After a 20-year tenure on the small screen, we unpack just what purpose the Kardashians serve in our society

By Marissa Lee.

The just-announced termination of reality TV sensation Keeping Up With the Kardashians shocked audiences. On Wednesday, it was released that the show would come to a close in 2021 after its 20th season. The show, which reached mega-success after just its first season, was truly a product of its time, emerging alongside shows such as The Simple Life and Jersey Shore during the early 2000s reality TV heyday. The series led to spin-offs about individual sister pairings, such as Kourtney and Kim Take New York and Kourtney and Kim Take Miami, as well as Kourtney and Khloé Take The Hamptons. The shows saw marriages, pregnancies, Caitlyn Jenner’s transition in 2017, and offered an overall lens into the life of the blended Jenner-Kardashian family over a 20-year timespan.

The Kardashian-Jenners, who are now certifiable cultural mega-stars, have permeated every medium of pop culture, from television to fashion to beauty, and of course, social media. Their influence goes far beyond their family in-jokes and lexicology, which became a favorite among fans (‘bible,’ ‘okurrr’), and have solidified them in, if not the hearts, at least the minds of people all over the globe.

Perhaps the most notable mark that the Kardashian and Jenner women have left on the face of modern society is the standard they represent for lifestyle, beauty, and of course, body image. In all its toxic influence, the Kardashian’s inimitable figures and questionable (and often dishonest) social media practices have become the bottom line for women of today – causing many women around the world to attempt to meet this standard through whatever means necessary.

It was early 2015 when Kylie Jenner’s appearance began to drastically change – developments that were at first attributed to “puberty” and “overlining her lips,” and that were later revealed to have been the product of underage plastic surgery. This, on its own, displays the toxicity of this phenomenon: the Kardashians, now among some of the richest stars in the world today, have at their disposal a myriad of methods through which they may easily achieve the lifestyle they have so flagrantly broadcasted to the world. If it’s not enough that they use this money to work majorly on their appearances, it’s even more that they muffle the truth on the matter. From mysteriously metamorphosing facial and body features, to photo editing scandals, to outright lying about the methods through which they are achieved, the Kardashian’s use (or rather, misuse) of their global platform is a final dash in the already-emaciated confidence of women and girls everywhere.

As the Kardashians exit the reality TV ring, we question what their influence may look like in the coming years. Surely, they will not be forgotten, and neither will their inevitable influence. Knowing this family, there is likely to be scores of spin-offs, specials, and reunions coming down the road as reality TV’s most famous family continues their omnipotent prance down the pop-culture promenade.