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On Being Stunning and Brave

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7 months ago

When we look up at the antics of the celebrities on stage, we often give the more eccentric of the lot the benefit of being “ahead of their time.” The window of what is appropriately ahead of our time is very brief, though. I’d say only about 2-3 years. Five years? Now that’s bordering on lunacy.

Imagine that Kanye West waited five years to jump up on stage and interrupt Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the VMA’s. It would have been 2014 then. He would’ve said his spiel, “Yo Taylor, I’m happy for you. I'mma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time!” And how would people have reacted? He would’ve only received half the backlash he got in 2009, but many other cultural commentators would’ve written a different sort of article: “Kanye West Stands Up for Women of Color, Who are Notoriously Overlooked at Awards Shows.” That’s the sort of chatter that was taking root in 2014, and the chatter of time is what frames the meaning of what you do whether you like it or not.

Now, I think Kanye is a bright guy. And he is immersed in this celebrity culture, so he ought to easily know what things to say and do that everyone around him will applaud as stunning and brave. Yet he has one of the most consistent track records for upsetting people. That’s not very stunning or brave, now is it? What’s he up to?

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