Is Kanye West Even Human?
Press Start for “Is Kanye West Even Human?” by 8-Bit Philosophy, where classic video games introduce famous thinkers, problems, and concepts with quotes, teachings, and more.
Ep.39: Is Kanye West Even Human?
Written by: Matt Reichle
Created & Directed by: Jared Bauer
Narrator: Nathan Lowe
Animation Producer: MB X. McClain
Music composed by Ralph Vickers AKA Rakohus. Visit http://rakoh.us and consider buying his album, “The Sprite Album.”
Academic Consultant: Mia Wood
Producer & Additional Artwork by: Jacob S. Salamon
Is Kanye West Even Human?
Imagine being allowed in to every party in the country- From the most lavish and exclusive extravaganzas to small house parties- no need to actually be invited- your invitation is… your face.
Your presence isn’t simply welcomed-you’re always the guest of honor. Just by being there, you turn the party from a celebration to a life event for the other guests. In fact, you are almost certainly paid to attend.
Although this may seem outlandish to you and I, this is the daily life of a celebrity. Celebrities live an almost incomprehensible life. Unlimited access to any venue, unbridled acceptance, and adoration—they have the ability to access a world that is almost outside the realm of thinking—so much so that it may not be out of the question to ask: “Are celebrities even human?” They might as well be Martians.
No one seems to exemplify the peculiarity of celebrity more than musician/mogul Kanye West. What is it that makes Kanye so different from the rest of us?
Turning to a single philosophy to answer that question is a little unfair since the answer is complicated—but the short answer is: perhaps Kanye suffers from a warped sense of the self… like many celebrities.
For Sociologist Charles Cooley the self is created through a process of interaction with others.
We aren’t automatically the fantastic people that we are today— One does not become Kanye at Birth. Rather we construct a sort of “looking glass self” where we become ourselves by mirroring how we appear to others.
The way that people respond to our actions conditions our behavior—society serves as a mirror that reflects who we are back at us. The shame, guilt, anger, acceptance or displeasure that we feel reflected back on to us determines the thing that we call “the self.”
It’s the reason people tend to only pick their nose or sing when they think no one can see them, like when they’re alone in the car.
For celebrities self-image is a little different, it’s like seeing yourself reflected in fun house mirrors of the paparazzi and pop culture.
The media creates a sort of self-awareness that grows from that reflection—by having your identity redirected back at you through yahoo, TMZ, press conferences, Youtube comments and social media—it creates a “media self.” A media self that might accidentally run for president in 2020.
Consider the study of collegiate basketball players by ethnographers Patricia and Peter Adler. Over the process of five years they found some interesting internal complications. As the players they studied met with more and more fandom, they changed—they transformed into the role that they played for the camera—they became a caricature—they believed, and came to completely inhabit, the hype surrounding them.
In short… they got big heads. They developed a sort of glorified self—a self-aggrandizing persona that was swept up in the intoxicating, passionate, emotional, amazingness of fame. Lets call that self YEEZUS.
Living a life in the constant public eye creates an antagonistic split between the actual self, say Mr. West, and YEEZUS—and in the end—one of the personalities tends to overshadow the other.
It’s the same as when famous youtube personalities get swallowed up their exaggerated camera personalities. So that they are expected to always be that personality—they are expected to yell out “hide your kids, hide your wife” or “Leave Brittney alone!” Perhaps they become that youtube persona all the time.
There’s internal conflict between the desire to be your full self, in all it’s complexity, and the rush from inhabiting the media self and bathing in the constant adoration of the public.
With basketball players there is always a coach to keep them in check—but who is there to stop YEEZY from marrying a Kardashian? The answer—no one.
Maybe the problem isn’t an inner conflict between selves… internally competing.
Perhaps Kanye is just great at branding—perhaps he’s just playing us all. According to extremely influential American sociologist, Erving Goffman we are all just actors trying to control and manage our public image—we act based on how others might see us.
We act to avoid public embarrassment. The people we meet are never really who they seem—they are all performing in order to maintain damage control.
The Person we see in music videos, in the tabloids, on television is exactly who Kanye wants us to see.
But if Kanye isn’t tricking us all, if he really is an egomaniac does it really matter?
Living in a world where people are taught to be humble, compliant, and to avoid arrogance, a “unique spirit” like Kanye may seem a little out of place.
The personal quirks of Kanye are perhaps best understood in terms of the works of Johan Casper Schmidt, otherwise known by his pseudonym: Max Stirner. Or to the Australians: Mad Max Stirner.
In his most important work “The Ego and its Own” Stirner establishes a philosophy that he describes as egoism, rather than something as base as simple self-interest—he argues that egoism is concerned with self-governance—or personal freedom without internal or external constraints.
Giving up your own personal ends in any situation amounts to un-freedom—whether that means obeying your parents, repressing desires because of religious beliefs, following general customs of courtesy at awards shows…
… or following the laws of the state… each instance is an example of being a slave to someone else’s end—to be a slave to a concept, a god, family, government is to devalue your own ends.
The egoist lives in a relationship of property with people and objects—everything exists for the individual—and they ought to have unlimited ownership over the world. Everything exists for the individual self or ego.
It means that in plenty of situations egoism justifies lying, cheating, stealing, arrogance, or hording all the good beats for your own album. Most people would object: that’s immoral.
Stirner might respond: “who cares what you think.” The same way Kanye may say exactly what he is thinking regardless of your feelings.
So dear viewers-what do you think? Is Kanye the victim of a warped sense of the self or is he a maniacal egoist?