The Kardashians Are in Their Flop Era

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty/Hulu
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty/Hulu

Twenty-first-century pop culture can be divided into two halves: Before Kim, and Anno Kardashiani. These roughly correspond to the period between 2000 and 2006 (B.K.), and 2007 onward—the year that budding socialite Kim Kardashian’s sex tape leaked, soon launching the careers of America’s most powerful family. But what if the Years of Our Ladies Kardashian were, in fact, coming to an end? If you ever look at the internet, you’ll learn that we may, indeed, be moving into a new timeline entirely: the Era of the Flopdashian. Or maybe it’s something even worse than that. We may have hit the point where the Kardashians aren’t worth talking about.

For 15 years, cultural critics have proclaimed that the Kardashian family—Kim and her four sisters, plus mother Kris (and arguably ex-step-parent Caitlyn)—were “everywhere.” Their hit E! Show, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, ran for 20 seasons. They appeared at Fashion Weeks and Met Galas, on Saturday Night Live and talk shows, in magazines and advertisements. Their personal dramas were contorted into TV plotlines as much as they were news fodder, especially the ups and downs of their marriages. Kim even met with President Trump at the White House.

And as ridiculous as the Kardashian fervor has always been, it was, for a long time, exciting. More than that, it was sociologically and critically interesting; here was a family whose entire lives were a capitalist endeavor, their literal existence their primary product. Kim’s got Skims, Kylie’s got makeup and canned vodka spritzer lines, Kendall’s got tequila, and Khloé’s got ethically questionable spon-con. But what the Kardashian-Jenner clan had most of all was their propensity for contriving their bougie lives into soapy television masquerading as reality.

Viewers, critics, and sheepishly self-described “fans” have puzzled over their intrigue for years, often under the auspices of similarly headlined think pieces. In 2021, LA Mag researched an answer to “How the Kardashians Took Over the World.” “The sisters are a media company if it swallowed a makeup conglomerate, mated with a fashion line and birthed athleisure babies,” said the New York Times in 2019, referring to the family as the “Kardashian industrial complex.” Rolling Stone claimed that the Kardashian family were “the egos that ate America” back in 2014. And the resounding, shared sentiment: These ladies are inescapable.

Kim Kardashian, Kris Jenner, and Corey Gamble.

Kim Kardashian, Kris Jenner, and Corey Gamble.


Or they were. The tide in the Kardashian discourse (Kardashi-course?) started to turn not long after that LA Mag piece ran, as Keeping Up finally reached its denouement. An end to their fading show marked a turning point: These women were no longer commodities, and would have to focus on their own endeavors instead. Sounds easy, right? Based on the fact that they somehow already have five seasons of their Hulu sequel series in just three years, the answer seems to be “no.” And with The Kardashians premiering to instantly diminishing returns—in large part owed to the sisters’ own clear disinterest in continuing—the internet has declared again and again and again that the family is so over.

Here is one more proclamation, for the people in the back: The Kardashians are boring now.

Kylie Jenner and Timothée Chalamet.

Kylie Jenner and Timothée Chalamet during the 2023 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Sept. 10, 2023 in New York City.

Sarah Stier/Getty Images

It’s become especially obvious over the last year how much this once-gilded family’s shine has dimmed, even among those that excused the irony of their popularity in the first place. (Can any of these people even, like, play an instrument? A sport? Draw? What talents do they have other than business acumen?) Take Kylie, for instance: Sales of Kylie Cosmetics, which controversially earned the youngest Jenner a spot on the Forbes Billionaires List, have declined year-over-year since their highs in the late 2010s. Her attempt at broadening out into swimwear was phased out after leaving nary a mark, and Khy, her recently launched fashion brand, is similarly unimpressive. If anything, the 26 year old is best known right now for her relationship with Timothée Chalamet, which has generated more backlash than I care to link to.

