… and just like that Rob K owns the Kardashian Klan social media storyline!
In a recent Vanity Fair article about the new season of Keeping Up With the Kardashians (KUWTK), Jamie McCarthy contends that the show currently functions to give a “heart” to the narrative the family creates in social media. McCarthy claims that the show provides dimension to the otherwise limited narrative conveyed through Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and the other platforms on which the family appears.
I tend to disagree. If anything the show is remarkably devoid of dimension. The scenes themselves have no particular structure. A *typical* Reality or narrative scene starts in one place, pivots and ends in another. Character A may be upset with Character B, talks to Character C about it and, as a result of that conversation decides to confront Character B. That’s what we call a three beat scene. On KUWTK, by contrast, the scenes are more like moments. To quote a close producer friend, “They are no beat scenes.”
Guess what else is a no beat scene? A selfie. If anything the show emulates the storytelling style of social media itself. The scenes play as a series of social media posts featuring moments with the vapid but entertaining Kardashian/Jenner ladies hazily connected by extremely over-illuminated (that is flattering) and under-illuminating (that is meaningless) interview bites. (I should mention that the Kardashian/Jenner youth actually have a reputation in the industry as being quite sweet. Mama Kris, not so much).
With KUWTK, to quote an editor pal, “Social media wags the show.” Whereas a show like Mob Wives generates stories that may then flow to social media, KUWTK narrative (such as it is) flows directly from social media postings by the cast as well as events covered in other media (like news reports, talk shows and radio appearances). This is perhaps not surprising given that it was a viral sex tape that got the Kardashian juggernaut rolling in the first place; regardless it is somewhat revolutionary.
Reality often abhors social media, and sometimes with good reason. You can’t maintain interest in a Competition Show that just premiered if eliminated cast members (shooting can start well before broadcast) are posting #AtLeastITried on Instagram. This is why eliminated Competition Reality cast members are often retained in an Eliminated Cast House, and are subject to the same no-cell phone, no computer, no unmonitored telephone calls that cast members still competing are subjected to for the period of the competition.
But increasingly the walls between social media and Reality (as with social media and everything else) are porous. KUWTK, like other social media savvy shows such as the various iterations of Love and Hip Hop, likely retains full-time staff to monitor their casts’ social media accounts. These folks not only police social media accounts and mark offending content, but also to mine feeds for potential storylines for the series.
This makes me wonder to what degree Production itself may be generating storylines on social media. Given that most cast members on a show like KUWTK probably don’t manage their own accounts anyway, is it such a big leap to assume that the people that do don’t work with Production to start crafting beefs in the twitterverse? And given that the story then stretches across platforms, thereby becoming more diffuse, whether more storytelling on Reality shows will resemble the kind of non-storytelling going on on KUWTK?
Finally, speaking of generating story on social media for KUWTK Rob Kardashian, of the sad sack Arthur George sock empire, has struck pay dirt with his relationship with soon to be Baby Mama and K Klan enemy Blac China. Their union has the potential to dominate the storyline for this season at least, if Kendall’s fury over her brother’s re-gifting an iPad she gave him to Blac Chyna is any indication of things to come. It seems that the family goat has finally gotten a clue. You go Rob. Get some!