Anyone who watches reality television regularly knows that a decent amount of what ends up on screen isn’t authentic. Confessionals can be scripted, drama can be encouraged by producers, and if you’re watching a show where the stars are competing for something? Chances are that the competition is rigged.
Not everything is fake though, and trying to figure out what’s genuine and what isn’t always makes for a fun game. That’s where The Karshaisans comes in.
After 20 seasons on E!, Keeping Up with the Kardashians came to an end, and pop culture’s first family made the jump to Hulu. Instead of offering a pure continuation of KUWTK, The Kardashians is officially billed as a docuseries about the family, and because of that, it feels a little bit more real than the reality TV we’ve been used to for so long. People talk to the camera and the production team outside like it’s a normal part of life, even reminding other people that it’s not like KUWTK, and saying that they can talk to the camera too. It’s a simple trick, but it’s a trick that works, even as Kourtney has conversations about how the show that is actively filming her is framing past footage in the editing booth.
It helps that reality TV is what the family is truly known for. The Kardashian-Jenner family has achieved a feat that will likely never be repeated, with their long term relevance, and while that on its own is worthy of its own dissertation, it is how they portray themselves (and, more importantly, what they let slip through the cracks) that is far more interesting.
I will fully admit that I have still never watched a full episode of KUWTK, so when The Kardashians was released, I figured it was a good place to jump into the drama. The show is just as ridiculous as its predecessor, but as the episodes went on week to week, there were parts of the show that started to feel surreal. These people are the mega-rich. Kylie Jenner was recently criticized for taking a 17 minute flight on her private jet instead of just taking one of her three Rolls Royces out for the 45 minute drive. Kris and Khloe revealed their brand-new neighboring mega-mansions during the first season of The Kardashians, and Khloe had to use Kim’s massive home gym because hers wasn’t ready yet. In a way, the opulent things we see in the background of shows like Succession and Arrested Development are a fixture of The Kardashians, as is the ignorance that the uber-wealthy don’t seem to know they have about the real world.
While HBO’s Succession certainly has its darker moments, it is side-by-side with Arrested Development when it comes to satirizing the rich. There is a laundry list of things that have been said by Kris Jenner that are reminiscent of Lucille Bluth’s iconic “I mean it’s one banana, Michael. What could it cost, ten dollars?” The dread that washes over the Roy family when they realize they have to give up their “PJs” (private jets) in order to get what they want out of a business deal is hilarious, especially when you step back and realize that having those kinds of assets is all that the Roy kids have ever known. Kendall thinks that he’s this huge cultural icon for standing up against his father at the end of Season 2, but in truth he is unwilling to leave the world he was raised in behind, not only because he wants to beat Logan at his own game, but because he cannot fathom any other way of living. To those with seemingly endless piles of money, there is no other way to live, and The Kadashians makes that abundantly clear.
Seven episodes into the first season, Kris and Kylie decide that they want to “do normal things,” and after realizing that neither of them have been to a grocery store in about two years, decide that it will be “good for [their] souls” if they actually go and pick out their own food. They walk into the store while the lyrics “I’m just trying to have some fun” play over the footage, and the moment feels so out of touch with reality that I wouldn’t be surprised if The Boys picks it as one of their pop culture moments to imitate next season. Out of all of the manufactured drama and personas in The Kardashians, it’s hard to convince yourself that Kris excitedly insisting that she wants to be the one to swipe her card and pay isn’t genuine. Production may have paid the store to let them roam around unbothered for an hour, but jumping up and down at the prospect of putting a card into a chip reader isn’t something you can plan for here. Later, the two go through a car wash (after almost putting gas into Kylie’s still-running car), and Kris remarks that “[They] have to bring the kids [there],” implying that none of her 11 grandchildren have been through one before.
They aren’t the only members of the family to be ignorant of the real world like this. At one point, Kim flies to the Dominican Republic on her brand new, customized, cashmere and light wood-accented private plane, when then-boyfriend Pete Davidson surprises her with a container of Dibs ice cream because she liked having them one time when they went to the movies. The gesture is sweet for sure, but Kim then talking about how going to a Rite Aid with him was one of the most fun nights she’s ever had was mind blowing.
Normalcy is a novel thing to these people, but not in the same way that living with unfathomable wealth is novel to everyone else living below it. There’s almost a yearning for just being a regular person that you can see throughout The Kardashians, and while the producers probably see it and put it front and center for strange sympathy points (because it works), you have to wonder if the people the show is about know that the amount of joy they find in mundane things isn’t something the rest of us experience.
Really, The Kardashians and Succession are like a binary star system. You can’t make fun of rich people if there aren’t any of them around to give you material, but you also can’t realize how good Succession really is at what it does if you don’t have an example of the reality it strips back to reference. Regardless, with no new Roy family drama coming to HBO any time soon, Season 2 of The Kardashians will likely be a great way to hold us over, because where there’s money, there’s sure to be some sort of absurdity trailing behind it.
Kathryn Porter is a freelance writer who will talk endlessly about anything entertainment given the chance. You can find her @kaechops on Twitter.
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