The Kardashian family has captivated and polarized the public for over 15 years through their reality TV shows, social media presences, and larger-than-life personalities. Their lives play out as an open book – but a new three-part docuseries promises an unauthorized look behind the curtain.
House of Kardashian chronicles the rise of momager Kris and her daughters Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, Kendall and Kylie from relative obscurity to bonafide celebrity royalty and business moguls worth nearly $2 billion. It traces their origin story from Kris’ early marriages to the OJ Simpson trial that first put the family in the spotlight. It also covers Kim’s infamous sex tape, the launch of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and every scandal, romance, and controversy since.
Told primarily through interviews with peripheral friends, colleagues, relatives, and Caitlyn Jenner, the series attempts to peel back the glossy facade. It asks whether the Kardashians represent female empowerment or are symptoms of societal decay.
In this review, we’ll examine what fresh insights this docuseries brings to the table. Does it uncover any new revelations about a family who already lives so publicly? Or simply rehash familiar territory? Most importantly, is House of Kardashian a compelling watch even for those already exhausted by the Kardashian media machine?
Tracing the Ascent of an Empire
House of Kardashian chronicles the family’s meteoric rise from relative obscurity to the apex of celebrity culture over the course of three episodes. It structures this journey largely chronologically, dividing the narrative into three eras represented by matriarch Kris and daughters Kim and Kylie.
The first episode focuses on Kris, charting her trajectory from flight attendant to Beverly Hills socialite by marrying lawyer Robert Kardashian. It covers her affair leading to divorce, subsequent marriage to Olympian Bruce Jenner, and cutting her teeth as a Hollywood momager. This installment lays the foundation for the empire, detailing Kris’ relentless ambition and business savvy that would drive the family’s success.
Kim anchors episode two, which delves into the release of her infamous sex tape and the launch of Keeping Up with the Kardashians in 2007. This charts Kim’s quest for fame, the family’s initial foray into reality TV, and their first tastes of celebrity status. It’s a brisk, scandalous look at the crucial inflection point when the Kardashians captured widespread attention.
The final episode focuses on the family’s current era through the lens of Kylie and Kendall Jenner. It explores Kylie’s beauty empire, Caitlyn’s transition, and more recent controversies like Rob Kardashian’s revenge porn scandal. This brings the story up to the present day, cementing the family’s social media dominance and billion-dollar corporate juggernaut.
The series maintains a largely coherent central narrative despite tackling over 30 years of history. Yet it sometimes strays into exhaustive or repetitive territory for veteran Kardashian followers, belaboring familiar storylines like Kim’s short-lived marriage to Kris Humphries. Casual fans may better appreciate the comprehensive approach.
Ultimately, House of Kardashian effectively braces a sprawling, chaotic story with palpable focus and momentum. It captures the signpost moments in the Kardashian’s saga while retaining nuance and color. For those who haven’t already consumed countless hours of Kardashian content, it provides an illuminating crash course on this definitive pop culture force.
A Picture Paints a Thousand Filters
As a docuseries charting pop culture icons who grew up on camera, House of Kardashian makes liberal use of archival footage and imagery to visually tell its story. It features copious clips the Kardashians’ shows, interviews, social media posts and more that illustrate their calculated evolution into multi-platform personal brands.
The series incorporates behind-the-scenes and personal snapshots to underscore intimate family moments. These range from home videos of Kris and Bruce Jenner’s courtship to the sisters’ teenage years to Caitlyn’s gender transition. While audio interviews drive the narrative, these photographs and videos pick up the emotional slack at key moments.
That said, there is a somewhat haphazard quality to the visual content. Reality TV clips and tabloid images are spliced together with limited rhyme or reason beyond highlighting flashbulb controversies. For such visual figures, more aesthetic cohesion regarding archival materials may have better supported the central narrative.
Ultimately though, the breadth of imagery provokes an indelible sense of the Kardashians’ unprecedented ubiquity in modern life at all stages of their fame. Though overused at times, these visuals reinforce just how much the family has communed directly with the public across various mediums as they’ve imprinted themselves on the cultural consciousness. For better or worse, House of Kardashian serves as a panoramic time capsule of the Kardashians’ visual supremacy and skillful image curation across decades.
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Inner Circles and Outsider Accounts
House of Kardashian features interviews with an array of people connected personally and professionally to the family over the years. Most prominently, Caitlyn Jenner provides an insider perspective given her marriage to Kris, parenting roles, and continued ties. Her firsthand accounts trace the genesis of the dynasty from the Olympics to coming out.
Beyond Caitlyn, much of the commentary comes from former friends, associates, and employees like Kris’ pal Jennifer Baxter and Kim’s former friend Rachel Sterling. These estranged confidantes offer surprisingly candid criticism, vaulted by perceived betrayals. Their axes to grind make for salacious yet questionably reliable accounts about things like Kim’s sex tape being intentionally leaked.
Conversely, Kris’s friend Joe Francis of “Girls Gone Wild” infamy provides especially ugly misogynistic remarks about female body hair. But he corroboates others’ statements about orchestrating Kim’s sex tape as a springboard to fame.
