How quickly the narrative spun from "Fuck Kanye" to "#PrayForKanye" this week …
Everything anyone does in Hollywood is a calculated move. Fact. There are tens of thousands of people employed on the backend hired for the sole purpose of shifting public perception of their client’s personal brand, always hoping for a most favorable (and profitable) outcome. It’s a game to everyone involved.
Which is why I’m so fascinated by what’s going on in Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s world right now. The whole thing is a terrible car accident on the side of the road I refuse to look away from.
Imagine those in the past who've built American pop culture. Michael Jackson wasn’t loved because he was simply talented; his persona ultimately was and is a culmination of hundreds who raked in billions under the ‘Michael Jackson Inc.’ umbrella. It's a company still alive and well today, last year depositing over $115 million in sales, positioning him as the highest grossing dead person in the world. Likewise, what would Beyoncé (or even Katy Perry and many like her) be without designers, voice coaches and interns scouring the web looking for unflattering photos to aggressively take down?
Celebrities and those around them are nothing if not opportunists. If the presidential election taught us anything, it's that what we’re seeing in the media isn’t the truth. At all. It’s a tangled narrative pulled directly from it. As for Kim and Kanye, there’s something going on there behind the compounding drama.
This past year has been a bad one for the entire family. Drug addictions, sex changes and one clingy pedophilic rapper aside, the entire brand appears to be taking a PR hit wherever it turns. Keeping up with the Kardashians recently posted its worst ratings score in history, and Cosmo, Glamour and GQ magazines each claim that by having a Kardashian on the cover, their presence equates to about an 18 percent drop in sales.
They still dominate online headlines and garner far more engagement and clicks than celebrity peers — but couldn’t we look at this like that of the train wreck effect? Like we know we shouldn’t give away our valuable clicks and time, but we do, because we’re all secretly masochists? We don’t care, but we kind of do …
Hate reading something, after all, is still reading. Media outlets only shovel clicks, they don’t care what emotions guide them in.
I give credence to the idea that Kim may have gotten robbed. It’s entirely possible a rich woman left alone was strong-armed into giving thieves tens of millions of dollars in diamonds. That’s a plausible story. But it’s also a great excuse to take time away from the spotlight and come out of this “harrowing experience” a re-born celebrity — making moves that are ultimately different than what die-hard fans expect of them. It’s a narrative, a story to be sold.
It could have legitimately happened, but rest assured, the fact that it’s out there now spells opportunity for a celebrity who was being washed out by political coverage while tugging along a quickly dropping approval rating. It either didn’t happen and it was an egregiously callous (and illegal) PR stunt, or it did happen, and the team will be jumping at the opportunity to reinvent Kim with a more favorable persona.
As for her husband, he consistently faces backlash for his polarizing personality. To boot, his role as a fashion designer is a flop, few understand (or care about) his tired rhetoric on stage, and his latest album, The Life of Pablo, chewed on its own tail when trying to be an exclusive album on a failing Tidal — a disastrous and completely ignorant approach to streaming music media.
Not to mention the debacle West landed in last week when he said he would have voted for Donald Trump if he actually bothered to fill out a ballot. That statement alone brandished him a marked man with his fans. They could no longer be on his side, not unless they also wanted the tag of ‘hypocrite’ added on their own social resumes.
How quickly the tale changes, however, with reports coming out days later that he was forcibly checked into the hospital on psychological observations. Suddenly the story went from “Fuck Kanye” to “#PrayForKanye.” Planned or not, a sympathy shift rescued 'Kanye West Inc.' from losing a few million dollars in the process. Again, opportunity struck. And we have no idea if it's a false facade or something to genuinely worry about.
The shift in consumer appeal isn’t compassion at work, it’s media manipulation at its fundamental core. Brand Protection 101.
Of course, no one really knows for certain what’s going on outside of the protected team moving around pawns. I certainly don’t. And neither do you. Everything at this point is speculation. However, it’s clear by standing witness to what went on during the elections that the media is having a hard time concealing its old tricks. People are quickly opening up to the idea that not everything is as it seems, and continue to question the information given them.
Questioning authority, after all, is an obligation we all have to keep reality in check.
Based on past behavior, I think Kanye West is noticeably sick, and that we all need to respect that for what it is, a mentally challenging condition that's immune from criticism. I don't think, however, that he would have been admitted to the hospital if not for the Donald Trump comments made just a week earlier, and the Life of Pablo tour would have continued as scheduled (although maybe not, he's bailed on fans with bullshit stories before). There was, I believe, someone on the backend working diligently this past week to shift fans' focus, protecting the brand above all else. The money lost by cancelling the tour was probably less than the hit they'd take if it didn't sell out in every city. West is also a loose cannon on stage. That needs to be addressed completely before spending millions to put on a show.
We can also predict with absolute certainty that we're going to see a 'coming to Jesus' moment from the both of them in 2017. Talk show appearances, sappy social posts, book deals, red carpet photos — the full nine. What better story to sell than for two of the most popular cultural icons in history digging themselves out of the depths of tribulation? It's a constructed narrative that's been spoon-fed to the American public time and time again. It's an easy sell.
This is how Hollywood works, after all. Our emotions are literal dollars to celebrities. A high-stakes game, with the odds entirely in their favor.