Kollapse of The Kardashians


There is something rotten in Calabasas. A sunbaked kingdom filled with tanned villas of new-fashioned extravagance, it now sits as a symbol of the decline of a time, of an era, when five raven-haired sisters, all christened with names beginning with “K,” ruled over its gated confines with French-manicured fists.

It was within this realm that the world became their oyster and plaything, a vessel for them to transmit their familial bliss and colossal ambition by way of a slew of cameras documenting their every move. And within this realm, these sisters have begun to implode as the universe around them shifts, shapes, and structures into something beyond their imperial clutch.

The very essence of an empire is that it will inevitably fall. As mighty and ruthless as it exists, every empire is susceptible to the passage of time wiping away its power. Oftentimes, an empire will be able to retool and rework itself into the consummate vision of modernity, remaining solid and relevant in the face of obliteration. However, that once-fascinating glory often becomes yellowed and decayed, incapable of surviving the explosive storms of societal change.

The empire of the Kardashians is no different. As the harbingers of 2010s beauty, they popularized a look of total globalized ambiguity. By combining features and tones from a plethora of racial and ethnic groups, they established themselves as avatars of a new kind of “exotic” glamour: seamlessly appealing to any and every person while remaining firmly safe within their own individuality.

Although hyperbolic in its proportions, the image of gigantic breasts, enormous asses, and miniature waists was catnip to the populace, generating a spree of absurd surgeries and procedures in the blind hope of imitating their heroines. Perhaps never throughout history has one single family revolutionized society’s illusion of itself. However, as with any overabundance of imitation, a desire to recoil was not far behind.

As the last shades of the last decade drift into obscurity, so does that cartoonish vision that the Kardashians laid the foundation for. We have moved beyond the vacuous verbosity and silliness that categorized the ebbs and flows of the Teens and are emerging onto the other side: one full of clarity, awareness, curiosity, and danger. It is one that does not have room for the plasticization of an existence, of a life dictated by heavy make-up and fast fashion. We have entered an era of healthy living and clean, eco-friendly consciousness. It is one striving for austerity, not enormity, and it is the Kardashians who seem incapable of keeping up themselves.

There have been apparent attempts to rectify this error. In response to the backlash against their patented brand of excess, Kylie, the cosmetics mogul of the bunch, has reimagined her beauty line as simple and environmentally sound, perfectly in step with the 2020s desire for the authentic. A paragon of Gen Z, she has had an impeccable knack for recognizing trends whilst taking full advantage, emerging as perhaps the hippest and most effortless of them all. However, as Kylie ingratiates herself into the fashion sphere with a line of wasteful, unrecyclable fabrics, she proceeds to recede from any innate awareness.

The same can be said regarding Kim, the undoubtable force of the Kardashian sisters. As she also attempted to deglamorize her look, she embraced a much thinner build, a complete contrast and betrayal of the image which made her famous. It was her full, natural figure that radiated and contrasted wonderfully with the skin-and-bones heiresses whom dominated late-2000s culture. Prior to her grandest forms of metamorphosis, it was what many initially found relatable and attainable, believable and beautiful. Yet, to move away from that and latch onto everything she once sat against, she now seems out of step, adrift, going through the motions in a way devoid of confidence and filled of confusion.

Thus is the nature of an empire. With their milk-bathed tentacles stretched and wrapped into almost every corner of popular culture, there is a desperation to remain as mighty and glorious as ever. Yet, unfortunately, it does appear as if society itself has had enough. For one, celebrities are no longer those mythical, magnanimous figures we once placed upon pedestals to admire, idolize, and wish to become. There, of course, will always be admiration and pandemonium regarding those with spotlights.

The very essence of an empire is that it will inevitably fall.

However, with the continuous evolution of the internet, we are too privy and aware of the inner workings of celebrity culture to view them blindly without judgment. What was once a mere mention of gossip and opinion to those closest to you has become a full-scale attack within the comment sections of any post a celebrity may create. Being on the same playing field that digital spaces seamlessly provide, we no longer feel unworthy or uncool compared to someone with greater resources. In fact, we may even feel superior, completely demolishing any desire to uplift and uphold any other human being.

Along with this revisioning of celebrity culture, the world’s populace has become much poorer and less fortunate over the last decade. It is no longer fashionable to extoll and praise those with far more wealth, knowing that their wealth is often at the expense or intolerance of others.