You’ve Been Watching ‘The Kardashians’ Wrong This Whole Time

Khloé’s inclusive clothing line Good American, whose jeans I’ve heard are very good, is doing well for itself. (Cosmo says she’s making an “absurd amount of money,” in fact.) But while she was often heralded as the most fun of the bunch, the issues within her relationship with Tristan Thompson have understandably zapped her of much of her humor, at least on screen. Meanwhile, Kourtney, whose dynamic with Khloé provided a lot of Keeping Up’s energy, is focusing on her new marriage to Travis Barker and stepping away from the limelight. A contributing factor to her diminished presence in the Kardashian family’s public sphere was also a dramatic moment from Season 4, perhaps the only one to generate any news. Kim and Kourtney got into an explosive fight in which Kim effectively told Kourtney that no one liked her. That doesn’t exactly inspire one to stick around, especially when she has a new baby and husband to attend to.

Scott Disick and Khloé Kardashian.

Scott Disick and Khloé Kardashian.


Meanwhile, Kendall’s tequila brand is performing well. But Kendall will hardly save the family from falling into irrelevancy. She is exceedingly boring, the most exciting thing about her being her on-again, off-again relationship with Bad Bunny. (This take has transcended the subjective into fact; in The KardashiansSeason 5 premiere, Kendall literally refers to herself as “the most boring sister.”)

Kim, however, is an interesting case—relatively speaking, of course, for none of them is particularly interesting. Skims, her shapewear company, is successful, and Kim continues to make the requisite random public appearances. Why was she at Netflix’s Tom Brady roast earlier this month? What was she giving a talk about at a conference in Germany? Unclear on both ends, but she took a big L on the former. Kim was booed heavily at the roast before she even started, a moment that the family reportedly pressured Netflix, which hosted the event live, to remove from its recording several days later. It’s spoilsport behavior that makes you look insecure, a bad look for someone who once “broke the internet.”

Kim Kardashian speaks during the Tom Brady roast.

Kim Kardashian speaks onstage during The Greatest Roast Of All Time: Tom Brady for the Netflix is a Joke Festival at The Kia Forum on May 5, 2024 in Inglewood, California.

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Netflix

Following that event up with a strange outfit at this year’s Met Gala, compounded by an ill-advised dye job, did Kim no further favors. She also allegedly gave up on her much-mocked dreams of becoming a lawyer, which generated a bit of buzz. But even if we mostly talked about her haute couture cardi and bad LSAT scores to mock them, at least we were talking about them, right? Therein lies the power of Kim.

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But we used to talk about Kim for other, frankly more engrossing reasons. A bad outfit and minor comedy show controversy just doesn’t compare to Kim’s whirlwind love affair with Pete Davidson, for example. That gossip page-ready relationship began when she hosted Saturday Night Live in October 2021. Some of her sketches, by the way, still rank among the show’s most-viewed on YouTube—something that I just don’t think would happen today, were she to somehow be asked to host again. Just as Pete’s love life was all the rage in 2021, so was that of the newly divorced Kim. A large part of that was due to, yes, the fresh break-up, especially since her ex-husband is the combustible and outrageous Kanye “Ye” West. No one should wish to return to the days of Ye’s antisemitic rants, horrible comments about Kim’s parenting, and “Skete” jokes. But they certainly kept Kim and the rest of the Kardashians as the kind of pop culture figures that we have always expected them to be.

Perhaps the family’s more muted public presence is intentional. Just as they once made efforts to be hyper-present, maybe they no longer want their personal lives held up to such extreme scrutiny. They could be perfectly content with their uncontroversial, unassailable level of ubiquity, the kind that involves only showing up to places where they are paid to show up.

Even if that’s not the case: If the family’s relative silence, stability, and/or forgettable drama means the Kardashians are flopping, is flopping really such a bad thing? It’s not like their bottom line is really hurting, even if their personal brands aren’t as ubiquitous as they once were. And, ultimately, they probably won’t ever go away. It’s hard to imagine, though, that we’ll ever be analyzing the Kardashian’s cultural power in the same way as we once so breathlessly did. But we’ll certainly keep decrying their dullness for as long as they continue to be dull—and that very well could be forever.

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