Kanye West and Celebrity Responsibility

Ryan Hill, Contributing Writer

If you have been involved even remotely on any kind of social media app recently, chances are you’ve been exposed to the great Kanye West and Pete Davidson drama of the past few weeks. If you are fortunate enough to have avoided this recent mess, here’s a quick synopsis.

Kanye West, following the articles and rumors of his ex-wife Kim Kardashian dating SNL star Pete Davidson, has said a few things. Posting primarily on Feb. 13, Kanye took to Instagram to air out some of his own frustrations ridiculing Pete, or as he called him, “Skete.” Now there’s a lot to unpack with this situation, but I want to take a more broad look at this event. Believe it or not, I think Kanye’s persistent social media attacks during that time period and the aftermath of it all can be very informative about fan base culture as a whole, and the statuses celebrities take on as role models in the 21st century. I believe that Kanye, by committing to frantic and erratic hate speech towards not just Pete but many other celebrities as well, is inherently dangerous. Other celebrities doing the same can cause just as much harm.

I want to clarify upfront that I don’t think celebrities should be looked up to as moral role models in any way. We see famous people in the public eye who are singers, actors, directors, etc. get put up onto high pedestals and get praised for everything they do. I think it’s important to remember that celebrities are also people, and have just as many flaws as we do. Just because a famous person writes good music, or is a great actor, that doesn’t make them a moral role model. I’m a big fan of a lot of Kanye’s music, but I think it would be reckless of me to look up to everything he ever did just because I thought “Donda” was pretty good.

That being said, many people do choose to look up to their favorite celebrities, often with not a lot of regard. Normally, that isn’t a very dangerous thing to do. A lot of celebrities in the public eye like Taylor Swift, Paul Rudd, Will Smith, etc. seem to be genuinely nice people with solid moral intentions. Other times, these famous people who come with some moral ambiguity are forced into positions of being role models when they don’t want that responsibility. Unfortunately for us and for them, our modern “stan” culture permits that these famous people are looked up to in that way. This means that celebrities have been given a responsibility to, at least in the public eye, behave responsibly and respectfully so that their audience does not become badly influenced. While I don’t believe this is how our society should operate, it does. This brings us back to Kanye.

Kanye is very aware of how much impact he has on his incredibly loyal fanbase. So when he posts on Instagram with the intention of publicly harassing another high-profile individual, others will follow. Inciting hateful speech onto others is not an effective way to influence a large crowd of impressionable individuals. As humans, we are innately impressionable by those around us and especially those who we look up to. Whether Kanye likes it or not, he is one of the largest A-List celebrities of this time. While many of us can simply sit back and laugh at the innate comedy of these posts, many look at them as if they were scripture, as dramatic as that may sound. I only hope that Kanye and others can learn to control their hateful tendencies, either that or just get a better publicity team.

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