I think we all remember where we were when it happened. We weren’t all on the Twittersphere like we are now during awards shows. When Kanye went off on Taylor Swift for not being Beyonce it was like any other national crisis. People took sides and ridiculous debates ensued. It was a dark time for all of us. When the dust settled there was only one person who was hurt by this episode: Kanye West and he’s the only one who should have been affected by it. No one else did anything wrong. Kanye – for reasons still passing understanding – simply went after Taylor Swift because she wasn’t Beyonce. Thank God he now has Kim Kardashian to put things into perspective for him.
Kanyeing is a problem because Kanye blamed the victim at the VMAs and whoever you might perceive the victim to be we were all victims in that situation really. We all had to watch on nervously as Kanye went off on a rant that made little sense. This was different than Kanye’s first rant about how George Bush does not care about Black people because we didn’t share that same solidarity in our dislike for Taylor Swift as we did in our dislike of George W. Bush. Let’s face it Taylor Swift is a much more likeable (and by all accounts better) person than George W. Bush. So, Kanye’s first rant against the Bush administration was much more understandable than his rant against Taylor Swift. Let’s be clear though: the lesson that should be taken away from these episodes is that hating on other people isn’t cool unless you’re hating on people directly in rap music. It was cool when Biggie and Tupac did it, but that was mainly because they were both ballers and had serious clout.
The larger problem that Kanyeing has on American society is that it becomes acceptable for people to invest significant amounts of their self-worth in marginalizing others. People actually feel better about themselves for putting people down. If you feel like you can only feel good about yourself when you make others feel bad about themselves then you have a very toxic mindset. This isn’t just toxic to you, it’s toxic to anyone who comes into contact with you. This is a very LA mindset to have in many ways because if you live in LA then you must be the coolest person ever to walk the face of the Earth. Hollywood is world-renowned for not just their snobbery, but their arrogance towards those who have not achieved exactly what they have achieved. Are you doing an indie project that could change the way an entire genre of film is viewed for the next generation of movie-goers? Well, you shouldn’t feel good about that as far as Hollywood is concerned because you didn’t do it there way and if you had it would have been so much better. It’s not difficult to see just how toxic this attitude is.
The good celebrities are the anti-Kanyes. They go out of their way to show their appreciation because they know where they’ve come from and they appreciate what they have. The good celebrities realize that they’re adding value to people’s lives just by being in the same room as them and they don’t need to point that out to the world to show their self-worth. The rewarding part of being in filmmaking is seeing how many artists believe in the rising tides lift all boats mentality. There’s something to that positivity. You never see indie filmmakers hating on each other. Being in business is hard enough. In fact if you look at the forums or YouTube channels of indie filmmakers they’re chalked full of helpful advice from people who’ve gone through a similar situation as you. I think it’s quite telling that you can always find someone in indie film who’s willing to help, but in mainstream film they can’t wait to exclude you from the crowd and point out your deficiencies.
In Hollywood it makes the elite feel better about themselves when they can tell someone how worthless they perceive them to be and this is why there are some folks who harbor a great deal of animosity towards Hollywood. As a group they’re not interested in getting better they’re interested in getting ahead. This mindset is toxic and it’s the reason that so many people who’ve worked in Hollywood start their own production companies and look for solutions outside of Hollywood for better solutions. No one wants to be around the Kanyes of the world when they’re dragging everyone else down with their negativity and like Kanye’s rant against Taylor Swift many times these rants are pointless. There’s no need to do this it’s just one man’s desperate need for attention. In the end, the only people we’re accountable to is ourselves, but we also have an obligation to our future self to become a better person and understanding when we’re Kanyeing and differentiating that from making a principled point is crucial to that development.