What We’re Watching – Who’s To Blame For Kanye?
by Richard Cameron
What We’re Watching – Who’s To Blame For Kanye?
The question is, “Who’s to blame for Kanye.” The same question could be asked about who is to blame for Donald Trump or Steve Bannon or Marjorie Taylor Greene or fill in the blank, of really terrible people in the realm of celebrities, entertainment or politics.
But let’s start with Kanye. I’m not going to dignify his existence by referring to him by his alias, which, by the way, I prefer to pronounce as rhyming (no pun intended), with “meh”.
First and foremost, Kanye is directly to blame for himself – I’m not trying to suggest otherwise. There’s no point in rehashing all that has transpired the last few weeks – you’ve seen it and heard it. But missing from the mass media coverage of all the racism and anti-Semitism that has proceeded from West’s sewer pipe that doubles as a piehole, is an accounting, much less even a passing reference to who else collectively is responsible for his exalted station in the constellation of celebrity icons.
I won’t keep you in suspense. Kanye West’s actual indulgent and enabling parents are his followers. Media is cautious not to make that connection, because their audience does not want to be confronted with their role in the demented and reprehensible conduct of the personality they have propped up by purchasing the ephemera that is cranked out of the assembly line of worthless garbage – the sneaks, the dumb, overpriced apparel, the mind numbingly void of musical talent product, incorrectly classified as music.
If ever there were a commodity in the universe of entertainment that equates to the fabled Emperor with no clothing, it is West. There are scores of others as well, of course, but he has certainly parlayed worthlessness to unprecedented levels. He is sort of a culmination in 2022, of a procession of trash culture.
Without getting too far afield, it has to be noted that Hip Hop producers, for the most part and certainly in Kanye’s case, are not musicians, either in the naturally prodigious sense or formally trained in music. West does not play an instrument, not one in the six major categories: bowed string, woodwind, percussion, brass, keyboard, or guitar.
Hip Hop from a performance standpoint, occupies a space related to music, but it is based not on composition, but derivative of a panoply of sounds and snippits of actual music taken from actual musical artists. Some people are into the material that West produces and some even absurdly believe that he is some sort of a genius, but although that is a subjective observation, it doesn’t conform to the actual definition in the context of music.
More realistically, he is someone who diddles around with sampler keyboards and recording software. We don’t want to start dumbing down what is actually definable as music, although, sadly that train has already left the station.
If West’s troubles can be thought accountable to mental health (sociopathy) it brings into question the collective consciousness of the fanbase that enable his behavior. West has, until this week, assumed that his status was the equivalent of Donald Trump’s conception of “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, okay, and I wouldn’t lose any fans, okay?”.
It turns out to be not true, in the case of Kanye West. His version of Trump’s boast of invincibility is, “I can say anti-Semitic things and Adidas can’t drop me.”
Somebody forgot to send Adidas the memo on that, because they just did drop him. Not only did they drop him, but the booking agency (I almost said ‘talent agency) CAA, fashion accessory designer label Balenciaga, The Gap, Foot Locker, Vogue, the RealReal and JP Morgan Chase as well as Chevy Chase, who, ironically enough got booted from his last TV gig for using racially gratuitous language on the set.
I made up the Chevy Chase thing. Sue me.
But back to my premise about who is Kanye’s actual daddy in terms of enabling the barking mad 5150 behavior. Rolling Stone’s Andre Gee addresses the parental culpability issue that few others are willing to call out:
Many entertainers, entrepreneurs, and athletes within the so-called Black elite are his peers. Not only did they not publicly denounce him in 2018, they’ve since collaborated with him and, in the case of Revolt, offered him a platform to project harmful ideas. His fans have continued to buy Yeezy apparel, attend his Sunday Service events, and stream his Donda listening sessions to record-breaking effect.
This series of episodes involving West, brings into focus the broader dysfunction in our society, centering on the fact that consumer choices and value judgments function to facilitate conduct that is diseased and would not be sustainable by anyone other than celebrities, entertainment idols, high profile entrepreneurs, athletes and cult of personality political figures.
The merchandising that is always a component of the zeitgeist surrounding these individuals, empowers them to promote behavior that corrupts the values and ethics of those among us who subscribe to them. In fact, there is research that connects the dots on this.
Some recent studies have provided preliminary indications that that borderline pathological celebrity worship may provoke impulsive buying intent. Granted, that does sound a bit like “dogs have been discovered to find raw ground beef very attractive”, but evidently there is more nuance to this from a scientific standpoint.
Mind you, borderline pathology in terms of celebrity worship, is not approaching the level and degree of actual pathology, but it is strongly correlated to the sort of mass consumerism that typifies people who feel compelled to spend $300 to $800 on shoes that cost around $35 to produce and distribute; ordinary camouflaged jackets and overcoats ranging from $2,000 to $3,500; distressed (good descriptive term) sweaters at $2,300; hooded jacket for $1,700 and sweatpants for $500? Well, you get the general idea.
The roots of the enfeebling influences of pop culture, or what I term garbage culture, run in many directions and have many points of origins, but I would argue that with Kanye West, you or ‘ye’ don’t have to go on a major archeological expedition to discover them. It’s all but hidden in plain sight – the Kardashians.