Other interviewees like music producer Damon Thomas, who was married to Kim early on, provide more removed outsider perspectives. Their insights thoughtfully analyze the sociocultural climate that fueled the Kardashian phenomenon as not wholly self-created.
Ultimately the range of voices crafts a relatively balanced mosaic depiction. Close confidantes bring an unusually personal gaze that counters the family’s denial while still unpacking complexity. And more objective observers connect the dots regarding external factors that allowed their ascendance. This diversity of sources yields a surprising degree of journalistic candor for an unauthorized docuseries about a family who leaves few stones unturned. Audiences are left to decide where truth lies among the hearsay.
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Agents of Change or Avatars of Excess?
House of Kardashian probes whether the family represents feminism or faux-empowerment, role models or purveyors of unrealistic beauty standards. It asks if they’re savvy businesswomen or symptoms of societal decay. Ultimately, the docuseries resists definitive verdicts, instead arguing the Kardashians simultaneously encompass female empowerment and exploitation.
On one hand, Kris, Kim, and Kylie leveraged reality TV fame into unprecedented business success. Kris pioneered the “momager” prototype by steering her daughters’ careers. Kim parlayed visibility into beauty and fashion ventures now worth over $1 billion. Kylie became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire with her cosmetics company at 21.
From this lens, their empire epitomizes the American Dream and female self-determination. They democratized fame and success outside the guardrails of Hollywood nepotism or the pop music machine. And they brought conversations about beauty inclusivity, racial ambiguity, and transgender identity to mainstream consciousness.
Yet the series also implicates the Kardashians in perpetuating impossible beauty standards and over-sexualization given their extreme body modifications. Critics like Caitlyn’s friend Zoey Tur accuse them of “changing society for the worse” by valuing wealth and plastic lifestyles.
Ultimately House of Kardashian doesn’t render clear verdicts on the family but rather holds space for conflicting interpretations. It functions as a Rorschach test: either congratulating the Kardashians for breaking barriers or condemning their part in cultural decay depends on the viewer’s perspective.
In this balancing act, the docuseries largely succeeds in objectivity. It equally spotlights those decrying them as symbols of moral collapse and those awed by their business savvy. If anything, it leans heavier on the latter in tracing their step-by-step strategy.
By avoiding definitive judgments, House of Kardashian unpacks the family’s complexity. They’ve innovated business and culture but not without casualties. However one interprets their impact likely says more about the viewer than about the Kardashians themselves.
The Kardashian Effect
For over 15 years, the Kardashians have been a cultural force unlike any before them. House of Kardashian effectively chronicles their unprecedented influence across business, politics, beauty ideals, transgender visibility, and beyond. It examines the family’s complex duality as both feminist entrepreneurs and perpetrators of impossible beauty standards.
The series succeeds most in its rare insider access and candor from people with firsthand accounts of scandals and pivotal career moments. It also excels in maintainingvelocity despite spanning decades. Yet for diehard fans, it often repackages familiar territory about Kim’s rise to fame and Caitlyn’s transition without new revelations. Casual viewers may better appreciate the exhaustive approach as a Kardashian crash course.
Ultimately House of Kardashian is a worthwhile examination of the perfect storm that birthed this family’s domineering yet complicated clout. It unpacks as much nuance as a three-part series allows regarding a family best understood as neither wholly positive or negative in influence. And it serves as a cultural time capsule that future generations can examine to understand the singular phenomenon known simply as “the Kardashians.”
So whether you love them, loathe them, or land somewhere in between, House of Kardashian offers rare insight into the era-defining first family of the digital age. For that, it’s a compelling watch regardless of one’s existing perception of the Kardashians and their contested, unparalleled impact.
House of Kardashian
For all audiences, House of Kardashian proves itself an engrossing examination of America’s most notorious pop culture family. It balances an accessible, crash course framework for the uninitiated with insider insight that should still engage seasoned Kardashian followers. If it lacks revelatory risks, it recompenses in thoughtful, unvarnished analysis of their contested influence. Much like the Kardashians themselves, the docuseries soars most as an unapologetic time capsule of an empire with era-defining impact across business, politics, beauty ideals, transgender visibility and beyond - even amid justified detractors.
- Provides a comprehensive overview of the Kardashian family history and rise to fame for uninitiated viewers
- Includes rare insider interviews like Caitlyn Jenner and former friends speaking candidly
- Balanced in presenting different perspectives on the family's cultural impact
- Structured coherently despite spanning decades of history
- Expertly paced and edited, maintaining viewer interest
- Utilizes ample visuals like archival footage and photos for engaging storytelling
- Avoids definitive judgments, allowing viewers to come to own conclusions
- Could more deeply investigate ambiguities like Kim's sex tape controversy
- Lacks on-camera input from the core Kardashian family members
- Regular Kardashian viewers may find parts repetitive or lacking new information
- Some interview subjects like Joe Francis have serious credibility issues
- Narrative coherence falters occasionally when crossing between family members' stories
- Never fully reconciles whether the Kardashians represent female empowerment or exploitatio
- Doesn't further explore complexities around beauty standards, cultural appropriation allegations