Understanding “We Were Once A Fairytale”

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up-wlys_fairy_taleLGThere’s nothing quite like a Spike Jonze joint staging the assisted suicide of Kanye West’s symbolic ego to spark lively debate. The first 10 minutes leading up to the final scene artfully expose the hoax of fame and celebritydom (is that even a word?) as the god-like presence of Kanye West collapses onto itself (something like the rise and fall of The Roman Empire — an inevitable and theatrical death). Stripped of false ornaments, the viewer follows Kanye as he drunkenly stumbles around “the club” failing miserably to make conversation with women in the thick of a surreal, dreamlike state. In light of the VMA spectacle, it comes as no surprise that Ye would invest in a project documenting an exorcism of his inner demons otherwise obscured from public view. Honestly, fans have to be willfully naive to buy into Ye’s neat and micromanaged persona. My prediction? Rather than use the film as an opportunity to critically examine the cult of celebrity that induces the self-destructive behavior and delusions of grandeur displayed throughout the short, folks will simply add fuel to fire by continuing to edify Ye (in the name of his “creative genius”). To put it plain: Kanye will ultimately have his ego stroked for a film precisely about the assassination of his ego. It actually reminds me of the paradoxical nature of the Nobel Peace Prize — a system that rewards an (already wealthy and powerful) individual based on their sustained acts of (or VAGUE “commitment to”) altruism (the practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others). The silent subtext: we can all practice peace…so long as there exists a secret, material incentive motivating all of our “unselfish” work. Similarly, once celebrities have reached a certain level of security in their career, they can put out vulnerable music offering an implicit critique of the decadent, self-indulgent lifestyle of “the rich and famous” without jeopardizing their stardom. I wonder if greater risk (of losing one’s “status”) would change Kanye and Drake’s music (if at all). In a certain sense, Kanye is restored as an altruistic hero by the end of the film. Can one ever truly kill their ego? It’s obviously not to be taken literally but nonetheless an important rhetorical question to raise. In truth, I’m significantly more intrigued by people’s reactions to Kanye than Kanye himself (although he truly is the case study that keeps on giving). With the ubiquity of joints like Drake’s “Fear” (“you know I spend money because spending time is hopeless / and know I pop bottles cuz I bottle my emotions / at least I put it all in the open”) Kanye’s “Welcome To Heartbreak” (“my friend showed me pictures of his kids / and all I could show him was pictures of my cribs / he said his daughter got a brand new report card / and all I got was a brand new sports car / where did I go wrong?”) and an influx in emo rap sponsored by the likes of Kid Cudi, it’s become quite clear that vulnerability (irregardless of it’s sincerity) is highly profitable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Drake and Kanye aren’t speaking earnestly about their “real” experiences but I find it ironic that their confessions ultimately contribute to ballooning their fame and success. It should go without saying that there are multiple, compounding factors that attribute to this phenomenon outside of Drake and Ye’s control. In fact, this is more of a challenge to all of us as listeners and consumers. If anything, 30 Rock’s season premiere reminded me (via Tracy Morgan’s brilliant parody) of how inescapably insulated celebrity life is. It makes sense then that Drake and Ye would write about their newly discovered existential crises that come with the territory of extreme wealth and power. I can only imagine the paralyzing paranoia and feelings of estrangement and isolation that the dissolution of privacy (compounded by pervasive surveillance) creates. I suppose I’m just perpetually fascinated by the sheer weight we give celebrities every move. And while I understand that this long winded entry only contributes to that swell, I figure the least I can do is think critically about popular culture (for those tempted to dismiss me as an uppity critic). In any case, I would love to know what all of your complex reactions are to this film and anything I have shared in this tangential post. With every blog entry, I simply hope to generate interesting dialogue that engages the music and art we experience everyday. We all have the ability (and agency) to talk back even if our audience is significantly smaller than that of Kanye.

