What Kanye West and Jimmy Kimmel taught me about reconciliation

I started a Tumblr blog last week. My tag line and purpose is simply stated: “I’m using this Tumblr to repent of separating the ‘sacred’ and ‘secular.’ Jesus is in everything around me.” It’s been a good exercise in learning more about the world around me. I’ve subsequently, and possibly to my detriment, been paying attention to pop culture more! (That’s why I was writing about Drake and Breaking Bad a few weeks ago.) It’s been enjoyable to observe how the celebrated in our culture (they are like our king and queens, really) interact with each other.

It’s no surprise that they have to be extraordinarily image conscious since they are always being followed by the paparazzi! I think, though, because they are so prominent, they often lead us. So it follows that this generation is among the most narcissistic. A characteristic of narcissism is the tendency to mock, criticize, or sarcastically put down others.

We see this to an extreme degree in the text-messaging generation. Twitter, Instagram, and other social media not only makes us more self-conscious, it also makes criticism of each other easily.

It pains me to say this, but we learned how to do from the sarcastic, and self-centered comedians featured in my favorite TV of all time, Seinfeld. In the show, the characters are known for mean-spirited nature in their comedy. Jerry Seinfeld’s comedy is immaculate since it lacks almost any profanity, but it doesn’t need any because it cuts so deep into the normal way of things. A show about nothing is hilariously post-modern. It is about nothing. It’s the anti-show. And as soon as you try to build something, they’ll tear it down. Deconstruction their objective.

I felt for some musical artists this week particularly. Drake (you can find my blog post about him linked above) recently released a decidedly narcissistic and vulnerable record. One of the reasons I learned about the record is because I regularly frequent the hipster-dominated, and often self-important website, Pitchfork. (Is it a surprise that a Pitchfork fan would harshly criticize the website he so often checks out?)

Pitchfork rated Drake’s third full-lenth LP highly, and of course, another band had something to say about it. Sometimes rappers criticize each other as they compete to be the latest thing (more on that later), but it’s surprising when someone of an entirely different genre feels threatened by a hip-hop record! Check out what Ezra Koenig said about Drake’s record here. Here’s the part that stoof out to me (I put on my Tumblr here and tagged it #jealousy and #narcissism):

“I gotta be honest — I didn’t listen to the whole thing. Obviously, it’s good. You think a Canadian child actor would be this successful as a rapper if he wasn’t good? The dude was sitting on 25 mil at age 25!”

I don’t know what Koenig’s point really is, other than taking a shot at someone else, but I felt for him. It’s hard to be in such a competitive market begging for the media to make or break you.

Sufjan Stevens, another favorite of mine, might have felt threatened in a similar way earlier this week when he criticized, in an unusual manner, Miley Cyrus’ grammar skills. Stevens said this on his blog. It’s an open-letter to Miley Cyrus:

Dear Miley. I can’t stop listening to #GetItRight (great song, great message, great body), but maybe you need a quick grammar lesson. One particular line causes concern: “I been laying in this bed all night long.” Miley, technically speaking, you’ve been LYING, not LAYING, an irregular verb form that should only be used when there’s an object, i.e. “I been laying my tired booty on this bed all night long.” Whatever. I’m not the best lyricist, but you know what I mean. #Get It Right The Next Time. But don’t worry, even Faulkner messed it up. We all make mistakes, and surely this isn’t your worst misdemeanor.

I don’t know about you, but I think Sufjan is being mean! It’s a pop song—why does the grammar need to be accurate? And why poke fun at a 20-year-old who is clearly over-compensating? She needs love! Not your mindless criticism, which is really about making you look funny! Of course, why mention Faulkner? (I actually think Sufjan Steven might think he’s the best lyricist!)

We do this to each other all the time. In the Apostle Paul’s dealings with the church, he warns us against such insults and leads us toward unity and love. He tells the Philippians:

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:5)

His wisdom to the Ephesians is similar:

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)

And he even goes further to the Romans:

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God.”

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Paul is warning the Romans not to judge and hate either because God the ultimate judge and lover.

Enter Kanye “I am a god” West. Kanye West really made a scene in Hollywood and on Twitter a few weeks ago. He got interviewed by Zane Lowe. Check out the full interview here. And in the interview, Kanye says some pretty incredible things. He talks about how difficult it is being a rapper, being a black celebrity, and being objectified by the media. He proceeds to tell us he’s the number one rock star on the planet. (He also notes that he’s not offended by the fact that Kendrick Lamar doesn’t mention him in the verse where Lamar honors all the latest and greatest rappers on Big Sean’s “Control” track. But that’s another story altogether!) He honors his fans by telling them that if they love him, they love themselves!  There’s more to the interview than Kanye’s self-importance, and if you have an hour you might find it to be an enjoyable way to spend it.

Never one to miss an opportunity, Jimmy Kimmel made fun of West on his late night talk show. And Kanye, tired of being the oppressed celebrity, lashed on Twitter against Kimmel. The Huffington Post documented the Twitter war. Kanye really was upset about the whole thing—maybe becoming a father changed him. But he took it really personally, so much so, that Kimmel invited him onto the show as a demonstration of reconciliation (apparently the two have something of a history, too, and not always on Twitter).

And you know what? I think that made up for it all. I don’t think Kanye West lashing out on Twitter is a good step in conflict resolution. He might have just lashed out because his ego was bruised. But he did make something known and didn’t act like he wasn’t bothered! And Jimmy Kimmel understood that and actually wanted, seemingly, to reconcile. I appreciate that. And I appreciate the awkwardness of the interaction. It’s good to see people make up—even if it isn’t exactly how Jesus instructed in Matthew 18.

I did learn something from the celebrity feud. First of all, we don’t always need to defend our honor or greatness—and if someone does, we don’t have to make fun of them. But it’s OK to be hurt by something even though everyone else thought it was funny. It’s good to articulate that you feel that way. And it’s good to agree to reconcile too.

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