Tuesday 6 December 2016

Comment: The cracks in Kanye are celebrity karma

Kanye West was behaving erratically long before last week's breakdown, but took it for a celeb side-effect, writes Sarah Caden

Sarah Caden

Published 27/11/2016 | 02:30

TROUBLE AND STRIFE: American reality TV personality Kim Kardashian and husband Kanye West are paying the price for their pumped-up celebrity profile Picture: WireImage
TROUBLE AND STRIFE: American reality TV personality Kim Kardashian and husband Kanye West are paying the price for their pumped-up celebrity profile Picture: WireImage
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West
Kanye West
Kanye West and Kim Kardashian at the Met Gala 2016.

For a while now, we've all thought Kanye West was a bit mad. In a 'that's mad, Ted' way. Not mentally ill. Not a person in distress. Just a man living a life that you'd need to be mad to want, and who was, in retrospect, behaving increasingly erratically.

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There was the Messiah complex and the constant self-aggrandising; there were the ego trips and public outbursts. If it had been anyone else, anyone not associated with the Kardashian circus, it might have been obvious, some time ago, that all was not right with Kanye.

Last Monday Kanye's doctor called the emergency services to a gym in LA to attend to a patient he identified as "Jim Jones". Yes, it's a bit odd to have decided to use the name of the leader of the Jonestown cult mass murder-suicide, but that's by the way.

The patient, who turned out to be Kanye, was said to be suffering from psychosis brought on by sleep deprivation and dehydration, it was later reported. It was also reported that he had lashed out at a gym staff member, and while he wasn't violent at that time, he could become violent when medical assistance arrived. Kanye was, apparently, restrained on a gurney to be taken away, which is typical in a psychiatric situation.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West

A "psychiatric hold" in the US lasts 72 hours, but by Thursday, which was Thanksgiving, Kanye was still at UCLA hospital, and was not coming home any time soon. It was, apparently, a more serious situation than tiredness and thirst. He was in a bad way.

Kim had been doing everything in her power to get him home for Thanksgiving, but he was not well enough. Singer John Legend said that he'd seen Kanye recently and been very worried for his mental state. Reports said that Jay-Z, whom Kanye has been publicly raging against lately, is under pressure from his wife Beyonce to make amends with his former friend.

I know, that last paragraph started out quite normal: wife acts out of concern to get her husband well again. And then it goes a bit crazy, with one man's reported mental breakdown becoming grist to the mill of gossip and some sort of celeb soap opera.

The problem is, though, that it is hard to respond to reports of Kanye's ill health in any normal way. Reality left the building a long time ago when it comes to Kanye. Not just in the way he conducts himself, but in our responses to him and his wife and their family.

Kanye West cut short a Saint Pablo show saying he had a sore throat
Kanye West cut short a Saint Pablo show saying he had a sore throat

Such is the overkill of their crafted 'reality' - the constant recording and broadcasting of their lives, their increasingly cartoonish appearance, the hugely artificial mechanics of their self-portrayal - that we don't even regard them as real people any more.

So, when something goes wrong, we don't feel compassion as we would for someone else. Because we don't think they're real people with real feelings. They are characters in a bad soap opera.

Except that they're not. They're actual people with actual lives who are paying the price for the pumped-up celebrity in overdrive of recent years with what seems like a rotten run of bad luck and, possibly, ill health. Which, to the less compassionate among us might read as karma. You could say that it all started to go wrong when Kim was robbed in Paris last month. And the loss of the millions of dollars' worth of diamonds isn't even the worst thing about that robbery, as the consequences have unfolded.

In fact, the worst thing about that robbery, from a Kim and Kanye point of view, has been the public reaction to it. Instantly, the lack of sympathy for her was remarkable.

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian at the Met Gala 2016.
Kanye West and Kim Kardashian at the Met Gala 2016.

Instead of regarding her as a victim of the raiders, who violently broke into a rented apartment that she believed to be safe, who tied her up and left her in the bath, whom she feared would rape her or even kill her, Kim has been portrayed as a victim of herself and her desire for a sort of world-dominating celebrity.

She was asking for it, if you like, which is a pretty shameful response, and it clearly came as a shock to Kim Kardashian, and has possibly contributed to her retreat from the public eye since.

The fallout of the raid is not just the shock of the attack itself, but the public reaction to the attack. She thought she was beloved; she believed her own self-publicity. And maybe it was wrong.

Kanye has always been part of that over-the-top self-publicity, more and more so in recent times. It was something we regarded as egomaniacal and odd, what with Jesus-referencing Yeezus and the constant battering us over the head with the fact that, as a couple, they were superhuman perfect specimens, but we didn't know there was anything actually worrying about it.

We just thought he had a ridiculously high opinion of himself; not that he was potentially unwell.

Last week, but viewed with hindsight, of the big indicators of Kanye's troubled state of mind was taken to be his latest onstage slamming of his former friend, Jay-Z. Last month, onstage in Seattle, he berated Jay-Z for never making it happen that his daughter, Blue Ivy, could have a playdate with Kanye and Kim's daughter, North.

Kanye has also, publicly and repeatedly, criticised Jay-Z for failing to phone after Kim's robbery. This has always been put down to an alleged froideur between the two wives, and the public aspect of it barely struck people as odd until Kanye's breakdown last week.

Apparently, since the shock of the Paris attack, Kanye has been adrift without Kim as his key support. Just like in a real marriage between real people having a real crisis. And, in reality, nothing grandiose about it.

Sunday Independent

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