK. I know that was a very dumb joke. But anyway, we want to know what you think about "Keeping Up With The Kardashians." Find us at facebook.com/pchh and on Twitter at @PCHH. And that brings us to the end of our show. Thanks to you both for being here and for listening to me rant about the Kardashians (laughter).

LUSE: It was a pleasure.

CERON: Any time.

HARRIS: This is probably what I was born to do.

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS: And, of course, thank you for listening to POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. And if you have a second and you're so inclined, please subscribe to our newsletter at npr.org/popculturenewsletter. We'll see you all tomorrow.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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