A Media Studies Approach to Examine the Impact of the Kardashians on Modern Society

A Media Studies Approach to Examine the Impact of the Kardashians on Modern Society

March 22, 2019 0 By Patsornlanan Sorkhay

How do social media and trends shape and change people lifestyles? Nowadays, social media are gaining a lot of attention as millions of users use it as a tool to communicate, share and exchange information and ideas. The number of friends and followers on each social media platforms indicate the user’s popularity, making their platforms become a powerful tool to the extent that their actions create a trend. A good method to illustrate how social media and trends influence people lifestyles is via examining the Kardashian family from different media theories (Postmodernism theory, Hyperreality theory, Hypodermic Needle theory, Reception theory, Gratification theory). (Further reading on how people use social media and trends as a tool to do businesses click here).

The Kardashian family is the most famous hollywood family with a reality TV show called, “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”. The show mainly focuses on the five sisters which are Kourtney Kardashian, Kim Kardashian, Khloe Kardashian and their half sisters Kendall and Kylie Jenner. It also features their parents Kris and Caitlyn Jenner, and their brother Rob Kardashian. Moreover, each Kardashian-Jenner sisters has million followers on their social media accounts, allowing them to have big influences toward the society. For instance, Kim changed the point of view of an ideal body image with her well-known curvy body. Making an hourglass body and big bottom become a trend. Hardcore fans of Kim start exercising or undertaking plastic surgery such as implanting silicon into their bottom. This scenario relates to the concept of Postmodernism. In general, the mass media and popular culture are the driving forces that guide the society and how people interact with their environment. In the case of Kim, the trend of big bottom causes people to strive for a particular body image because it represents beauty in contemporary society. Furthermore, it is worthwhile to note that this trend only emerges because the Kardashians’ media empire platforms are potent enough to influence the overall society. (For further reading on how Postmodernism theory can be related in business click here).


The Kardashian fans are addicted to “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” because the show provides them with opportunities to connect with the Kardashians up close. The show also provides fans with insight drama, personal conversations between the family and the highs and lows of being in the limelight of each members. Through the show, they learn the characteristics of each sisters and their different lifestyles such as, the way Kim likes to throw over the top party for every occasions, Kourtney only eats gluten free, Khloe always wear gloves while driving and Kendall and Kylie are obsessed with cars. Many fans try their best to follow the lifestyles of these sisters and choose the one that they like the most and are best fitted for them. These informations make the fans feel involved as if they are a part of the family. This create a Hyperreality in which the fans believe that they know every aspect of the Kardashian family’s lives even though they have never met or know them personally. Moreover, there are high possibilities of how the show portrays each members or events can be scripted or twisted from the truth to make it more interesting. Additionally, watching multiple episodes of the show make the fans become deeply integrated in the Kardashian’s daily lives and causes them to be incapable of distinguishing between physical reality and virtual reality. (For further reading on how Hyperreality theory can be related in business click here).


The Kardashian family has over millions of followers each on their individual social media accounts. They have a lot of fan clubs who are very obsessed with them and want to know their every moves. By following their social media account, the audience is constantly being rewarded with additional information about them and is involved with multiple media and interactive posts. The audience therefore stays constantly alert and informed, while being consumed with the five Kardashian-Jenner sisters as idols, wanting to imitate their lifestyle and purchase the brands and products that make their lifestyle admirable. They start posting picture of themselves using and reviewing the products that Kardashian-Jenner sisters used and the lifestyles they recreated. Some of them create Youtube tutorial videos on how to do makeup like the Kardashian-Jenner sisters and even review Kylie Cosmetic products on their channel. This resulting to Kylie being able to sold out her lip kits in 30 seconds and people everywhere are enraged as they were not able to bought it. They all want to own Kylie’s lip kit because it makes them look cool and in trend. These actions show that the audience are active rather than passive because they are always engaging with the media content such as becoming content producers. Furthermore, the audience also contribute to the successfulness of the Kardashians through influencing and directing the society’s attention to each members of the Kardashian.

Through their reality TV the fans also perceive the family insight words. They start learning the meaning behind each frequent words used in which only the family understand such as, “Bible” meaning I swear, “Sus” is short for suspect, “OKURR” meaning okay and “Momanger” is mom and manager combine together that they created for their mom, Kris. The words become well-known and trendy after the fans start using it in their daily conversation because they want to be a part of the Kardashian family. However, even a coin have two sides, the same goes for the Kardashians followers; there are both people who love and hate them. Their haters would think that using these words will make them look shallow and uncool. While some audience believe that using these words will make them look modern and fashionable. The last group of audience are the people that have negotiated feelings. They do not hate or love these words and they accept every perspective. These types of people can be categorised using the Reception theory of encoding and decoding. How the Kardashians create the insight words and use it in the show is a way of encoding and delivering messages to the audience. The process of decoding begins after the audience receive these messages. Furthermore, the audience start to interpret or ‘decode’ the messages and take on different roles. The fans that love and approve of these insight words take on a dominant position. The haters that condemn these words are the oppositional readers. Lastly, the people that neither hate nor love these words but are willing to understand the perspectives of both groups are the negotiated readers.

There are fifteen seasons of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” all together from the year 2007 till now, indicating that its popularity never fade. Audience are obsessed with dramas and lifestyles the show portray. The way they spend money on luxury things without giving much thoughts about it. For example, the 2018 Christmas party at Kim and Kanye West’s home which according to the Daily Mail cost more than $500,000 dollars. They covered their entire yard with real snow for sledding and a candy bar station with all different desserts. Many people feel that it is very entertaining to watch because the Kardashians are very serious and competitive about who throw the best party, especially Kris and Kim. This become a thing that the Kardashian fans will look forwards to every year in every festive occasions. Somehow the show fulfilled their psychological needs and this is called the Gratification theory. One of the reasons that people watch their show is for entertainment purposes and to escape from their daily problems. They might also use the Kardashian lifestyles to reinforce their life goals and achievements in which shape their identity. After watching the show, many people dream of having the Kardashians’ extravagant lifestyle and even wish to be like them. They start comparing their life with the Kardashians and feel that they want to do better. Lastly, people can use the Kardashian show as a topic of discussion and help them form new social relationships which enhance their sense of belonging in a society. (For further reading on how Gratification theory can be related in business click here).

In the final analysis, social media are powerful tools that have big impact on people lifestyles in many different ways how people use it as a business implement. It shape and change how each individuals view themselves and the world around them. Through the Kardashian family it is clear that that by governing the media, everything they do and every steps they take become a trend that people choose to follow. Postmodernism theory show how social media and popular culture are the factors that drive and guide how people in the society interact with their environment. Hyperreality theory give us the downside of how social media make people incapable of distinguishing between physical reality and virtual reality when consume continually. The Hypodermic Needle theory also show how social media causes people to believe in everything they portray to be true even when its actually not. Reception theory portrays how social media encode and deliver message to audience and how people decode and perceive the messages and take on different roles; dominant, optional, and negotiated readers. Gratification theory indicates the factors of how people use social media to satisfy their psychological needs such as, to escape from their reality, to create their identity and to form social relationships to enhance their sense of belonging. By applying these media theories it give us a clear picture of how media and trends change and shape people lifestyles.

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