‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’ Final Season Premiere Reveals Their Stunning COVID Hypocrisy
Reality-television’s first family spends the Season 20 premiere of their hit series complaining about COVID protocols—which they would soon flout in very public fashion.
This week, the season 20 premiere of Keeping Up with the Kardashians marks the beginning of the end of a cultural era. When the E! reality show premiered in 2007, Kardashian was far from the household name that it is today, with the family’s biggest claims to fame being Kim’s leaked sex tape and their father’s involvement in the O.J. Simpson murder trial. In the ensuing 14 years, the reality-TV stars, once described as being famous for being famous, have built an influential empire of makeup, shapewear, weight-loss teas, cultural appropriation, and hundreds of millions of social-media followers.
And yet, after spending over a decade in the spotlight with a film crew capturing their every move, the famous family does not seem to have learned anything about accountability. Or maybe they are just impervious to backlash, having faced a seemingly endless amount of it, from the Jordyn Woods drama to that Pepsi commercial. Most likely, they just don’t care. It’s safe to say that the astronomical fame of the Kardashian clan isn’t disappearing anytime soon, even once they’ve migrated to Hulu.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that Thursday night’s episode is littered with tone-deaf comments about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on their lives, rendered all the more hypocritical in the context of the Kardashians’ well-documented disregard for safety protocols over the past year.
“It’s been about four months since California has gone into lockdown, but restrictions are starting to lift,” Khloe explains at the beginning of the episode. “We normally go on a vacation in the summertime, but, due to COVID, we haven’t been able to do any of that.” Tired of being stuck on their various Calabasas compounds, the siblings decide to rent a massive mansion in Malibu for the summer. You know, just normal pandemic things.
That the family is missing out on their typical summer of jet-setting remains a consistent theme throughout the episode. “Honestly, we haven’t left our homes in months, and so to have some place that we can all go is really a game changer for us,” remarks Kim. “I mean, if we can’t go anywhere, this ain’t too shabby,” Kris Jenner says while touring the sprawling rental home.
Later, while standing next to the cliffside pool and looking out over a stunning, postcard-ready view of the Pacific Ocean, the KarJenner matriarch says, “If you really just use your imagination and squint a little bit, we’re on the French Riviera.”
None of this is to say that famous people have not been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it does not take a publicity genius to understand why saying you’d rather be on the French Riviera when you are standing in front of a $125 million Malibu estate is insensitive, to say the least. It also would maybe be easier (or not) to sympathize with the Kardashians’ plight had they not, mere months later, flaunted their tremendous privilege in the form of Kim’s 40th birthday trip to a “private island.”
In October, Kim shared photos from the celebration with her Twitter followers, writing, “After 2 weeks of multiple health screens and asking everyone to quarantine, I surprised my closest inner circle with a trip to a private island where we could pretend things were normal just for a brief moment in time.” She appeared to believe that acknowledging her privilege would sufficiently counteract the insensitivity of bragging about her vacation.
“We danced, rode bikes, swam near whales, kayaked, watched a movie on the beach and so much more,” she wrote in a follow-up tweet, “I realize that for most people, this is something that is so far out of reach right now, so in moments like these, I am humbly reminded of how privileged my life is.”
Unsurprisingly, the response was nothing short of outrage, with Twitter users vocally condemning the reality star and even turning her post into a meme. But the backlash did not stop the Kardashians from continuing to ignore public health advisories and treat the deadly virus as a minor inconvenience.
Not even a week after Kim’s birthday controversy, younger sister Kendall Jenner hosted a Halloween-themed birthday bash for at least 100 guests. Attendees were warned not to share photos or videos from the event on social media, indicating that Jenner understood on some level that what she was doing was wrong. Of course, word got out anyway. In one particularly sinister clip from the party, Jenner blows out birthday candles as a masked waiter holds the cake and tries to lean out of the way.
These condemnable examples of the Kardashians’ COVID carelessness seem at odds with the narrative they are trying to push in the new season premiere. Only halfway through the episode, though, this narrative starts to show its cracks. Ever the supportive momager, Kris throws Kim a party to celebrate her completion of the Baby Bar law exam.
“It’s really hard to celebrate the way we used to, but we’re keeping it tight,” Kris says. “Everyone’s been tested before they come to the house and we had masks made for Kim’s celebration, and I think we’re all set.”
The masks in question are printed with sayings like “I Hope She Passes,” and the wearing of them is loosely and inconsistently enforced. Guests wear them dangled from one ear or pulled down under their chins to talk. At one point, at least 15 people gather close together under a balloon arch to welcome the guest of honor (though they do keep their masks on properly for this part of the evening).
Later, hugs abound, and the kitschy custom masks are all but forgotten. Twenty seasons later, and the Kardashians are still the same controversial PR nightmare that people love to hate. Some things never change.