Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Kim Kardashian vs Taylor Swift: a Battle of Two PR Styles

[ed. Nice to get caught up every seven years or so.... or, maybe not.]

"I'd very much like to be excluded from this narrative,” Taylor Swift writes in a statement released to the world via an Instagram post. She is upset that she has been “falsely painted as a liar” in a series of events that amount to “character assassination”. Someone is offering the world a story about her, a story in which she is the villain. Swift doesn’t want to accept that role.

How did we get here? If you haven’t been following the drama of Swift vs West for the past seven years, here are the basics of what we know. In 2009, Swift was awarded the MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video. Kanye West interrupted her acceptance speech to insist that, with “Single Ladies”, a song nominated for the same award, BeyoncĂ© “had one of the best videos of all time”. West’s reputation as (in Barack Obama’s words) “a jackass”, was cemented: the majority of people watching at home were resoundingly on Swift’s side. West apologised. Fast forward a few years, and the two have kissed and made up: at the 2015 VMAs, Swift presented West with an award of his own. A month later, West sends Swift flowers – she posts a picture of them to Instagram, hastags it #BFFs, and it becomes her most popular post to the site. Then, in February of this year, West debuts his new album, including the song “Famous”, which contains the lyric “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? / I made that bitch famous” – tabloids were shocked. West claims that he had Swift’s approval. Swift denied it, in her first of several statements she would make in relation to this incident.

At the Grammy Awards a few days later, Swift made a thinly veiled allusion to those who “try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame”. West claimed that despite her comments, Swift had approved the lyrics in question during a phone call. A video for the song comes out, showing a naked Swift lookalike in bed next to West – many labelled it misogynistic. At this point, West’s wife, Kim Kardashian West, started to defend her husband, insisting that the phone conversation had happened on film in an interview with GQ – and that she has the tapes. In a somewhat condescending statement, Swift denied that she had ever heard the song or approved the specific lyrics in question, but confirmed that Kanye West had called her to ask her something else about the song.

“Taylor does not hold anything against Kim Kardashian as she recognizes the pressure Kim must be under and that she is only repeating what she has been told by Kanye West. However, that does not change the fact that much of what Kim is saying is incorrect. Kanye West and Taylor only spoke once on the phone while she was on vacation with her family in January of 2016 and they have never spoken since. Taylor has never denied that conversation took place. It was on that phone call that Kanye West also asked her to release the song on her Twitter account, which she declined to do. Kanye West never told Taylor he was going to use the term ‘that bitch’ in referencing her. A song cannot be approved if it was never heard. Kanye West never played the song for Taylor Swift. Taylor heard it for the first time when everyone else did and was humiliated. Kim Kardashian’s claim that Taylor and her team were aware of being recorded is not true, and Taylor cannot understand why Kanye West, and now Kim Kardashian, will not just leave her alone.”

Then, last night, just after an episode of her reality show Keeping Up With The Kardashians aired discussing the whole affair, Kim Kardashian West posted the video footage to her Snapchat.

In the video we see Kanye reading her the line “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex”. We don’t see him reading the line about how he made her famous, but we can tell that something that is at least similar is read, by Swift’s response: “You honestly didn’t know who I was before that. It doesn’t matter if I sold seven million of that album before you did that, which is what happened. You didn’t know who I was.” Less than an hour later, Swift released a statement which emphasises that she was not aware that she would be referred to as “that bitch” in the song, hence her change in tone.

The charitable reading of Swift is that she was overly nice to West on the phone without knowing the specifics. The less charitable reading is that she wanted the lyric to be released to the public, but to also publically reject it as misogynistic: because, as Kim Kardashian West says on KUWTK, she wanted to “play the victim” as “it worked so well for her the first time”. Many agreed with Kardashian West. #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty and #KimExposedTaylorParty started trending on Twitter – the most enthusiastic followers of to-the-minute celebrity gossip felt it was high time the sweet, girlish singer was “exposed” as something a lot less innocent. People were taking sides – and they chose Kim’s.

Kim Kardashian West and Taylor Swift have very different types of fame, and very different approaches to being famous, but both are powerful women renowned – infamous, even – for controlling their public image down to the minute details. They have both spent years crafting channels that give the illusion of intimacy with their audiences, building relationships (romantic and otherwise) with other celebrities, turning unsavoury tabloid stories to their own advantage, carefully selecting which parts of their personal lives to share with the world. As Taylor’s fear of “narrative” exemplifies, they are, in essence, storytellers. This feud represents a battle between two very different styles of storytelling.

by Anna Leszkiewicz, New Statesman | Read more:
Image: Kevin Mazur/WireImage, E!; Taylor Swift