The reaction to rapper Kanye West’s interruption of singer Taylor Swift’s MTV Video Music Awards acceptance speech had snowballed in interesting ways. Even the President of the United States has called West a “jackass” for taking away Swift’s microphone to praise Beyonce Knowles’ “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” video. Scores of celebrities have criticized his behavior, largely on Twitter. Meanwhile, a whole Internet meme has sprung up around West’s recent behavior. NME.com has assembled a gallery featuring choice samples of Photoshopped images where West inappropriately interrupts several pop culture figures (my personal favorite is the one where he interrupts Super Mario 64). Hell, when I checked Facebook the other day, I noticed a new quiz titled “Where will Kanye interrupt you?”
Now, it’s quite clear to anyone with a basic grasp of manners that West was indeed acting like a jackass, and he quite rightly has since apologized for the incident. Additionally, West’s behavior is a surprise to no one familiar with the rapper. West has become well-known for his attention-grabbing remarks over the years, ranging from stating “George Bush hates black people” during a 2005 benefit concert to support Hurricane Katrina victims, to exclaiming he was “done” with MTV after not winning a single award at the 2007 Video Music Awards, to repeated exaltation of his own genius. Still, this event has exploded into a cultural phenomenon because it illustrates how ridiculous West’s acts of idiocracy have become, and how much of it people will tolerate. You would think he’d stop acting like an idiot by now, but no, there he goes again. And do we really have to put up with this?
Bravado about his musical ability is one thing, but randomly ruining other people’s moments of triumph pushes West from mere ego-boosting into an odd sort of über self-centeredness. Hip-hop has long been a genre willing to indulge in self-aggrandizement (in many ways it’s an essential component), but West seems to have an ego that has no concept of personal space, not restricting itself to mere praise of himself. It isn’t even about self-aggrandizement anymore; the VMA debacle was basically an uncomfortable glimpse at West’s ego spilling out on the stage, all over Swift and the audience, and through the television sets of the world as one big inconsiderate pool of attention-starved nonsense. There’s a reason why the South Park episode mocking the rapper was so effective. Thing is, didn’t West say the cartoon put his ego in check? Well, no, not really. No one has to point out his flaws; he’s been working on his ego all on his own! And look at how well that’s worked out for him.
The groan-inducing question now being uttered the world over is, “What stupid thing will he do next?” Which is something we should not be asking regarding any grown man, much less one who wants people to respect him as some sort of musical genius. When push comes to shove, consensus on this event states that musical talent should not excuse acting like an inconsiderate tool. So ask yourself, “Which of my musical heroes have I given a free pass in regards to being a total asshole?”