EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a piece written by assistant features editor, Juno Von Palko, and perspectives editor, Kamea Ferguson, respectively.
It is a feud that has been happening for the better part of a decade. All of it started at Radio City Music Hall at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. Taylor Swift accepts the award for Best Female Music Video and a drunken Kanye West stumbles on stage, grabs the microphone and proceeds to say, “Beyoncé had one of the best music videos of all time!” It was the quote heard ’round the world.
We need to get something straight right now: the popular discourse surrounding the Swift/Kimye drama is not what we should be discussing.
This is not about the politics of gender versus the politics of race. Both Kanye West and Taylor Swift have dealt with their share of unfair criticism in the past, a lot of which was fueled by misogyny towards Taylor and antiblack racism towards Kanye. But both are in substantially greater positions of power when compared to other artists who deal with similar discrimination. Their minority statuses do not justify their past actions. Two wealthy singers can handle being criticized, so acting like they cannot is laughable.
This is not about the misguided crowd mentality that comes with public shaming. Taylor and Kanye do not deserve to be painted as martyrs being targeted by “cancel culture.” Anytime they have been “cancelled” over something, their rabid fans immediately come to their defense and attack anyone who has valid points against their precious faves. Neither have succeeded in defeating cancel culture; they just let their supporters shift the dogpiling onto someone else.
What we should be discussing in light of media outlets rekindling the drama is how celebrities have often proven themselves to be useless as a result of the oligarchy they live in.
To quote the legendary Kourtney Kardashian: “Kim, there are people dying!” COVID-19, Coronavirus, Miss Rona, The Rona, whatever you wish to call it, is taking lives every single day. The United States has the most cases of any other country, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Governors from every state are either implanting curfews or telling residents to stay in their homes altogether unless it is for something truly essential. (And yes, alcohol is an essential). There is no amount of singing on Zoom with a handful of other celebrities or arguing on Twitter to take away from the fact that we are living in a global pandemic.
Gal Gadot, along with a cavalcade of other celebrity singers and actors, did a sing-along of John Lennon’s “Imagine” on social media. It was intended to spread hope and positivity amongst those living in fear as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
And it was one of the most disingenuous “pat yourself on the back, you did a good thing in the public eye” contributions ever.
Did they even understand the point of the song? “Imagine” came out at the height of the Vietnam War, a war many were opposed to. John Lennon’s intent was to challenge the apathy of the younger generation at the time and inspire a “call to arms.” How is this supposed to be a similar call to arms amidst a pandemic? It is as though the people behind this took the phrase “put your political message across with a little honey,” and they just submerged their good intentions in a honey jar.
Celebrities are in a position of power due to their wealth and status. They can use their platforms to truly call attention to serious current events and political negligence in our world, as well as donate millions of dollars to charities and organizations that can aid us in these trying times.
But this is what we get instead: an emotionally manipulative attempt to tug at our heartstrings. All of this is happening during a time when the coronavirus has infected more than a million people worldwide, and our current administration has done an absolutely lackadaisical job at containing the spread of the virus.
How does this tie back to a petty feud that has been going on for over a decade? Because when we congratulate celebrities for doing the bare minimum, when we glorify their inane controversies and personal lives, when we essentially celebrate mediocrity, we are enabling the continuation of the general public neglecting real world issues in favor of investing in someone’s fabricated reality.
Kim Kardashian-West and Taylor Swift should be opening up those wallets of theirs and donating to the cause. They should be helping the homeless, who are lying their heads on benches or worse, laying their heads down on the asphalt of a parking lot, find a bed to lay their heads at night. They should be helping the hundreds of thousands of grocery store employees who are pulling shift after shift because customers are cleaning the store out any chance they get. THAT is what they should be doing.
We are the ones that made that “bitch” famous. We are responsible for giving Kim Kardashian-West more clout right before turning around and complaining about the Jenner/Kardashian clan having too much clout. We generated enough of a stir to inspire Taylor’s tired “diss” album.
All of the things that seemingly gives credence to Taylor Swift being a snake or Kanye and Kim being rats began with giving them attention, praise or criticism over something that ultimately meant nothing in the end.
Snakes eat rats, you say? Well, snakes can poison us, and rats can infect us. Decide for yourself whether or not you want to let that spread, too.