Leave it to The Kardashians, the fledgling revamp that shirked the “Keeping Up” part of the definitive 20 season E! series, to still find new things to be about. When the series debuted on Hulu name change was fitting: when the entire world is constantly keeping up with the family, there’s no real point in siloing a space for that. But as the Kardashian universe expands—at times, reshaping popular culture in its own image—the series is faced with frying up much bigger, weightier fish than Saturday Night Live hosting slots or Met Gala preparations.
Fish in point: Kanye West, a star so consequential he almost (almost!) manages to bend the Kardashian orbit to his whim. In a new trailer for season 3 of The Kardashians, West looms so large his absence hangs in the air. Even Kim Kardashian’s siblings don’t know how to address him; Kendall Jenner avoids doing so altogether, referring to Kanye only as Kim’s “ex-husband” (the couple’s divorce was finalized in November 2022). The last time The Kardashians aired, as an offscreen producer points out, that husband wasn’t yet an (official) ex, and also hadn’t yet swan-dived into pro-Hitler rhetoric, questionably alternative schooling, and eventually, off the map altogether.
“He has made up the most insane narrative,” Kim tells Kris Jenner in one of the brief clips of the trailer where she addresses West. “We stay silent through all the lies.”
Although Kim hasn’t stayed completely silent on Kanye over the past few months— she condemned hate speech after Kanye tweeted that he wanted to go “death con 3" on the Jewish community, and has addressed his tirades against her social media presence before—she’s not wrong in noting the limited ways in which she’s addressed Kanye’s behavior. When the heir apparent of the definitive famous family of my generation—true American royals forged in the fire of the mid-2000s tabloid news cycle and sepia-toned sex tapes, for whom the limit to the trend cycle doesn’t exist—doesn’t have an on-camera plan of attack, something shifts. The Kardashians’ audience no longer tunes in to keep up with the family; instead, the allure of a third season is all about keeping up with what they haven’t caught up to, reckoning the narrative we have with the one we’re eager to see crafted before our eyes.
From the moment Kim and Kanye hopped on that “Bound 2" bike together, few celebrity couples have generated attention on such a massive scale and left the divide between who is the more famous one and who is the less famous, who is the driver and who is the passenger, more indistinguishable. Now, with Kanye largely silent, the onus falls on Kim to find out: what does reckoning with the ills of the spotlight (fame, wealth, power, etc.) look like, when you’ve rarely spent a moment outside of it?
Sure, West’s unapologetic foray into blatant bigotry can’t be blamed on the breathless media coverage of his statements (and statements like his), but that didn’t exactly help. Nobody can speak to the experience of constant surveillance quite like Kim, but it also leaves her uniquely unfit to tell a story of her marriage and its dissolution unencumbered by the content it begot, the news dailies and Instagram posts and TikTok theories and blurry paparazzi photos. Kim certainly doesn’t owe audiences a deeper mining of her relationship, but even if she did, how much left would there be to offer? Sometimes, what you see really is what you get.