via Kim Kardashian West's Instagram
Kim Kardashian West’s debasing of Taylor Swift on Sunday night will no doubt go down as a significant moment in pop culture. The business mogul and reality star outed Swift via Snapchat videos after months of back and forth with the singer her team asserting that she did not know she’d be called a bitch on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo single “Famous.” The truth about the line is contentious; both sides (still) claim the other is lying. Nevertheless, the method of telling that truth is increasingly questioned as the dust settles around this Calabasas gated community drama. Kim isn’t a musician but she takes a number of her tactics from the pop celeb elite these days; she prefers to hint, smirk, and nudge toward something before completely obliterating our timelines for weeks to come with a singular swift move. This is Kim’s way; she, along with her family, is master of her own world and, to an extent, ours. Kardashian West isn’t so much a PR construct as she is liquidating the norm of how one can control their own narrative. In the history of celebrity and story-telling, if any one person could ever rewrite a script it would be Kimberly Kardashian West.
Still, when Kim had the video ready to post after an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians aired, which featured talk of Kim’s slight at Swift in GQ, Swift too, had a reaction note ready to go before posting it on Instagram. It’s not accidental for her to post a screenshot with “Search” in the top left corner knowing full well that can be edited out. Kim and Swift are more of the same person than not. Both women are ruthlessly committed to their own public image. Both, in the beginning, had their careers purchased for them by their well-off families, yet managed to work harder and gain traction with fans and money where their families and other people simply could not. Their social circles are populated with the right kind of “squad” for optimal success. Even their GQ profiles of their personality and character, released more than six months apart with different writers, read very similar in tone:
“Let's stipulate here that Kim Kardashian West is not the kind of person who forgets that the tape-recorder light is blinking. But just because a rant is carefully chosen for its audience doesn't mean it isn't genuine.”
“[S]he can’t directly admit it because it’s the kind of thing that only works when it seems accidental. She’s careful how she describes the process because you don’t become who she is by describing things carelessly... Swift can manufacture the kind of mythology that used to happen to Carly Simon by accident.”
Image via Wikipedia
Much of current (and future) pop culture is indebted to these women. It doesn’t matter if you’re #TeamTaylor or #TeamKim or neither. We care about these women and their lives because they have managed to upend an entire way of thinking about truth and behaviours that we also find in ourselves. We don’t necessarily use their... antics, I suppose, to comment on social trends—these women are social trends. They are innovative in their mastery of personal curation in ways we long have to catch up to, whether or not you personally agree with their personalities. Exposure is a good way to view both of these women and their celebrity. Exposure as it exists with other celebs is by definition overexposure—something Swift even joked about on the now infamous call with Kanye. Swift and Kim are more synonymous with exposure as detection or discovery or unmasking whether it’s this drama, a whirlwind of what is truth or some other revelatory aspect of their own lives that we can relate to. In fact, you can see Swift as a version of Kim. A pre-Kim before she became a Kardashian West. They are alike in many ways yet maturity still keeps them strikingly apart. Kim has a higher level of effortless self-awareness that runs in tandem with her calculated pursuit of her own narrative, which is why Swift is perhaps as irked as she is: she’s fighting against someone with such mastery of this craft that she believes she, too, possesses.
Each have been defined by their relationships with certain men. Swift’s current relationship with Tom Hiddleston is a glossy attempt at something that feels more like a partnership than what she had with Calvin Harris. Hiddleston wearing an "I <3 t.s."<="" a=""> shirt to the beach acts as a premeditated show of support—it lacks is a kind of genuineness you see with the Wests. Kim and Kanye are a partnership, a unit. There is a sincerity in the way they respond to and work with each other, either on (separate, usually) business or creative ventures or in their own relationship. Kim took the lead on Swift’s takedown and that is underscored in this week’s episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians where she tells her sisters—and us—that she told Kanye to keep off Twitter, to be a bit more quiet about Swift. She pulled in the reins before launching a personal quest to protect her partner. Kanye does the same for Kim, defending her and showcasing her positive qualities every chance he gets while Kim is on the sideline, quiet, but safe. Swift lacks that same kind of partner who bolsters her.
Photo via "Famous" video
Ultimately, Swift is pissed at the Wests because she believes her character has been assassinated, which, fine, that’s a fair reason to be angry. An argument consistently levied against Swift, though, is that she is content to do that very same thing to any number of dudes she has dated and friends (Katy Perry) over the years who have been reduced to tabloid fodder and nonsense. Swift is not directly confrontational (she never names names) like Kim but she is confrontational in her own way and completely calculated, a word Swift does not like. Kim has been known to forgive people who have wronged her. Taylor attempted to try and move on from the 2009 VMA incident with Kanye but it never felt truly resolved. Kim publicly and succinctly takes people to task when need be, where a fight is perhaps necessary while Swift is forever in a slow-burn against someone else’s past indiscretion toward her. This is why Kim can extend a hand to Amber Rose and Blac Chyna in a way that Swift cannot with Katy Perry.
When Swift is pitted against Kanye, she can more easily control her narrative. She manages to reduce Kanye to a loud man who uses derogatory language toward women via her brand of white feminism and rallies herself as a victim. With Kim, Swift faces something very reflective: she is up against someone with whom she shares such a vigorous and substantially similar value system and structure of self in a public forum. If we are to think of Taylor as an earlier version of Kim, this has a real effect on her; this very public debacle has left a fracture in the pop singer’s veneer.
Sarah MacDonald is a staff writer at Noisey Canada. Follow her on Twitter.