Late Sunday night, eerily resembling a repeat episode from an ID channel murder mystery, the world watched Kim Kardashian’s snapchat story, where she revealed grainy footage of Kanye West speaking to Taylor Swift on the phone. The rest is history… and internet hysteria.
The feud between the Wests and Taylor Swift has opened old wounds from as early as 2009, when Kanye infamously stole Taylor’s mic at the VMA’s. From that moment forward, Kanye’s media persona heightened from misunderstood artist to asshole and Taylor rapidly embarked on a journey to pop superstardom. Since that media firestorm, the two had since grown from the moment and shared private conversations that lead everyone to believe they had moved past the incident. It is important to note that Kanye married Kim Kardashian in this time, therefore the cordial relationship between she and Taylor flourished as well. The three were photographed together at events with no apparent hostility. Then the premiere of Kanye’s “Famous” at his 2016 Yeezy fashion show severed the new friendly relationship with certain inflammatory statements about Swift. She not-so-passively hinted at Kanye’s song in her Grammy acceptance speech, proud to overcome his direct attack on her success, leaving the world to remember the image of a young, sweet, curly-haired Swift standing mouth agape on the VMA’s stage once again. We sat back and watched Kanye spout off his villainous stream of consciousness on Twitter, claiming Taylor had known about the lyrics of the song all along. Not possible, we thought. Then, in accordance with a heavily Swift-themed episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kim posted truth bombshell after bombshell on her Snapchat account, proving Taylor and Kanye had in fact spoken in regards to his song “Famous”. Taylor, from what about a minute and a half of footage can confirm, gave Kanye her blessing.
This news item is a lot to digest, with dozens of sub-stories involving the celebrity cliques of both camps. Since the drama unfolded almost exclusively online, the truth also becomes murkier. This celebrity feud is most fascinating because rather than many we have witnessed concerning ex-boyfriends, copyright infringement, or nightclub territory, it deals with the notion of fame itself. So who is in the right between the outspoken rapper, his social media mogul of a wife and the golden girl of the industry? We must make sense of this.
If it was not made clear to you by now, chew on this for a bit: Kanye West profits off of being arrogant. His artistry is a persona that he has built up like a suit of armor. The VMA’s incident, the term “Yeezus”, his over-the-top political statements and his outrageously priced Yeezy sneakers are all part of the product. Over the years Kanye has opened up about being Kanye, sharing that his actions often overstep his honest intentions. Shaving down the rants and the pompous persona, Kanye can serve as a role model for the self-driven. His message, among the many, is to believe in yourself despite adversity. Being Kanye comes with a fair share of haters and criticizers. Wouldn’t you be your biggest supporter if the world was against you, too?
Kanye’s second biggest supporter is his wife Kim. As evidence from eleven seasons of Keeping Up would prove, the Kardashians are fiercely protective of their loved ones. Kim has shared her respect for her husband’s work and artistry, attesting that he is misunderstood underneath it all. Though many joke that their relationship is built from the basis of conceit, the two seem to be a good match as they are fully devoted and supportive of each other’s image and work.
As Kim revealed in her interview with GQ and Sunday’s episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, she doesn’t appreciate the slander of her husband on Swift’s end. The private agreement between the two artists was, as Kanye and Kim noticed, scrapped by Swift silently. In a sudden change of heart, Taylor felt it would be best to stand alone once again. We’ll get into the specifics of that later, but Kim wasn’t going to let this be another way of defaming her husband’s character. Kim believed in Kanye, his art, and the phone conversation to be true. Her truth and her husband’s truth was overshadowed by someone with a more pure and reliable image. Then Kim leaked the video.
The internet was like a chanting gang of school children at a fight, making #KimExposedTaylorParty a trending topic worldwide. People seemed to appreciate the scalding hot tea on Taylor, some revealing that others in the industry have experienced a snakelike side of Swift. It turns out not everyone bought into her halo after all. In the wake of all this, Kim still received backlash. Not for leaking the video necessarily, rather her merit to do so. What business does a talentless, adult home video star with millions of Instagram followers have coming for someone like that?
Think what you will about Kim Kardashian and her brand; the sex tape, the 72-day marriage, the book composed entirely of selifes, but she has a voice— and believe it or not, we have been listening for a long time.