“They must sit there every day and go, ‘Um, uh, Kim, thank you so much for — remember when you sucked that guy’s dick and taped it and then released it and leaked it? … Thank you so much because now I’m on the cover of Sports Illustrated and I’m going to parties with Gucci Mane.’ … And it helps having an awful, shallow whore of a mother. That helps as well — to whore out your kids to make money. I think that’s a great example, something we should all aspire to here in America.”
—David Cross, to The Huffington Post
Many are puzzled by the phenomenon and I can’t say I blame them. There is not a single member of that family (with the possible exception of ‘Caitlyn Jenner’) that has ever produced a real accomplishment or developed any abilities that we could recognize as based on educational attainment or skills.
Kanye West was a natural fit with this assemblage of self-worshippers. They all really are contemptable narcissists and yet we have a generation that fantasizes about being them.
“Look at the Kardashians, they’re worth millions. I don’t think they were that badly off to begin with but now look at them. You see that and you think, ‘What?, you mean all I have to do is behave like a fucking idiot on television and then you’ll pay me millions?’ I’m not judging it — well, I am obviously.”
—Daniel Craig, to GQ
The only wrinkle to the above, is that the Kardashians are not “behaving like” fucking idiots, they are simply being what they are.
I’m at a loss as to fully explain it, but I do have something of a working theory which might account for a fair amount of it. It is the disengaged parent theory, being that middle class parents, themselves pre-occupied with career and social endeavors, opt to provide fiscal currency instead of personal and emotional currency. It’s kind of the proverbial, “Here kid, here’s $40, go buy yourself something at the mall” scenario.
Such children then are thrown to the wolves of the marketers and retailers of fan merchandise representing meritless and debauched celebrities that are artfully glamorized by the promotional industrial complex.
An additional complication with all of this is that with the detached parental dynamic, comes a compensating mechanism, described by one study as, “the relationship between peer influence and teenagers’ involving in celebrity worship in four aspects: teenagers’ need for interpersonal relationships with peers, observational learning from peers, peer pressure and conformity, and accessibility of the Internet and the effect of media hype.”
I would just say parenthetically, that if this sounds like some right wing indictment of ‘Hollywood’ that is so typically the coin among the MAGA and Qanon crowd – it’s not. And it has nothing to do with religious views as I don’t view societal behavior through that lens. In fact, the credibility of legitimate criticism of celebs, goes right out the window when silly people indulge in conspiracy theories, including those with theological overtones. It’s the perfect way to end a serious discussion if you can even get one started.
I occasionally watch movies or films and listen to a lot of music and I follow certain performers whose professional work I respect. That doesn’t mean I idolize any of them, I just appreciate their talent. But talent is a pre-requisite to begin with. That excludes the likes of Kanye West.
As a substitute for meaningful interactions with parents, the consumerism of garbage culture is particularly insidious, because it has already been established that spending money triggered by the impulse of a social fashion shared by peers, activates, if only temporarily, pleasure centers of the brain.
But there is also a vicious cycle at play. The allure of identifying with a near universally popular celebrity by purchasing some of their bling, in turn increases the social capital of that celebrity, which reinforces the buying of more of their, let’s be honest – junk.
If Adidas could project, which they did, that they would realize something in the neighborhood of a billion dollars of revenue from their association with West’s branding – it’s easy to explain why they have ignored more than 6 years of his unconscionable statements and actions.
I would argue that there is a collective, existential risk associated with monetizing narcissistic, specious and contrived public personalities through patronizing their evanescent rubbish.
The risk lies in the atrophy of meritorious personal character traits and the consequent over valuation of cultural idols that results in deflation and irrelevancy of actual praiseworthy and admirable role models of which there are many if one’s attention were directed to them.
Young brains are not always capable of making these decisions and if they are not being mentored, they are all the more susceptible to these influences and likewise, older and more fully developed brains are often not up to the challenge, either.
Long Island, N.Y. psychologist Abby Aronowitz, PhD, addressing the issue of mental health relating to celebrity obsession:
“Prior to Marilyn Monroe, a star’s life was hidden from the public. But now, instead of a glossy ideal, we see celebrity’s ugly messes, including their drug and alcohol abuse, which, for many who admire these people, translates into a very dangerous message. Then, when we are completely vulnerable, they sell us the image even harder — from headlines that titillate us with ‘celebrity secrets’, to the books, diets, cosmetics, foods, jewelry, and clothes that promise we’ll be closer to the ones we adore.”
But the risk of celebrity fixation extends beyond that. It leads to the infantilization of society broadly. When the masses gravitate toward what the Roman poet Juvenal dubbed, “Breads and Circuses”, it serves to distract them from attention to substantive concerns and awareness of critical issues that need all hands on deck to properly address.
Eric Hollander, MD, professor of psychiatry and director of the Compulsive, Impulsive and Anxiety Disorders program at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, underlines the warning that, “Depression, anxiety, and a decrease in self-esteem are just some of the documented problems that can result when we take the focus off our own lives and instead focus all our energy on the life of a celebrity.”
Kanye West, in all likelihood, will devolve into yet another shiny object that the MAGAverse holds up to signify their illusion that former mega celebrities who have blown themselves up by expressing putrid and reprehensible words out loud in public, can add legitimacy to their own indecency.
Won’t work, but it will be amusing to watch all of it circle the drain; until it isn’t and it’s just boring as hell.