Kanye West. Three syllables that pack a whole lotta oomph. For whatever reason, people love to have an opinion about him. Some opinions, however, stop us in our tracks and force us to really think about why we’re even talking about him in the first place.
This week’s issue of In Touch is one of those moments. The issue features a bright, shiny cover story that, at first look, has a big, grasping headline certainly meant to elicit a response: “Kanye Is Gay” reads above a meager “Kim’s Worst Fear” banner. It’s a classic journalistic ploy to grab the reader’s attention by skewing their first impression without technically being dishonest. (Guys, prepare to be shocked — tabloids can be dishonest!). Yet the article is also hugely problematic, not just journalistically, but from an emotional standpoint, as well.
The Cut brings up a solid point: The article heavily sources “online commenters” and anonymous “friends” of the rapper’s alleged romance with Givenchy’s “dashing, openly gay” Riccardo Tisci. Anonymous sources are one thing, but online commenters? Really? It’s lazy journalism at its most gratuitous. “In Touch just became the first magazine to give its biggest coverline to the wisdom of unknown strangers who could be joking, high, malicious, ironic, fictitious, or not even sure what ‘HE’S GAY’ means,” as Maureen O’Connor righteously puts it.
Which brings up another point: What exactly is it about Kanye that makes him vulnerable to this particular brand of rumor? Sure, he’s elusive. He doesn’t “do” celebrity by the calculated book like, say, Kim Kardashian herself — one minute he’s a loud-and-proud exhibitionist, the next thing he’s dodging cameras and refusing interviews. He’s an outlier, and that’s what keeps him interesting, not to mention confounding, whether or not you like his work. But elusiveness does not correspond with homosexuality, even by the most shallow stereotypes. This is more than just a salacious rumor — it’s cheap bullying that plays off America’s well-documented tendency to use “gay” as the worst insult, despite hardly understanding the culture itself.
We posted a GIF today of Jason Bateman and Will Arnett walking down the street holding hands. Nowhere on the Internet were headlines reading “Jason Bateman And Will Arnett, Secret Gay Lovers?!?” But put Kanye in a silk shirt or a Parisian skirt and suddenly he’s a flaming homosexual. (Notably, we did point out the kilt, too, but for no other reason than his propensity to take fashion risks). Why is it that Snoop Dogg can get a french manicure, and James Brown can dress ostentatiously on the regular, and still be allowed the apparent luxury of defining their own sexuality? What about their flamboyance makes them any less gay than Kanye? The problem here is that because Kanye’s so difficult to pin down, the media slaps on the gay label as a means of categorizing him — thereby defining “gay” as a juicy and bullying insult, which is obviously extremely offensive in and of itself. It’s the easy way out of understanding someone who challenges our standards of celebrity.
For more on this, definitely check out The Cut’s thoughtful commentary. O’Connor tells it all and then some, bringing up a lot of things that clearly still need to be said, loud and clear. And if you want to read the original In Touch story, the issue is on newsstands now. (The Cut)
Photos: Via The Cut; Courtesy of In Touch Weekly.