the kardiashian family stare pensively into a mirror

Pop CultureJune 4, 2023

When did The Kardashians get so bleak?

the kardiashian family stare pensively into a mirror

From body horror to beige homeware, Alex Casey counts all the ways The Kardashians makes for a joyless watch in 2023.

Watch enough seasons of reality TV and you will start to see parallels with the real seasons. In summer, where anything feels possible and everyone is merrily bashing around with prosecco in hand, Married at First Sight Australia is the perfectly messy companion. In the depths of winter, where everything feels miserable and the sunshine seems miles away, Love Island UK arrives as the perfect escape. With its abundant optimism and family-friendly vibes, Celebrity Treasure Island is often timed perfectly with the first blooms of spring. 

The Kardashians, a new season of which arrived on Disney+ last week, shares a lot in common with the tail end of autumn. An unshakeable chill has slowly crept into the series that follows one of the most famous families in the world as they plod about their luxurious lives. Just like autumn, the things about the Kardashians that used to be dazzling and lush now feel fragile and shrunken. Their glitzy and colourful surroundings have transformed to various shades of beige. It’s way more frosty, and way less fun.

Of course, there’s a million reasons why watching the Kardashians isn’t the frivolous escape it used to be. There’s the impossible beauty standards they have helped create, there’s their use of 17-minute private jet trips during a climate crisis. There’s the endless appropriation of Black culture to make billions of dollars. There’s also the fact that the monoculture is dead and all the celebrities are dying along with it. And yet, as I tuned in to watch season three, I was bowled over by how bleak – and boring – the show itself has become.

Allow me to count the ways.

Bleak use of Beyoncé

I know. I don’t like seeing the words “bleak” and “Beyoncé” in the same sentence either, but this is where we’re at as a society. The opening sequence for season three features the Kardashians arriving one by one in shiny black bodysuits to a roller rink, soundtracked by Beyonce’s ‘Cuff It’. Nobody cracks even a little bit of a smile, and the only mildly amusing moment is when Kris does a goofy “raise the roof” move in the middle of a circle of dancers. Cuff it? More like duff(ed) it. I hope Beyoncé got $300,000,000 for the licensing. 

Bleak beige interiors

If you had to watch The Kardashians without the sound or subtitles, it would just look like different combinations of expressionless women, leaning over different cream-coloured chairs, in different beige-coloured rooms. Grim as hell that one of the only pops of colour is when a child runs across the screen wearing a bright pink T-shirt at a party, only soon to be hurried off camera because, I assume, they don’t fit with the wider Kardashian colour story. I feel like I’m living in a tin of mushroom soup! And not in a good way!

Same Kardashian neutrals, same Kardashian lean

Bleak exes

Why does it feel like Scott Disick is not just haunting this family, but somehow the entire world? I feel like anyone, anywhere, could open their door at any moment and find him wearing a big hoodie and holding an even bigger iced coffee while offering unsolicited fertility advice. 

Bleak tequila party

It’s a fine line between a party and a nightmare at the best of times, but due to the presence of robots and James Corden, I think we all know which side Kendall’s tequila party was leaning towards in episode one. Partygoers openly laughed at the stupidity of paying four men to work one bartender robot, and a man with a jetpack flew from one end of the lawn to the other to hand deliver Kendall a bottle of tequila. I simply would have walked but hey, that’s just me. 

Bleak Dolce & Gabbana drama

Don’t you hate it when you get married in Dolce & Gabbana’s L’Ulivetta villa in the South of Italy wearing a custom Dolce & Gabbana wedding dress, and then months later your sister signs on to create an entire collection for Dolce & Gabbana? I, for one, absolutely loathe it. Remember when the sisters used to do zany pranks and crack each other up? Take me back. 

Where are the laughs I beg of you?

Bleak body horrors

About the only thing left in common between the audience and the Kardashians is that we all inhabit fallible human bodies (as far as I am aware). As bleak as it may be to watch Kim rubbing cream on her psoriasis and Khloe fretting about the melanoma on her cheek, it is a weirdly comforting reminder that we are all trapped in these scary meat sacks with their own agendas. Could have done without Khloe explaining that “everything that happens to me is incredibly rare, except for winning the f***** lottery,” though. The woman has a net worth of $60,000,000!

Bleak beauty standards

The teaser for the rest of the series reveals that the Kardashians may finally address the nightmare beauty ideals they have created and sold to millions of young women around the world. “We need to have a big conversation about the beauty standards that we are setting,” says Kylie Jenner, who built an entire billion-dollar empire off her own cosmetically-enhanced lips. “We have huge influence and, like, what are we doing with that?” I, for one, can’t wait to hear the answer.

New episodes of The Kardashians are available on Disney+ every Thursday

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