Kanye West and Taylor Swift make music. They've both given pop culture massive gifts: songs, lyrics, and engrossing conspiracy theories. But none of that matters right now.
Instead, what has become bigger than both their careers is one phone call they had months ago about a few lines in a song from Kanye's overhyped The Life of Pablo: "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous."
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The line turned heads. And the celebrities in question have undoubtedly been fanning the flames ever since, starting with Swift's heated acceptance speech at the 2016 Grammys back in February. "There are going to be people along the way who try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame," Swift said, pointedly. Kanye shot back, she shot back, he shot back, etc., etc.
Then Kim Kardashian entered the fray.
First there was the GQ cover story last month, where Kardashian insisted she had video proof of Swift giving West the go-ahead to use the lyric. Then there were the "Snake Day" warnings on Twitter, hinting that there was a disturbance in the Kimye/T-Swift force. Finally, the bomb fell: After Sunday's episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kim posted audio of the call to her Snapchat account. The Internet shook.
We all already know this. The question is why? Why do we all know this? Why have so many people scoured the Internet looking for every little detail to be analyzed about a phone call and a lyric? What made catching either Taylor Swift or Kanye West in a lie so tantalizing to the public?
The answer is two-fold, according to Cecily Luft, a psychometrist at the Baylor Scott & White Health system in Texas. "We love celebrity drama because celebrity itself can create a false sense of intimacy and ownership," she says. "We feel a kinship to one side or another as if they were our own close friends. When they get attacked, it can feel personal."
But what about those who aren't fans of the celebrities in question?
"The celebrities become a stand-in for a point of view or position," Luft tells Broadly. "For example, one might decide that one celebrity has been sexist or racist, tapping into a larger social problem. So these dramas become important because of the social consequences of their actions."
Kanye West or Kim Kardashian or Taylor Swift then come to represent gratuitous sexism in the music industry or casual racism in Hollywood or white feminist fragility. The "good guys" and "bad guys" mean a lot to us because they represent entire issues; we can use their antics to comment on larger social trends.
But can it go too far? Luft says yes. "We have more celebrities these days, and technology has made them more accessible," she notes. "These dramas aren't going away, so if celebrity drama is taking over your life or if you feel deeply upset over these dramas, it is a good idea to do something else for a while. Do some self-care. Take a walk or a bath. Read or watch something you enjoy. Pull yourself out of the drama and remind yourself of the real day-to-day life you are living."