We are far more aware of how much carbon private jets leave in the ozone layer, how cheap and destructive certain products can be, and how cruel corporations can treat their workers. One is not ignorant of calls to “eat the rich” with a tone of utter seriousness. In this current era, we are closer to those in history’s past who grabbed pitchforks and placed the heads of their oppressors on spokes. In such environs, there is no room for appreciation for the excessive.

There will, of course, be the argument that if the Kardashian empire is indeed collapsing, then why do they remain thrivers within the realm of popular culture? The reality, however, is that empires do not merely collapse overnight. There has never been an empire that came and went with the breeze, a flash in the pan, a strike of lightning.

Every empire has had a slow, draining, and eventual demise that one watched, perhaps not even for decades but centuries. It is not uncommon for there to be a period of immense prosperity, even at the dawn of an empire’s decline. And once again, the Kardashians are no different.

One can easily see how the sisters are preparing their offspring to take the reins of the world they’ve built. Not only due to their presence before the same television cameras as their parents but also due to their own growing savviness of social currency. As natural inhabitants of digital life, the third generation of Kardashians are poised to emit the same hyper-relatability that came before them with the same sense of charm and ease.

As with her mother, 10-year-old North West appears to be the breakout star, already splashed on the cover of the hip youth culture rag i-D as a future icon of cool. In a typical move amongst imperious leaders, we are becoming familiar with this future monarch in a fashion that will make her ascent far smoother than had she remained isolated in an ivory tower.

But will this work? Will these debuts, proclamations, introductions, and decrees change the rhythm and pacing of an empire teetering off track? With each new utterance and appearance across the media spectrum, there is a fatigue not only of the celebrity industrial complex but the Kardashians in particular. Epitomizing everything that went wrong in the previous decade, they have become the villains in the saga of contemporary culture, blamed for the rise in body dysmorphia, cultural appropriation, and the superficiality of social media.

We no longer feel unworthy or uncool compared to someone with greater resources.

In truth, such portraits may be skewered or sliced in haste; how, in actuality, can five sisters from southern California change the course of history? But as we know, it only takes one person to reimagine the world in their image, and with four more, that makeover can be catastrophic.

There is immense potential in such power. Women are often not granted the proper reins of authority nor taken too seriously when those reins are taken. However, when such power reinforces values, standards, and beliefs, any sense of progression is completely obliterated. Influencing others to dislike themselves as one continuously morphs and contorts their own appearance into something absolutely unrecognizable is not an achievement par excellence.

There is a layer of sadness, discontent, and disassociation with such actions, a constant and endless dissatisfaction with oneself. Although it is not uncommon for most humans to feel such ways, the rejection of reality and the acceptance of delusion create far more damage.

Perhaps, if anything, that form of self-involvement will be the catalyst of this empirical run. The deeper and longer one stays cloistered in their glass palace, out of touch with the world around them, the deeper and longer one falls from grace. It is a sense of not realizing where the wind is blowing or the moon is shining. It is a sense of not knowing when to stop or when to take a break. One must listen to the hums and murmurs of the populace and take heed of their feelings and emotions. As wise as it is to follow one’s intuition, it is even wiser to follow the movement of culture.

And in this new decade, that movement has altered the anchor onto which the entire Kardashian empire has been built. At the dawn of their rise, reality television was reaching its Golden Age: a period of unbridled drama, hysteria, and general decadence. Watching the silly mishaps of strangers somehow felt relatable and exciting at once, a sort of amplification of our own personal adventures. However, as social media has eroded the parasocial qualities of the medium—and, in some cases, revealing dramas and secrets prior to airtime—the magic of reality television has dissipated.

Even more pivotal: the close-knit, familial harmony that made the Kardashians so endearing has been replaced with a cold, constructed vision of affluence. What was once a joyful display of birthdays, vacations, and pranks is now a bland show of designer fittings, product launches, and business meetings. Staring deeper at their minimalistic mansions and tightened expressions, we no longer feel a sense of warmth and connection—only radical detachment.

Where we go from here is up to fate. The 2020s, already tumultuous and absurd in all possibilities, signals a moment of reckoning and dismantling, rewriting the rules into something unruly and connecting the dots only to disconnect them all over again. It is a time of transformation, innovation, and revolution. As we question idolatry, wealth, and all of the trappings that come with such, we realize that we no longer can accept emptiness for its own sake. Somewhere, in this rising chaos, the Kardashian empire feels the flurries of flames outside of its beige compound, knowing that it must respond with clarity or fade like the rest.


Marsalis is a pop artist and an editor at WAVES. You can find him here.