Jeneé Osterheldt

Bold lessons in Kanye West's rants

By Jeneé Osterheldt

Kanye West taught a master class on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" this week. Were you listening?

"I refuse to follow those rules that society has set up and the way that they can control people with low self-esteem," he declared. "It's about truth, it's about information, it's about awesomeness, and the only luxury is time."

People want to focus on the big, brash and extreme things that come out of his sparkling mouth, but there are lot of important truths - about classism, celebrity and honesty - swirling through the wild and rude intensity that boiled between Kanye and Jimmy.

The Grammy Award-winning rapper/producer appeared on the show to clear the air after he lashed out at Jimmy over a skit that mocked him.

The labels "rant" and "stream of consciousness" are being thrown around a lot. And maybe his speechifying Wednesday night really was those things. But it was so much more. Like honest. Over-the-top, but honest.

No one is talking about how he openly admitted that he says things the wrong way, no matter how well-intentioned. "I'm totally weird and totally honest and I'm totally inappropriate sometimes," he told Jimmy.

Like Kanye said, the media thrive off of breaking artists and breaking spirits. In turn, he tries to break media.

At some point, we regular folks have become the paparazzi. We're conditioned to clamor for headlines that hit below the belt and bring no depth to our lives. Like bullies, we take all of our insecurities and hardships and make ourselves feel better by dumping on others.

Kanye, despite his own part in this circus, was right. We treat celebrities like zoo animals, belittling the importance of their thoughts with little respect to their lives.

We aren't comfortable when people break out of the boxes we are so happy to place them in. Kanye West the crazy rapper, the producer, the guy who ruined Taylor Swift's moment? We refuse to see more than that even when he shows us the artist, the thinker, the creative.

His apologies and admissions are never enough. His flaws are so much easier to latch onto, because that's what we expect from rapper types.

It's a different kind of cage for the starlet like Miley Cyrus. We can't handle it when a Hannah Montana comes of age and explores her femininity and sexuality, for the good and bad. How dare she defy Disney. Like we didn't see it coming. Like it's not a passing phase of fun, dumb 20-somethingness.

We don't want people to be honest, not really. We don't want to see the whole person. Because we don't want anyone to see us for who we are, all imperfect and broken just looking for a slice of peace. We are happy to see the box that they live in, the stereotype we expect. Exceptions? There are few.

It's how we treat our stars and it's how we treat one another. It's why we continually stand divided, from the most basic levels all the way up to the White House. We lack the desire to actually understand one another. More than that, we rarely give anyone a break. What I saw between Jimmy and Kanye was an attempt to do both.

Maybe if we all took a pinch (don't overdose) of Kanye's confidence and unfiltered honesty, and a spoonful of Jimmy's patience and humor, not only could we be comfortable with ourselves, we could learn to find comfort in others.

Perhaps we could break that glass ceiling Kanye referred to so often during his discussion. Not only do we live under it with him, we helped build it.

He once referred to himself as a glitch, like Vanellope von Schweetz, the misfit racer in "Wreck-It Ralph," the Disney movie he loves. But I think Kanye is more like the title character - busting down walls, misunderstood, a bad guy who just wants to be good.

Love him or hate him, it's hard not to relate to that.

JeneÈ Osterheldt's column runs on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. To reach her, call 816-234-4380 or send email to josterheldt@kcstar.com. "Like" her page on Facebook and never miss a column. You also can follow her at Twitter.com/jeneeinkc.

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