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Srivastava: Kanye West on SNL; when do you cancel someone?

Heena Srivastava, Op-Ed Contributor

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On Saturday night, Sept. 29, Kanye West was expected to release his new album “Yandhi” while performing on “Saturday Night Live.” Dressed as a Perrier bottle, West gave a performance of “I Love It” with fellow hip-hop artist Lil Pump. Later, he was joined by Teyana Taylor for an unreleased track off of her album “K.T.S.E”, and closed with his track “Ghost Town” from “Ye.” Unfortunately, West never got to releasing the much-anticipated album.

He did, however, get to a rant about President Donald Trump that left many West fans rolling their eyes. While the monologue was never broadcasted, comedian Chris Rock managed to post it to his Instagram story. Kanye West is shown sporting a “Make America Great Again” hat. He explained why he defends President Trump even though people say Trump is racist. “If I was concerned about racism,” West said, “I would’ve moved out of America a long time ago.”

West also criticized the predominant liberalism of the entertainment industry, and called out the SNL cast. “They’re laughing at me,” he said. “You heard them? They screamed at me. They bully me. They bullied me backstage. They said, ‘don’t go out there with that hat on.’ They bullied me backstage. They bullied me.”

Ever since Trump was elected to office in 2016, West has adamantly showed his support despite backlash from his predominantly liberal circles. During a 2016 concert in San Jose, California, he told audiences, “If I would’ve voted, I’d have voted for Trump.”

And with every new stunt West pulls to promote the ideals I hate, I find myself torn. At first, like a mother who hears her child swear, I scoffed at his tweets because they seemed attention-seeking and harmless. As his actions became louder, however, I started to wonder whether his words were actually making an impact. As such a prominent figure, he had the power to change ideologies and make ignorance or bigotry okay.

Maybe I should not support someone who shares such ideals, and it was time to cancel him.

Surprisingly, his tweets and comments have had little impact on his overall success. Upon its release June 1, West’s album “Ye” debuted at number-one on the US Billboard 200. “Yandhi” has been highly anticipated by fans for months. Even with his controversial opinions, it seems the world has excused Kanye West.

This is certainly not the first time a celebrity has said or done something that makes us question whether to cancel them. In some cases, we see prominent figures plummeting when they face controversy. For example, YouTuber Logan Paul crashed in popularity after releasing an insensitive video about suicide filmed in Japan’s Aokigahara forest. Late-night host Bill Maher was denounced by fans and celebrities after dropping a racial slur on “Real Time.”

On the other hand, some go unscathed. Chick-Fil-A generates more revenue per restaurant than any other fast-food chain in the US, according to Forbes, even though CEO Dan Cathy has openly made homophobic comments.

It was certainly not easy for me to stop listening to Kanye. I wondered what the difference between all of these cases were. What makes me mortified to watch any Logan Paul vines, but comfortable listening to “Graduation?”

The line is drawn at action over words.

Kanye West is no role model, and his thoughts are not intended to convince us. He does not normalize these ideologies, but rather just infuriates his fanbase. Running his mouth has worked for him. From exclaiming “Bush doesn’t care about black people” in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to his heated performance on Sway’s Shade 45 radio show, Kanye has characterized himself with controversy. He has managed to become the Madonna of inflammatory comments; changing his brand with every new era of controversy. When I saw him on SNL, it felt like another chaotic stunt, but not any more controversial than those in the past.

We are keeping a fierce eye on the words and actions of prominent figures. The actions of celebrities can provide societal standard for what is right, so people expect the best behavior. These expectations are now coupled with our lack of tolerance for any shade of marginalization. As a result, any misstep puts a celebrity on the line. Kanye West is a reminder that artists are not the idols we make them out to be, so we should stop idolizing them. They can say offensive things, we can be mad, and no other result will come of it.

In the case of Kanye, his words have little impact, and I will separate the art from the artist. When politicians, entertainers, or corporations take actions to threaten another’s well-being, however, then the line has been crossed.

Heena Srivastava is a Medill sophomore. She can be contacted at heenasrivastava2021@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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