Anne T. Donahue: One Year Post-#KimExposedTaylorParty, Is Kim Kardashian Still Relevant?

A lot can change in a year‚ including our definition of relevancy. It might seem like KKW has lost hers, but the truth is she’s playing right along

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Kim Kardashian with her head down, wearing athleisure

(Photo: Getty)

This week marked one year since Kim Kardashian West released the proof that Taylor Swift knew more about Kanye West’s “Famous” than she’d originally let on. Specifically, Kim proved that Taylor had heard the “Famous” lyrics in advance—in which West calls her a bitch and suggests “they might still have sex”—and had been OK with them, despite her perpetual stance as a victim of the rapper’s witticisms.

So what a beautiful day that was. Because on top of Kim K throwing additional shade on Twitter, Swift managed to offer only a weak rebuttal in which she’d stated that she wanted to be “excluded from the narrative,” and had never asked to be a part of Kanye’s story to begin with. (Despite consistently weaving herself into it.) In fact, Kim’s revelation also marked a shift in Taylor’s public persona, since the “Shake It Off” singer went largely AWOL afterward. Even right now—one year post-#KimExposedTaylorParty—Swift has only really been in the news for her absence, and the biggest story about her at the moment is whether she was actually carried out of her apartment in a large suitcase.

But Kardashian West’s own trajectory also veered wildly in the weeks following the revelation. In October of last year, she was robbed at gunpoint in Paris and understandably stayed under the radar in the aftermath. She returned to TV in January before going on to release her own makeup line this summer, but even her social media presence has been less focused on her own commentary than on self- and brand-promotion. Which is understandable (she’s promoting her kids’ line, makeup line and app), but it simultaneously reflects the way Kim has removed a part of herself from our gaze.

A lot can happen in a year. In the wake of Kim’s Taylor-themed tea party, the specifics of Taylor’s language and whether or not she consented to certain lyrical content was as debated as the anomaly of Kardashian West herself. At the time, KKW was still polarizing, hotly-debated and all-encompassing. We talked about her selfies, her brand of feminism, her politics and her sense of fashion pretty much on the daily, while her red carpet presence usually sparked enough commentary to cement her cultural legitimacy for another few days. So her recent absence from the pop culture narrative is even more noteworthy than Swift’s. Especially since Kim’s brand has heavily relied on her consistent presence.

Which isn’t to say it isn’t understandable. Nobody here is about to dictate the appropriate type of social media presence following a trauma. In fact, it would be alarming to see her return to life as it was pre-robbery; to pretend that it didn’t happen or that she hadn’t evolved as a result. Most of us tend to change after the smallest of events—what Kim went through in Paris is unfathomable. And as a result, she’s made a choice.

Kim Kardashian West has always been a businesswoman. But following the robbery, she’s begun to prioritize her business endeavours even more while also very publicly focusing on her family. We talk about North and Saint and the clothing line they inspired, but we do not talk about Kim’s own style, her selfies or the outspokenness we equated with who she was before. Her last foray into first-person relevance was to out Taylor Swift’s hypocrisy—and even that laid the groundwork for who she’s since become.

It’s easy to forget that Kim’s now-infamous Snapchat was a move meant to defend her husband. Kim may have been the one to rifle through and find receipts, but her actions were not a way to ruin Taylor Swift’s life. Instead, they were an attempt to stop the rhetoric being spewed by Taylor at the expense of Kanye West. Kim’s focus on her family—and on the empire they’ve built—has never been a secret. And while Kim’s focus has seemed to shift from herself to the bigger picture, this was also where it was always heading.

Since July 2016, a lot has changed. And because of those changes, we’re quick to assume that Kardashian’s last true foray into pop culture relevance was to expose Taylor Swift’s own narrative.  But that isn’t true: we’ve just shifted our priorities as cultural consumers.

Last year, we were less entrenched in American politics, which has drastically changed the way we consume and talk about culture. As a result, Kim’s relevance isn’t actually what’s  shifted; instead, it’s our own definition of  what “relevance” even means. Where the end of Obama’s term was marked by increasing anxiety (a year ago this week, Trump was appointed head of the GOP), there was also still room to debate celebrity antics. The political climate we know now had been simmering, but it wasn’t until November 8 did it boil over.

So this means that by the time a new season of Keeping Up With the Kardashians premiered last winter, details of Kim’s robbery or any other familial dynamics paled in comparison to the travel ban or Trump’s war on women’s health. Since November 8, celebrity culture has become less the cornerstone of our conversations and more of a break from them. We still have the bandwidth to note Kim’s foray into children’s wear and newly-released makeup line, but “relevance” is now reserved for cultural news outside the realm of self-marketing one’s contour line. And, unsurprisingly, the ever-savvy KKW seems to have caught on. Which explains that while we celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Taylor tea party, Kim kept to herself.

More from Anne:
Anne T. Donahue on why Céline Dion is the Patron Saint of Late Bloomers
Anne T. Donahue on What We’re Really Saying When We Say Jonah Hill Looks Good
Anne T. Donahue on Miley Cyrus and the Erasure of Self

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