Mitford sisters

How the Mitford sisters and the Kardashians reflect their times

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The Mitford sisters were wealthy aristocrats from a quirky 20th century English family.

The Kardashian/Jenner sisters are wealthy American celebrities from a quirky 21st century American family.

Despite the gaps in time and geographical proximity, these two families define their times.

The Kardashians reflect an era defined by an insatiable quest for money, attention, and celebrity.

The Mitfords reflect an era defined by passionate political affiliations, longer attention spans, and dangerous, often deadly, escapades in war torn Europe.

The Mitford sisters were renowned for their witty conversations, unconventional personalities, and intellectual prowess. Fiercely independent and charismatic, they were writers and political activists who were prone to scandalous love affairs, family feuds, and Nazi sympathizing.

The Kardashian/Jenner sisters, on the other hand, are renowned not for their deep philosophical insights and sparkling badinage but more for their sex-tapes, a reality TV series ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians‘, product endorsements, supermodelling stints, lucrative business ventures, a bunch of famously libidinous boyfriends, and their father Bruce Jenner’s transition to Caitlyn Jenner.

What they do have in common is that the boys of both families–Thomas Mitford (killed during WW2) and Robert Kardashian–are overshadowed by their much more famous sisters.

The Mitford sisters vs the Kardashians

The Mitfords feuded among themselves as Western Europe blew itself apart. Unity and Diana Mitford socialised with Hitler and the inner Nazi circle. Jessica became a Communist and ran off to fight the Spanish fascists.

Nancy Mitford’s fictional story about an aristocratic English family, ‘Love in a Cold Climate,‘ was a thinly veiled expose of her siblings that caused a scandal when first published. It became a bestseller but it also drove the sisters apart.

Not to be outdone, Jessica Mitford wrote ‘The American Way of Death,’ an expose of the corrupt American funeral industry. The book caused a sensation and led to Congressional hearings and recommendations for change.

It’s clear the Mitfords were a collective creative powerhouse.

In contrast, the Kardashian/Jenner clan consumes rather than creates. They are materialists who sell products, promote vacuous lifestyles, and spend countless hours as brand ambassadors and Instagram influencers.

The more cerebral Mitford sisters are now all gone. The last sister, Deborah, died in 2014. Yet their legacy survives in books, political commentary. and acute social observations they shared in letters to one another.

What legacy, if any, will remain of the Kardashian/Jenner sisters? Makeup and perfume endorsements? Self-obsessed social media posts? Sleazy tabloid headlines? Sex tapes?

Historians will no doubt assume these artifacts and pastimes reflect what our era held dear.

And they’d be right.

Further reading

Read more celebrity stories in Beat Street. Available on Amazon

Author: Sue Bell
Sue Bell is an entertainment writer and author of Backpacked: A mostly true story, Beat Street and When Dreamworks came to Stanley.

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