In 2018, various journalists wanted to talk to me about a couple of tweets I’d posted in favor of Kanye West. They couldn’t seem to believe that I supported his “crazy” feed, especially when he said he liked Trump, and couldn’t fathom why I tweeted “Hail Kanye!” in response to his weird blend of transparent prophet and calculated p.r. prankster.
I’d known Kanye since 2013, when out of the blue he texted me to ask if I’d like to work on a movie idea of his. We’d never met, but I was intrigued enough to go see him in a private wing of Cedars Sinai in LA the day after his first child had been born. We spent four hours there talking about the movie project and a wide range of subjects — everything from Yeezus to porn to “The Jetsons” — until Kim Kardashian came out of her room cradling their newborn North. This seemed the time for me to excuse myself, though it also seemed that Kanye wanted me to stay indefinitely, even offering me a Grey Goose that he was pouring out of a magnum as I prepared to leave.
Since then I’d worked with him on a few complicated and strange projects for film, TV and video that mostly never happened, yet because of all this I kept up with him on social media and now found myself reacting to his amazing stream-of-conscious thoughts on his Twitter page in the weeks before the release of his new record — just like hundreds of thousands of other followers.
These tweets were a reminder of why I liked Kanye: They were sweet and mysterious, dumb and profound, funny and playful, part absurdist stunt as well as a genuine reflection of where Kanye West was in that moment. And at one point during the Twitter-storms he mentioned that he loved Trump and admired his “dragon energy,”which he suggested he and the president shared. But this admiration was nothing new, since he’d said as much when he imploded with a rant at a concert in San Jose the week after Trump won — and told the audience, “If I would’ve voted, I would’ve voted for Trump.”
On top of all this, he was one of the only celebrities to visit the president in Trump Tower after the election. All of this was pure Kanye, obsessed with showbiz and spectacle and power — and to some of us his honesty had always been hypnotizing and inspiring. But the left acted like horrified schoolteachers, lecturing us that what he’d tweeted was very, very bad; that nobody should listen to him; that he should apologize so we all could forgive him for a narrative in which he — a black man — supported a racist and was therefore racist himself.
Instead of getting outraged, they should have realized that a figure like Trump would seem appealing to him: brash, a gangster, his own man whether you liked him or loathed him, a loner, transparent, a truth teller not to be taken literally, flawed, contradictory, a rebel, awful for some or wonderful for others but certainly not vanilla or middle-of-the-road, incapable as a bureaucrat but skillful as a disruptor. This was also, of course, what a lot of other people I knew liked about Trump in the summer of 2018.
The media became derisive and speculated that Kanye had to be on drugs to say anything of the sort. He’s destroying his career! How could a black man like Trump? Anyone but an idiot could tell what Kanye was trying to say, however garbled and clumsy it was, but given the bias infecting everything in 2018, the press worried that he was having “delusional episodes” and probably needed to be treated for drug abuse. The consensus, in postmortem editorials everywhere, was that he would never have a career again after the slavery comment and the Trump tweets. It was all over for Kanye.
The year 2018 had been anxiety-inducing for a lot of people, many of them feeling like they were tumbling into free fall without a parachute. Everyone had a personal opinion, his or her own hot take on reality, and very few seemed to have the gift of neutrality, of being able to look at the world in a naturally calm, detached manner, from a distance, unencumbered by partisanship.
Ever since the election, Hollywood had revealed itself in countless ways as one of the most hypocritical capitalist enclaves in the world, with a preening surface attitude advocating progressivism, equality, inclusivity and diversity — except not when it came down to inclusivity and diversity of political thought and opinion and language. They proudly promoted peace just as they were fine with Trump getting shot by Snoop Dogg in a video or decapitated by Kathy Griffin or beaten up by Robert De Niro or, more simply, as an apparently drunken Johnny Depp suggested, assassinated.
Fellow comrades had started to adhere to their new rule book: about humor, about freedom of expression, about what’s funny or offensive. Artists — or, in the local parlance, creatives — should no longer push any envelope, go to the dark side, explore taboos, make inappropriate jokes or offer contrarian opinions. This new policy required you to live in a world where one never got offended, where everyone was always nice and kind, where things were always spotless and sexless, preferably even genderless — and this is when I really started worrying, with enterprises professing control over not only what you say but your thoughts and impulses, even your dreams.
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SOURCE: NY Post, Bret Easton Ellis | An excerpt from the book “White” © 2019 by Bret Easton Ellis, published by Knopf on April 16, 2019. The Bret Easton Ellis Podcast is available on Patreon.