- Sarah Muhlbaum
Kris Jenner: a Machiavellian Icon
I’ve recently become obsessed with “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” the hit reality T.V. series documenting the lives of the rich and famous Kardashian/Jenner clan. The show is often condemned for its depiction of the spoiled, “talentless” stars. Indeed, Kylie and Tyga may not be the 21st century Sartre and de Beauvoir, and Khloé’s snapchat stories are far away from the diaries of Franz Kafka. However, Kris Jenner, the family matriarch or “momager” of the Kardashians, is a brilliant strategist and an exemplary Machiavellian* leader.
Kris Jenner built a business empire on nothing. Of course, she had money and connections, yet her success and the success of her family are founded on no talent, noble ideas, or special abilities whatsoever. Kris capitalized upon the shallowness of the modern society. She preys upon the very nature of the free market, where fiscal success of a product counts more than its moral worth. The Kardashians provide nothing to benefit the life of the American people. On the contrary, they distract us from worthier pursuits, turning our attention from Jeremy Bentham to Jordyn Woods. Kris realized she could promote herself through the unfulfilled desire of the American people to worship something tangible yet unreachable. She must have asked, what better gods than her own family? They represent the pinnacle of the 21st century American dream—rich, vapid, attractive and fully engaged in family drama isolated from the outside world of chaos and confusion. Kris Jenner conquered the vast, treacherous wilderness of social media and reality T.V.—a feat comparable to that of Napoléon or Alexander.
Any Machiavellian leader worth his/her salt knows that manipulation is the fastest track to success. Kris Jenner poses no exception. She brilliantly manipulates both the press and her own family, ruthlessly pitting her inferiors against each other in grandiose schemes.
Take episode 10 of season 11, “Baby one More Time.” Kris cunningly tells Khloé and Kim that Kylie is her new favorite daughter because Kylie recently bought mama Kris a new toaster. Kim and Khloé, feeling rejected by their mother, compete to win back her love through lavish gifts. Yet Kylie later reveals to Kim and Khloé that she never bought Kris a toaster. The whole story was a scam Kris created to trick her own daughters into buying her new clothes.
Despite the rocky mother-daughter relationships, Kim and Khloé have no means of punishing their mother for her ruthless ploys because without Kris, they lose their fame, their show, and their momager. While her schemes against her own children are surely unpalatable, her manipulation of the media is of even greater scale, savagery and success. Some have even speculated that Kris orchestrated the most recent Kardashian drama, the Tristan Thompson cheating scandal. While I loathe to accuse Kris of this type of media manipulation without proper evidence, it would completely fit into her long history of lies, calculations and deceit in the name of bringing in even more attention to her family name.
So what is to be done? Do we boycott Kris and her trashy family? Do we try and get to the bottom of her schemes? I honestly believe that trying to answer these questions would be a futile attempt against the social flow. The Kardashians aren’t going away anytime soon, and there will always be people like them. I suggest, then, we turn on the T.V. and watch Kris manipulate her daughters and the rest of the world in all her botox glory.
*When I use the term Machiavellian, I mean in the sense of a realpolitik leader who uses cunning and amoral strategies to achieve one’s goals. The Machiavelli I speak of here is the Machiavelli of “The Prince,” not the Machiavelli of Discourses on Livy.