Modern-day greek tragedy: discussing Kanye West’s recent behaviour

Content warning: this article contains mentions of antisemitism and hate speech that may be upsetting to some readers.

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I think Greek Tragedy has a lot to teach us about Kanye West’s current situation. In 2020, Forbes reported the net worth of Kanye West, now known as Ye, as amounting to over one billion dollars. He has won a total of 21 Grammys, seen partnerships with the likes of Balenciaga, Adidas, and the Gap, and even independently established his own successful fashion brand, Yeezy. He was at the peak of his fame: a cultural icon of our generation and the epitome of the American Dream. And now? Well, if the media sensation around him was the plot of a Greek Tragedy, Aristotle might theorise that perhaps the fall-out from his latest controversy, which saw him spouting antisemitic views on public platforms, was nothing short of inevitable. Aristotelian ideas of excessive pride, or hubris, do shed light on the astounding way West’s arrogance has defined his career, and has led him to polemic positions in the media. Consider for example his short-lived, and erratic presidential campaign back in 2020, or even the immodest opinions he holds of himself that he so readily gushes to whoever will listen, (he actually summarises this really well in his own song titled, ‘I love Kanye’, released in 2016).

I don’t see him ever coming back from it

The backlash from his recent antisemitic hate speech which began with his abhorrent tweet inciting violence in the Jewish community, led to interviews where he confirmed this rhetoric on shows such as NewsNation and Piers Morgan Uncensored. The situation has been so extensive that I don’t see him ever coming back from it. He has been dropped from all his major partnerships such as Adidas and the record label Def Jam. Most significantly, has had the b in his billionaire status replaced with an m. In the true style of the Greek tragic figure, he has even had the very emblem of his success and fame, a wax replica of him from Madame Tussauds, metaphorically destroyed by being removed from public view. To complete the picture, it must be said that some of his fans went as far as to set up a GoFundMe page, hoping to raise money to reinstate his billionaire status — these fundraisers have been removed, but there’s nothing like grabbing at straws when falling from that great of a height.

As an onlooker, I can only ask in desperation, what else did he expect to happen? Choosing to firmly align with far-right extremist ideas, when he holds a position of influence and cultural power, is fundamentally dangerous. It surpasses any arguments of free speech, because he holds responsibility for what he represents and for those who follow him. Almost instantly after he made these comments, extremist, antisemitic and white nationalist groups took to social media to support his views and use them to bolster their own agendas. Indeed, with other decisions to promote, ‘White Lives Matter’, for instance, or even with his previous association with Donald Trump, Kanye has distinctly begun to separate himself from the cultural zeitgeist of America. He is continually banned from social media platforms and has gone as far as to set out plans to buy Parler, a new conservative form of Twitter that prides itself on unrestricted speech and its rejection of so-called, ‘cancel-culture.’

Irreversibly engulfed in twenty-first century notions of media presence and political conspiracy

There is something sad about the way in which such a brilliant talent such as Kanye can become so irreversibly engulfed in twenty-first century notions of media presence and political conspiracy. But there is equally something even more sad that such extremist views as antisemitism are still being voiced and still needing to be challenged in our society today. It seems obvious to say that the one to blame for Kanye’s fall from fame, is Kanye West himself. In a somewhat bizarre response, he has announced a 30-day pious, “cleanse” from alcohol, sex and speech, which is largely counter-productive under the circumstances and further skews his image as being dramatic and illogical. Any form of excuse, let alone engagement, for what is left or what can be resurrected of his character does nothing other than to play into these glorified notions of him as a hero falling from grace. I avoid engaging with discussions surrounding Kanye West’s mental health, not least because I am no medical professional, but because it is my view that one’s opinions do not correlate with the state of their mental or physical health. Hate speech is always unfounded and indefensible. Regardless of how great Kanye used to be, his lack of respectability in the public today speaks volumes.

Image credit: The Celebs Fact via Flickr

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