If I’ve learned anything from this week’s edition of the reality TV show that is the White House, it is the need to find myself a life partner who will gaze at me with as much enamour as Donald Trump when observing one of Kanye West’s monologues.
Kanye’s off the cuff comments on the pragmatism and effectiveness of the Trump Administration struck a chord with the president who, for once, was happy to sit back and let someone else do all the talking. Yet the overarching theme of this bizarre encounter was reminiscent of a young boy meeting his estranged father for the first time, eager to make a good first impression. ‘This made me feel like Superman – that’s my favourite superhero’ excitedly declared Kanye, gesturing towards his ‘MAGA’ cap, which prompted a reassuring smile and nod from the president. One cannot help but feel Trump, instead of discussing the complexities of politics with Kanye, would much rather be teaching him how to ride a bike.[pullquote]They've bonded over a penchant for narcissism, egotism and paranoia[/pullquote]
The recent Oval Office publicity stunt involving Kanye West and Donald Trump follows an apparent competition between the two to see who could come across as the most unhinged on Twitter. Kanye West recently faced significant backlash after a confusing string of now-deleted tweets outlining his alleged opposition to the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery in the United States. And in an equally abhorrent move, Donald Trump recently delivered a disturbing message to victims of sexual assault by tweeting his unequivocal support for the Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, who faced multiple accusations of sexual assault against women, setting an alarming precedent by demonstrating how little regard the Trump Administration has for those with credible sexual assault claims against those in a position of power.
What makes Kanye’s obedience to Donald Trump so remarkable is his apparent U-turn in regard to his political allegiances over the last decade. West appeared on a Hurricane Katrina relief telethon in 2005 to accuse former Republican President George W. Bush of racism, claiming he ‘doesn’t care about black people’. Nonetheless, as Kanye’s influence as an artist and producer has grown over the years, so has his ego, which might explain his recent bromance with fellow narcissist, Donald Trump. They’ve bonded not through ideological unity, but over a shared penchant for narcissism, egotism and paranoia – the foundations of any healthy long-lasting relationship.
During the 2016 Presidential Election we saw celebrity involvement in politics more than ever. Everyday another celebrity or other would post on Instagram or Twitter, urging their millions of followers to go out and vote, captioning it either #ImWithHer or #MAGA (and thus purposefully and directly influencing their cult-like followings). America, I felt, had reached peak America. Social media was the weapon of choice and the biggest influencer of the campaigns, with #FakeNews and constant articles and celebrity tweets telling you who to vote for. In a country obsessed with the celebrity, where a reality TV star can become President, where a celebrity rapper is deemed important enough to meet with Uganda’s dictator President Yoweri Museveni, and rub shoulders with the current President, anything is possible. Such as Kanye West running for office in 2024, and Kim Kardashian becoming First Lady. Can you imagine anything more fitting for a country like the U S of A?[pullquote]Celebrities will always be safe in their ivory towers[/pullquote]
We value celebrities’ opinions. We like celebrities. We want to believe that these perfect people with their flawless skin make equally flawless calls of judgement. But they don’t. Being a celebrity doesn’t suddenly transport you to a higher plane of being and knowledge, as much as the egotistical Mr.West would like to think so. His experience with politics is no more valuable than the average American citizens. If anything, Kanye could vote for whomever the hell he fancied at the time and his fortunes and privileged would not be much changed. It was OK for Kanye to vote for Trump, because while he may be a black man, he is not a black man likely to be racially profiled, or to be shot for holding a toy gun. He’s not a woman. He’s not a black woman who is 3.5 times more likely to die from simply being pregnant. He isn’t trans; he does not have his human rights dismissed and disregarded. He isn’t gay, which is why he can hobnob with Muesvini, a dictator who had advocated the burning of gay men. He is protected by his celebrity, as are others. So why the hell are we listening to them? They don’t represent us. Celebrities and the other 1% will always be safe in their ivory towers. The influence they hold is frightening, and there’s not much we can do about it. After Taylor Swift’s latest political Instagram post, registers to vote were up 65,000 in a 24-hour period (Kamari Guthrie, director of communications for Vote.org). We should just be thankful that Taylor Swift, pop singer and country bumpkin, is encouraging her young followers to vote for Phil Bredesen, who’s voting record is considerably more ethical than Marsha Blackburns.
In our social media world, it’s impossible to avoid celebrities. It’s impossible to ignore their political opinions, which every news outlet (and even University newspapers in the North East of England) deem important to cover .The best we can do is take it all with a pinch of salt, do our own research and write our own articles, because celebrities will never stand for us.
In this postmodern era, it’s not uncommon to find the world of politics and media converging. Numerous critics of the intersections of these two worlds claim that celebrity’s involvement in politics is simply their quest for gaining legitimacy in the eyes of the public. However, in latest news, rap-icon Kanye West seemed to prove otherwise as his meeting with President Donald Trump gained massive disapproval and found itself at the centre of social media mockery.
West has not shied away from sharing his controversial political beliefs in the past; and the meeting in the Oval office seemed to follow a similar haphazard monologue format that the public is now familiar with after the rappers appearances on The Ellen Show and SNL. The meeting set to discuss the criminal justice system and prison reform turned into a wide-ranging discussion covering MAGA, the 13th Amendment, the IPlane, bipolar disorder misdiagnosis and West’s own presidency plans.
Moreover, recent news in regard to Taylor Swift further illuminates the intersection of the world of celebrities and politics. Vote.org found a significant increase in voter registration after the pop star took to Instagram to convey her support for Democrats in Tennessee midterm races, urging her fans to register to vote themselves. While West’s meeting is being trivialised on social media and Swift’s delve into politics is being criticised by conservatives; the two stories bring forth the same underlying question regarding why celebrity political opinions are valued.[pullquote]A blind commitment to following a celebrity's political standpoints can prove to be detrimental[/pullquote]
Recent years have demonstrated how celebrities are regarded as ‘influencers’. We no longer live in a world where their purpose is restricted to entertainment; rather today’s culture is such that famous, idolised individuals have a strong influence on society as a whole. We accept that behind their public image, celebrities are real people too, sharing the same problems. They are citizens of the same country, and thus they have the right to be a part of the conversation. As influencers, celebrities are given the opportunity to make an impact, and the public thus listens to their opinions in hopes that they represent the voice of the millions that support them.
Thus, being a celebrity comes with the acknowledgement of the power of representation. In the case of Kanye West, the numerous members from the black community that felt represented by him were left betrayed by his political siding with President Trump who has been accused of being racist himself. Hence, it is important to understand that celebrities may not always represent more than an individual opinion. A blind commitment to following a celebrity’s political standpoints can prove to be detrimental.