The Kanye Phenomena

This is a bizarre time in our history. Donald Trump won the presidency when very few people thought he would. His victory tore a hole in the fabric of our collective reality, and it hasn’t stopped. We are a little more than two years into the unbelievable exchange of power that happened in 2016, where Democrats lost BIG in all areas of government. It was a repudiation of the ideology, or at least the methods that were being used, and it appears as though this is seeping into pop culture.

This occurrence was happening before the election cycle of 2016, but it appears it is moving at break-neck speed now. Our cultural narrative, and the way in which we view the world, is on the brink of being completely different from what we are accustomed to. Let’s break it down as best we can at this point.

If you take a look around at movies, news, and pop culture, you will find that it is largely homogenized. There is very little media out there not promoting a narrative that states there is widespread discrimination and prejudice against groups of people. Kids movies like The Emoji Movie and Zootopia, as well as more adult films like the Netflix exclusive Bright and Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, paint a picture of a world in which people are shamelessly discriminated against because of their differences.

These films seemingly attempt to make the point that we are barely beyond Jim Crow era laws and women’s suffrage. The heroes in these films are being oppressed in one way or another by a ruling class, and must overcome a society that prevents them from self-actualization. There’s a disconnect between the art and reality. In the real world, you do not encounter overt shameless discrimination; the hero’s struggle–to be included in society–isn’t relatable because there are few, if any, societal limits on how far an individual can go. For more in-depth analysis, check out these breakdowns of The Emoji Movie, Zootopia and Bright.

These unsubtle and poorly-written products are indicative of a cultural narrative that has reached its apex. We are at a point where there is so little resistance to differences in cultural heritage and personal choice, that the continued push to embrace these differences is ringing hollow. Even if you don’t agree with that statement, it’s likely that there will be a continued degradation of complexity and quality storytelling as we continue to see a push for inclusivity that simply has no bearing on reality. You may one day find yourself watching a movie and being pulled out of the story, because it has no relation to anything that you, or anyone you know, have personally experienced.

Enter Kanye, an “A-list” celebrity has gone completely against the grain, and expressed his support, and love of, Donald Trump, reportedly the least liked President in anyone’s memory. This dislike, we are told, is because Trump is racist. You can’t discuss President Trump without someone stating this opinion. This is why Kanye’s support has broken the internet, and caused the same kind of cognitive dissonance that we saw when Trump continued to progress through the campaign. People on the right are celebrating the things that Kanye has been tweeting recently, and people on the left are suddenly calling him insane.


The backlash came quickly as fans on social media and the culture publications that follow Mr. West closely made their dismay clear: “Kanye West Doesn’t Care About Black People,” read a headline on The Root, while The Ringer explored “The Kanye West Delusion.”

New York Times

These statements are very familiar to anyone who considers themself to be conservative, (Kanye himself does not) and it’s intriguing to see someone at the top of pop culture facing the same kind of vitriol that normal people experience every day. Kanye’s resistance to the cultural narrative of hating President Trump is shining a light on exactly what he is espousing; that there is monolithic thinking on the left. There is a danger, of course, that the right will take this development and create their own version of monolithic thinking. However, given the fact that you almost NEVER see a pop culture icon stating vaguely conservative ideology, it is possible that we will see a major shift in culture. Chance the Rapper is the second celebrity to break the mold and outright state that:

“Black people don’t have to be democrats”

As of this writing, he has walked back that seeming endorsement of Kanye and his pro-Trump statements.

The cultural narrative that you are oppressed in some way if you are not a white male, as in the example of the movies, has found at least one artist who does not agree with it. This particular movement has obviously caused huge waves in our collective consciousness. Kanye, being similar to Trump in his complete mastery of showmanship and controversy, is unlikely to give in to any backlash, as Chance the Rapper has done. What this means, is that Kanye’s support of anyone else in pop culture who supports free thinking, may encourage others to break the dominant cultural narrative, and thus introduce us to new expressions of art.

We are going to continue to see controversy surrounding people who either openly support, or appear to support, President Trump and “right-wing” ideology. The cultural narrative will not change overnight, but similar to the way President Trump steamrolled his way into the White House, we may see Kanye steamroll his way through the prevailing cultural.

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