Earlier this year, I had the idea of re-appropriating Easter as “Yeezter” (copyright pending). It makes total sense. During Easter, we celebrate the miracle of an all-around good dude achieving a physical impossibility (allegedly) by overeating chocolate and participating in a socially-mandated lie about a giant bunny. All so that we can… hide some eggs? (I’m not a parent). It’s a consumerist tiding-over until the hellscape that is Christmas shopping. Since Jesus probably wouldn’t approve of the mass-marketing done in his name, I reckoned Kanye would be the perfect figurehead.
Kanye might be an arrogant iconoclast-in-waiting, but he’s self-aware. What’s more, he grapples with his conceit, perpetually stuck in a love-hate relationship with his own image. Kanye wants to believe his hype, but writes catalogues of music that detail his frustration at his inability to be truly great, and in this concession, we find his real genius. Yeezy is brash. Yeezy is cocky. Yeezy watches himself in the mirror while he eats breakfast, pondering the origins of his crippling self-doubt and wondering if his ego is the media equivalent of a Frankenstein’s monster (allegedly). No one better symbolises simultaneous pleasure and self-loathing. In between the megalomania that we love to hate is the reflexive self-checking, the social anxiety, the fear of failure, and in these things, we see ourselves.
If that’s true, why do we hate him with a level of ire usually reserved for serial killers? His wife, Kim (you know the one), recently topped a poll as the most hated celebrity of the year. Yeezy doesn’t need a poll to tell him the public is not on his side, and neither do we. We implicitly know to hate him. Is it his star status? As far as scumbag celebrities go, Yeezy is a non-runner. He’s never tied his superstar fiancé to a chair and abused her for hours (look it up), or carried out the systemic abuse of numerous impoverished underage girls (look it up), or performed sex-acts on dozens of unconscious women (you should already know this one). Unlike the aforementioned scumbags, Kanye has never pretended to be a great humanitarian or a beloved pillar of the community. Kanye might be cooler-than-thou, but he’s certainly never pretended to be holier-than-thou. Yet collectively, we put more energy into despising him than we do at engaging in a meaningful dialogue about infidelity-shaming and the sanctity of privacy (oh hello, Ashley Madison debacle). To illustrate my point, here’s a list of people/things the average person demonstratively hates less than Kanye but probably shouldn’t:
- Global Warming
- Donald Trump
- Revenge porn sites and whoever runs them
- Puppy mills
- The globalisation of overpriced coffee
- The celebrity-phone-sex-crime hackers
- Most of the programming on MTV/TLC
- Bad high school Sex-Ed programmes
For all his bravado, Kanye admits his flaws. When he stormed Taylor Swift’s VMA stage, he spent the following year in an isolation punctuated only by apology appearances on morning talk shows. When he returned, he gifted us with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, a magnum opus about failure, corruption, and magnificent redemption. More importantly, Kanye is brave. In the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, the world has accepted the mismanagement of the Bush administration and the many, many lives it cost. Back in ’05—a mere four years after 9/11—it was career suicide to run afoul of Patriotic America (just ask the Dixie Chicks). That didn’t deter Yeezy. In a precursor to the frustration that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement (see “the internet” for more details), a clearly-anguished Kanye looked down the barrel of a live-streaming camera and declared, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”. Kanye had just released his second album. To middle America, he was a barely-somebody, just another rapper to fill out the audience at BET award shows. Risking his livelihood to deliver a heartfelt critique of the portrayal of African American Katrina victims was a risky move, but his final words to the nation before the network cut him off—“they’ve given [the cops] permission to go down and shoot us!”—would prove to be prophetic. He was one of the first mainstream rappers to come out in favour of LGBT rights, and post-Yeezy juggernaut he used his fame to urge acceptance of transpeople. That’s the third social frontier he’s repped, in the knowledge that at best, he’s earned the shrug of the everyman, and at worst, he’s once more put himself in the crosshairs of trolls.
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Our treatment of Kanye illustrates larger issues about culturally sanctioned hatred. We rag on Yeezy because it’s easy, and while he certainly ain’t paying us no mind (if Kim’s Instagram feed is to be believed), we’re the ones who ultimately end up losing. We should challenge the structures of belief that we frequently draw on to judge who deserves what level of bile, and while we’re at it, borrow a little of that Kanye-confidence to temper the anxiety we all collectively share. In the meantime, start saving those pennies—LudaChristmas isn’t far away.
Fairooz Samy is a post-grad in SEFTMS. She is the friend who bores you with her vast pop culture knowledge and tendency to intellectualise Nicki Minaj videos.