Tuesday, March 24, 2015


In "Reali-TV" Chad Raphael explains that reality shows like "Survivor" did not do well in syndication because "Reality TV has a short shelf-life," (137) and "doesn't sell well in syndication." This no longer rings true otherwise how does one explain the phenomenon of the Kardashians? Reality TV has evolved (or devolved, depending on if you're a glass half full or empty person) in to making reality stars. Love her or hate her, Kim Kardashian parlayed a sex tape into a reality tv show and millions of dollars. I can under no circumstances knock that girl's hustle. She understands the public's fascination with drama and morally questionable characters and capitalized on it. People love to hate and make fun of the Kardashians, but they are getting paid exorbitant amounts of money, while living a lavish lifestyle of the rich and famous... which is exactly Kim Kardashian's number 1 goal in life. Not to mention, Kendall has parlayed her reality persona into a bonafide Chanel stomping model. Chanel isn't Hot Topic, and Kendall is hobnobbing with Karl Lagerfeld and Cara Delevingne all the way to the bank. So is the joke on us or on them?

 In the most recent episode of "Keeping Up with the Kardashians," Kim barked at her sister "I don't need to buy her a pair of shoes, I bought her a career!" And oh how true it is. Kim did buy her sisters a career, and Ryan Seacrest, E!, and the Kardashian doll fanbase allowed her to do just that. Unlike game shows like "Survivor" or "The Bachelor," shows like "The Real Housewives of [enter your fave city here]," "Keeping up with the Kardashians," and "Vanderpump Rules" play on a constant loop on Bravo and E! Earlier reality shows were predicated on not knowing the outcome. People tuned in to see who would win "Big Brother," or who would be voted off the island in "Survivor." In syndication, you lose what drew you to the game by already knowing the outcome. However, the modern reality TV landscape has changed. According to Page Six!, the Kardashians signed a 100 million dollar deal to extend their contract with E! for four more years. Additionally, there are plans to have Kendall and Kylie spin-offs and a docuseries following Bruce Jenner's alleged sex transition. Modern reality TV is like a long winded telenovela and people enjoy watching the trainwreck. When it comes to this kind of reality TV, once, twice, thrice is just as nice. People will continue to watch.

The new age of reality TV shows are like talking tabloids, giving play by plays on "celebrities"and their lives. I could rewatch episodes of "The Hills" over and over as Lauren cries mascara drenched tears of scripted sadness about losing her best friend Heidi to villain of all villains, Spencer Pratt. What does that say about me? Am I cog in the system? A victim of the reality TV matrix? Why, yes I am, and I don't care who knows it! From Sheree Whitfield's epic proclamation of "Who gonna check me boo?!" to Kim Richards' "You stole my god-damn house" to Kenya Moore's scepter, fan and blowhorn shenanigans, I am hooked. I remember everything and anything about my favorite housewives, murderous SUR waitresses and Kardashians. Their drama is a drama so horribly divine, that I will not quit. I don't care how scripted it is, how fake it is, how [enter derogatory word here].

Soundbites from reality TV shows go viral and increase their popularity in syndication. Kim has parlayed weddings to basketball players and rappers into a reality TV goldmine. In a Psychology Today essay, they explain many people's fascination with reality TV: "The message of reality television is that ordinary people can become so important that millions will watch them. And the secret thrill of many of those viewers is the thought that perhaps next time, the new celebrities might be them." Who was Lauren Conrad before she was on "Laguna Beach?" Just a California girl. Who was Kim Kardashian before the sex tape? Just a friend of Paris Hilton. Who was Trista Sutter before she became the first bachelorette? Reality TV takes the mystique out of celebrity. It's like watching semi-regular people lead these crazy lives and I think that's what draws the public in for more. The Kardashians are no longer normal, but reality TV is always on the hunt for that next nobody they can grant insta-fame and that's why the public continues to watch. It's an intoxicating never-ending cycle.


  1. Lauren, you’re right on! I think the Keeping Up with the Kardashian’s success and unwavering fan-base relies on the Kardashians’ uncanny ability to maintain and embellish their truths/attitudes/practices in other mediums as well (like award show appearances, talk show interviews, public sightings, other reality shows). Their show does work in tandem with the “celebrity gossip” in other media circuits. In that regard, I think the joke is certainly on us. We celebrate their successes and their sufferings. Our obsession with every facet of their lives has elevated them to mythic proportions.

  2. Hey Lauren, minor quibble: my wife was in a Brownie troop with the Kardashians with Kris as troop leader. By all reports, they were never "normal." (And I don't know if there's such a thing as "just a friend of Paris Hilton.") That said, Robert, I'm not sure I'd go so far as to attribute to them "uncanny abilities." Kim might have a certain PR genius, but there is something like indifference built into the reality (and supermarket checkout line) industry as to whom it turns into a phenomenon. The singularity of the Kardashians is at least in some measure a quality we ascribe to them in order to avert our eyes from the industry that constructs them and our own complicity in ogling them.