This time last year, we were living in a Kardashian world. Back in late April 2016 we were mere weeks away from Kim calling out Taylor for chronic victimization — and then calling her out again via Snapchat (#receipts). It was a beautiful time and a true gift, but it was fleeting. The autumn brought a robbery, the American election and a shift in values. Everything was terrible, and showed no signs of letting up.
And then Kim came back. Emerging post-trauma in time for Keeping Up With the Kardashians‘ season premiere, Kim lowkey re-invented herself, swapping out selfies for low-fi photos of she, Kanye and their adorable children, as if to distance herself from the persona she used to be.
Which is to be expected, particularly after a life-or-death situation. What Kim went through in Paris is the stuff of nightmares, so to critique her coping mechanisms is, well, ridiculous. Even if when she returned to the public eye, she seemed different. Kim was still out there, wearing cool clothes and occasionally hawking product on Instagram, but her 2017 self was in stark contrast to who she was in 2016. Last year seemed like a long time ago.
Ultimately because it was. As Kim took a step back in the wake of her robbery (and then following Kanye’s mental health crisis), America became a very different place. A president came into power who aimed to squash the rights of immigrants, refugees, the LGBTQ community, women and anybody who wasn’t rich, white and male. Our Twitter feeds became curated collections of news, petitions, government phone numbers and the type of dark humour typically reserved for funerals. (See: coping mechanisms.) And while celebrity news still played a part in our day-to-day, our relationship to celebrity culture was far from its 2016 version. Now, it seemed like a reprieve from the news, not a focus. If Kim had called Taylor Swift out last week, we’d have enjoyed it for a day before being reminded that no one has really ever heard Jared Kushner speak. Last year, we rode that wave for days.
So where do the Kardashians fit in now? Now, as we’re reminded daily that President 45 will happily jeopardize his country if it means getting a few thousand RTs on Twitter. Now, as North Korea and America inch closer to inciting a nuclear war. Now, as every day brings a new thing that is equal parts scary and infuriating and absolutely exhausting? How does the family who okayed Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi commercial come into play?
Well, they come into play by willingly embracing their new place on the second and third tiers of the news cycle. While Kim K did deliver a clapback after a few news outlets body shamed her this week, it didn’t dictate our Twitter feeds. And neither did Kylie Jenner’s dating life and neither did whatever it was that Kourtney did. Which isn’t to say the Kardashian-Jenner’s sun has set completely (the Kylie x Kim makeup collab sold out, so there’s clearly still a fanbase), but it does point to a transitioning placement. There is still room for Kardashian Kulture, but that’s all it gets — a bit of room; a part of a much, much bigger story that will likely eclipse whatever bathing suits so-and-so wore. Now, there’s too much to take in and think about and prioritize — so stories about Scott Disick and lip kits and Tyga just aren’t up there.
Which isn’t to say they can’t parlay who they are. But where the Kardashian-Jenners obviously tried to inject wokeness into their ethos via Kendall saving the world with a Pepsi, their change has to come in the form of something bigger and more important. It has to come from the acknowledgement of mistakes and the choice and promise to do better via hardline stances and support for organizations that serve the people the Kardashians have long profited from. It has to be an authentic move to give back or to use their profiles for purpose. There’s still room for Lumee cases and gif-able quotes, but in 2017 that can’t be it. Cool outfits are great, but nobody cares. Not when every day seems like a brick in the pathway to hell.
Then again, this week Kim tweeted in memorium of those lost in the Armenian genocide. And it’s a small gesture, yes. But it’s a gesture nonetheless.