4 Responses to “Understanding “We Were Once A Fairytale””
  1. Saeid Edward says:

    Aiyyo so I was gonna hit you up on the gchat but then I remembered you mentioning people not commenting on blogs so yea here goes. I’ll preface this by saying that my comment will probably include mockery, irony, and irreverence regarding the subject matter: Kanye, ego, artsy dudes, artsy films, artsyness, etc.

    1. Cutest hari-kari ever!
    2. Kanye’s acting is perfect!
    3. Best part was before Kanye stumbles to the room.
    4. Most controversial part is after that.
    5. The split between the two might be indicative of a lot of shit Kanye does???
    6. Kanye is way better than Drake.
    7. Drake is a d-bag.
    8. Many d-bags happen to have tight bars.
    9. Compare: “Yes I make mistakes that I don’t ever make excuses for / Leavin’ girls that love me and constantly seducing hoes” (exhibit Drake) “Hennessy / It’s gonna be the death of me / And I always thought that you having our child was our destiny / But I can’t even vibe with you sexually / Cuz every time I would try, you would question me / Saying “You fucking them girls, disrespecting me? / You don’t see how ya lies is affecting me. / You don’t see how our life was supposed to be. / And I never let a nigga get that close to me. / And you ain’t cracked up to what you was supposed to be. / You always gone, you’ll always be where them hoes’ll be.” / And this the first time she ever spilled her soul to me” (Exhibit ‘Ye)
    10. I think 9. just proved 6. despite the imbalance of the sample-sizes
    11. kanye is an egomaniac
    12. kanye knows that
    13. we know that kanye knows that
    14. he knows that we know that he knows
    15. kanye is simultaneously repulsive and lovable
    16. i kinda believe kanye when he does dumb shit and tries to make up for it and then does dumb shit again
    17. that is one of the things that makes him such a compelling character
    18. both kanye and drake are character
    19. all rappers are characters
    20. emo rap is not new. kanye’s been emo from the get-go. also this is kinda emo: “Yeah, my pops was a fiend since sixteen / Shootin’ that (that’s that shit!) in his blood stream”
    21. ghost is basically crying on every track he’s so emotional
    22. but yea soft-ass pseudo-emo rap is in
    23. that’s why i don’t fux with cudi
    24. i’m emo but i’m not soft

  2. Davitbro Maryasinbro says:

    Brilliant! And Kanye’s acting IS perfect. One of the best acting jobs of all time. OF. ALL. TIME. Kanye is better than Drake but Drake has catchier bars in a traditional way (punchlines, cultural references, etc.), whereas Kanye is more experimental and (sometimes) deeper. For instance, I’d trust Drake in a freestyle battle more than I’d trust Kanye. Having said that, I trust Kanye would have the more interesting album. Ghostface is one of the pioneers of this emo rap shit — remember “All That I Got (Is You)”? All the way to “Whip Me With a Strap.” Method Man gets an honorable mention for that Mary joint. By the way, that Kanye “Bittersweet” joint was one of my favorite verses of all time, but he fucked it up by making a stupid duet with John Mayer out of it — the height of emo-trash. When he kicked it on Def Poetry, he brought down the house. Almost made me cry (no homo).

    p.s. cudi is mostly bogus. he’s the type of artist thats bogus overall, but comes out with quality once in a once.

  3. Saeid Edward says:

    I definitely cried to that Kanye joint (no dweebo emo)…ex-girl problems, driving away from school, really listening to the song for the first time, how could I not cry. I feel you on everything except for Drake’s freestyle prowess. And by freestyle, of course, I mean recited written shit that is called a freestyle:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uKSeyYFGRo Also peep the wrist action at 3:50 mark (no phobo).

  4. Samsam says:

    I almost never comment on blogs but your article compelled me to comment. I think the short film was a very creative and artist collaboration between west and jonze. I too am perplexed by the amount of attention we give celebrities in this day and age, when the infamous egomaniac west “kills” his ego in this short i think its great, west has always been criticized for the size of his head but here he shows he is aware and doesn’t glorify it to be something justified or good. The problem here though and the bitter humor at the same time is that its sort of a paradox, by making a film about the troubles of fame and celebrity he simply adds to his fame and celebrity.

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