Kanye West, The Celebrity Disease, and Crossing the Line
By Pablo Covarrubias
I saw Kanye West in concert during his Life of Pablo tour back in 2016. His work, performance, and energy were emotionally invigorating; I felt myself floating to the sky as the reverberating live choir on Ultralight Beam transcended my soul and heart into another plane of blissful, tearful existence as poetry pondering faith, emotion, and devotion filled the arena.
That memory is now dead to me.
For far too long, Kanye West and celebrity culture has stepped over the line, with society allowing individuals to become drunk on their ego and lash out. This often comes with devastating consequences being inflicted upon groups of people, who are commonly underprivileged. Society has built up a repulsive palace, paralleling Pandemonium from Paradise Lost, a structure of individuals where actions and words are treated as inconsequential, and outbursts are quickly covered up by money, fear, and mob culture.
While analyzing Kanye’s recent jabs and anti-Semitism is important, further discussing his wrong doings would only echo his hatred. Instead, an analysis for what creates such unhinged and monstrous behavior is needed, specifically the putrid plague that is the celebrity disease and surrounding culture.
Modern society has created a horrendous cornucopia of consumption and toxic reverence for those who hold a significant social position in the entertainment industry. The idolization received by those individuals creates an alienating pedestal; a bubble that often twists and skews those who hold such a potent social power and influence, often causing them to lash out, hurt others, and say words that should never be said. Kanye West has not been the first individual to act in such a way as a result of his power and influence, and he most certainly will not be the last.
While analyzing Kanye’s recent jabs and anti-Semitism is important, further discussing clearly wrong actions would only further echo his hatred. Instead, an analysis for what creates such unhinged and monstrous behavior is needed, specifically the putrid plague that is the celebrity disease and surrounding culture.
The belief of “the artist and their art are separate” is a pathetic excuse and self-gaslighting for the sake of consumption. The number of times I have overheard people say, “The dropped Graduation though!” as another excuse for an outburst is not only horrifying but infuriating. An artist’s work does not give them license to commit acts of hatred, regardless of their state of mind.
As the Information Age allows communities to gain constant access to current events and people, a window is opened above those who hold a certain cultural, artistic, and social weight in different areas of society. Such a window not only creates a mental and emotional strain on those it hovers over, but is also made of an intangible glass that skews and warps the perception of the observers looking in. As people follow the lives of their favorite celebrities and influencers, they only receive the highlights: the best snippets, the segments and samples that highlight only the “perfect” and “clean” parts of their lives. As people consume this media, a false idea of a celebrity is built up, often leading to herd mentality and mob culture.
West’s fanbase is the poster child for such a mob culture. Time and time again, West’s actions have not only been completely ignored, but at times justified and even defended by those who consider themselves his die-hard supporters. From fans fawning over West’s mistreatment of those who work under him while releasing Donda, to even his recent anti-Semitic attacks on Twitter and interviews, many of those who support him have believed the image they received through the twisted window they view Kanye West through.
Kanye West suffers from mental health issues, and American society’s treatment and behavior towards him has clearly worsened his struggle, and one can only guess what the people closest to him are doing to further worsen his behavior.
For far too long, society has continuously pushed the rhetoric of ignoring celebrity outbursts and behavior, even sometimes going as far as idolizing it. Society has passively pushed horrific behavior for the sake of keeping individuals on an intangible pedestal. Instead of ignoring or cancelling a celebrity, support the communities who their hurtful words are targeting in the first place.
Stop idolizing individuals who are not aware of your existence.