An online petition at GoPetition.com requesting that E! pull “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” has garnered over 120,000 signatures as of this morning — and it’s not the only one out there (there’s also a website and Facebook group devoted to banning the family). There’s been a lot of griping about Kim and her klan in the blogosphere (and I’ll admit to making my fair share of snipes at Rob’s thuddingly dull performance on “Dancing with the Stars”). The grumbling has gotten loud enough that the Los Angeles Times has pondered whether Kim’s quickie marriage has permanently damaged the brand Kris Jenner has worked so hard to build. Even a co-worker of mine wondered why I hadn’t weighed in on the bubbling backlash against the Kardashians.
Initially, I didn’t feel all this Kardashian blowback was relevant to the HitFix site. People seemed angry with Kim Kardashian specifically because of her too-fast-to-be-believed filing of divorce papers against Kris Humphries, not because of anything that had aired on television. But even though a petition itself will do nothing to shake the Kardashian empire (10.5 million people tuned in to see Kim’s wedding, after all), the idea that this might be a sign that the Kardashians domination of basic cable could be on a downward trajectory has everything to do with, well, TV. Could the empire that Jenner and Ryan Seacrest built for E! be crumbling?
At the moment, no. If anything, people are going to be curious to see how Kim fares post-divorce (her second, by the way) and that only means, yes, better ratings. Sears has no plans to pull their Kardashian-branded line of juniors’ clothing, and E! would be foolish to even think of yanking the Kardashians until ratings plummet, which has yet to happen. A lot of the people griping about the Kardashians have probably never watched their shows. Still, this isn’t to say that devoted fans aren’t on the verge of tuning out. What it will take for them to abandon the franchise depends largely on the decisions Kim and her family make going forward.
One of the complaints that has come up repeatedly, or at least has since Kim’s divorce, is fans’ sense of betrayal. Sure, the show is clearly scripted, the fights are fake, but this is the deal viewers usually make with “reality” TV. Some (possibly all) of what we see is manipulated, but as long as the puppet strings are hidden, it’s a fair trade — they get a TV show, we’re entertained. But when Kim got hitched (and made a sweet $17.5 million in the deal), then got unhitched in just 72 days, it was difficult not to see the whole shebang as a blatant ploy to make money by turning the already desecrated institution of marriage into even more of a joke (if that’s even possible). Why was this different than any of the other things the Kardashians have done to make a buck? I suspect it was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. That, or people are mad because they had “more than six months” in the divorce pool.
Anyway, it’s getting a little harder to buy into the fantasy world of the Kardashians. When Kim tweeted about visiting sick kids at an L.A. children’s hospital, there was less sighing with admiration and more eye rolling at what, again, seemed like a blatant attempt to woo fans. Viewers will put up with all sorts of bad behavior (in fact, that’s usually what they want), but if you make them feel like gullible suckers they’re not going to forgive you.The reality is that Kim Kardashian could join a convent or pull a truck off a small child and no one’s going to be impressed.
If Kim’s smart, she’ll disappear for a while. Log off of Twitter. Say she needs time alone to get over Kris Humphries. Sure, she may not make any money for a while, but that’s the point. The world has changed since “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” debuted in 2007. Money grubbing and ridiculous displays of wealth by the one percent are becoming frowned upon instead of looked up to as aspirational possibilities. These days, it’s hard to see Kim’s lifestyle as within reach, even if you’re a daydreaming teenager.
But more importantly, we all need a break from the Kardashians, especially Kim. To say the market is oversaturated with all things Kardashian is an understatement. For those with long memories (okay, by entertainment standards that means anything longer than a year), we probably remember how we were inundated with stories about Tara Reid and Speidi not so long ago — until everyone became thoroughly sick of seeing their faces and they more or less disappeared. Kris Jenner has long talked about how she’s trying hard to make every penny she can for her girls before their popularity fades. It seems that for a growing number of people, that day can’t come soon enough.
Do you watch any of the Kardashian’s TV shows?