Kim is fully aware of her spotlight particularly online. As a women whose career is herself, her presence on our laptops and mobile devices is crucial. That’s why you will occasionally see her holding hair growth pills or detox tea in a photo. Having a following can quickly turn into a business and Kim Kardashian wrote the book on that. The world too often forgets that Kim, her immaculate make-up, body and wardrobe, also lives in our culture. In the midst of video-game meetings and nude selfie-taking, the world continues spinning— and she notices. Kim Kardashian operates much like we do; she assesses right from wrong and protects the people she loves. Perhaps we don’t want to admit Kim takes a stand when she feels she should— because that would mean we see her as more than a product.
Kim Kardashian has penned an open letter about racism, referenced the #BlackLivesMatter movement, encouraged transgender acceptance and openly protested gun violence. All things, it should be mentioned, that Taylor Swift has never done. Maybe because her voice is most prevalent online we compartmentalize it there and never accept its impact. The Kardashians have a stigma on their fame, but it would be wrong to think they are not impactful. Everything they do, say or buy, we copy. In this aspect, it’s hard for us to consider the consumable woman a force in society. But as aware as she is of her following, Kim is aware of the people listening. Which is why she defended her partner when she knew what others didn’t. Kim exposed Taylor for being untrue and she did it on a world stage.
Kanye’s “Famous” is another anthem from the sphere of the Kanye persona. Kanye’s music is an expression of thought rather than a reflection. His artistry is often an interpretation of his image, much like the work of other rappers. His music conveys a fast life of women and extravagance, celebrating the asshole we all understand him to be. Below the surface of his lyrics however, Kanye is happily married with two children and constantly working on projects. Kanye’s art is a hyperbolized vision from his mind, often shocking yet almost admirable for being so frank.
The lyrics in question that sparked this conflict are as follows:
“For all my Southside n——s that know me best
I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex
Why? I made that bitch famous”
In the fabled phone conversation, the two agreed that the lyrics were tongue in cheek. It appeared that the two had a mutual understanding that the theme of the song was an echo of the Kanye ego image. So why, then, was Swift so quick to separate herself from Kanye and Kim, again painting a media picture of being attacked?
Have you ever agreed to anything then changed your mind? Maybe a roast among your friends that ended up hurting your feelings? That’s exactly what Taylor Swift experienced. In response to Kim’s Snapchat, Taylor posted a statement on her Instagram that had only approved the one line of the song and had no idea she would be referred to as “that bitch”. Though it is understandable Taylor interprets that language as offensive, the impact on her feelings packs less of a punch with her understanding of the previous line. Surely she did not expect Kanye to apologize eight counts after making a crude joke. If this expectation played out on both sides, shouldn’t Taylor be accountable for referencing Kanye as drunk, a liar and pathetic in her 2010 song “Mean”?
With the information we know now, it seems Taylor was alright with being the bud of the joke as long as she had the upper hand. Perhaps she found shortly after the phone call that playing victim to Kanye rather than teaming up with him would allow her to stand alone in her success again. Taylor’s Instagram statement included that she was tired of being a part of the narrative that began in 2009. Funny, how she too profited off the demonization of an opinionated black man in the six years that followed.
This convoluted conflict still rages on as celebrities are still weighing in on Twitter. What began as a shady back and forth between the two parties may result in legal repercussions, as the recording of a phone conversation may or may not be illegal. Either way, each involved person’s teams are probably very busy this week. Whose side you choose to defend is ultimately where your loyalties and interests lie. If there is any takeaway from this at all, we must understand that conflicts between celebrities involve concepts we may never brush paths with in our lives; money, power, fame, success, reputation, artistry. Yet the way they are handled involves a surprisingly normal response from the celebrity. This story involves mundane interactions like phone calls, tweets and snapchats. Even more primitive in instinct, the feud is centered around a he-said-she-said situation and fueled by the bond of marriage on Kim and Kanye’s end. Kim Kardashian may have not done the moral thing, but in their world where a person’s good name is everything, she did the right thing. Remember this event, for this is a rare occasion where those behind the pristine curtain of celebrity step out for a brief moment to show us, the watchers, that they too can play dirty.