We are watching

This is one of the four blog sites for UCI’s Spring quarter LitJ and English 103 course, The Literature of Fashion and Celebrity. On this blog, we’ll be watching and calibrating the rising fame quotient of the hip-hop artist, songwriter, record and film producer and all-around cultural commentator Kanye West, in order to better understand how the fame machine works, and how observation, writing, and narrative are used by it, and use it. Can you be more famous than Kanye West? Can he get more famous? Does a celebrity have to keep producing news to remain culturally central? And how do the media profit from the ongoing fame production?


On our other blogs, CumberbatchWatch, The BynesWatch, and The LaBeoufWatch, we’ll be considering how the fame machine works for other kinds of celebrities. For all the blogs, we want to be thinking about how the narrative of celebrity functions for and in the wider world.

Here’s a chart from 2006 showing what the National Entertainment State looks like. (Scroll to the PDF.)

Some of the questions we want to consider as we watch Cumberbatch, West, Bynes, and LaBeouf this quarter:

How does the digital world enhance a celebrity’s standing?

Can all the coverage harm a figure or only enhance her or him, in some way?

Someone once said that there is no such thing as bad publicity — is that true?

And how does publicity differ from journalism — this is a particularly vexed question in the field of celebrity and fashion journalism, where so often the reporter is co-opted in some way by the subject.

Can a day pass without a news mention of one of these figures? Why not?

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 10.12.43 AM
Everyday, more news. What’s news, when it’s about a hip-hop artist?

Does the celebrity’s “true” character as a human being play a part in his or her fame in any way?

Why are so many celebrities actors and musicians? What other professions seem to create celebrities?

What are the implicit narratives of our subjects’ fame stories?

Who is generating the stories about our subjects? How are they being covered?

Who is doing the most serious writing about them, if anyone? (WE are!!!)

Paparazzi: what is the significance of this phenomenon?

Kanye West deals with the fame machine...and yet...

Kanye West deals with the fame machine…and yet…

How does the viewer participate in the fame quotient, in the form of clicks, commenters, fan fictions, etc.?

Do celebrities matter? Is the celebrity machine a force for good in the broader world?

Kanye’s people, this is your site: You know who you are!

Go to the blog page and comment! Let’s become smart about this constant feed of facts and factoids and pointless fizz and fodder that’s coming at us all the time, every day; even our subject knows how crazy it all is, apparently (see photo above).

6 thoughts on “We are watching

  1. This morning I was watching a rerun of Keeping up with the Kardashians, and while I am not proud to admit this fact I feel that it is relevant to share my experience watching this show. In the episode, Kim was having her baby shower and at the end Kanye West showed up. On the screen they seem so happy and just want to be like “normal people”. But this false perception is almost comical when you research Kanye West. One thing I think is quite funny is Kanye’s claim on the ‘leather running pant’. It is a thousand dollar pant that is made to have the same silhouette as a running pant, but has zero practicality. As someone who is very interested in fashion, I also think that it is not fashionable by any means. Furthermore, it seems that Kanye believes that he is the inventor of all things, and that everyone is discrediting him and stealing his ideas… This seems to happen to him a lot. http://www.buzzfeed.com/angelamv/kanye-west-claims-the-leather-jogging-pant-was-his-thing


    My thought is this: either Kanye is clearly delusional and potentially has some mild forms of psychosis, or he realizes that any media is good media and is putting on a marvelous act. If the later is true then I commend him for being able to stay relevant for all these years. Kim is teaching him very well.

  2. While Kanye West may not be the exemplary role model, he remains one of the most famous and popular rappers on the planet. He is constantly surrounded by controversy and accusations of arrogance. This made me wonder: why is he still so popular? Aside from his music, he always manages to stay in the spotlight. Even now when he is not making music, he receives notoriety from magazine covers with Kim Kardashian. In addition, many people were upset that he was chosen as one of the headliners for the Outside Lands Music Festival which generally doesn’t focus its lineup on rappers. Again, Kanye found a way to force himself into the spotlight. I can’t think of a time when he wasn’t in the news for either his music, for praise, or for controversy. Personally, I think that it’s his personality. He needs to be the talk of the town, for one reason or the other, and acts accordingly. If anyone doesn’t believe that Kanye thinks he deserves the attention, please note that one of his songs from his last album is titled simply “I am a God”. It’s not that he’s better than everyone else, it’s that he wants everyone else to know that he’s better than them. Because of this, people are always quick to report a Kanye West story. We don’t like it when it when people think they’re better than us.

    To exemplify just how highly Kanye West thinks of himself, here’s the lyrics to “I am a God”.

  3. To be quite honest, Kanye West (and celebrities of the like) are famous because of their ability to put other people’s feelings and emotions aside. To me, they are cold and heartless people who look to their own fame and fortune and they are able to do this because they don’t really care for their fans. I recently saw a post about Kanye on perezhilton.com (which of course is a tabloid website) that really brought awareness to my point. He put off his tour in Australia because it was not a priority to him. He will be returning on tour in Australia after he finishes his studio album, which is said to be out in the summer of 2014. Way to let your fans down, Kanye. But in the end, it’s us who falls for this. Their lives, although just another mere life just like the rest of us, we put on a pedestal. We stalk them through all forms of social media just to se what they’ve been up to, and why? Who knows, maybe we like having a non-committal relationship with a douche bag who won’t ever like us the way we do. Maybe we like the chase that following up on a celebrity gives us. Why is Kanye West famous? I don’t know, but here I am, writing a blog post on him. What?

  4. What I have found most interesting about Kanye West as of late is his “influence” in the fashion industry. He is friends with designers and Anna Wintour, designed his own fashion line, is on the cover of Vogue etc. The first thing that came up on Google when I searched for him was an article about his shoes. And the article is absolutely absurd but does show the importance placed on figures such as West. West wore a pair of re-released Adidas tennis shoes and this is what the author wrote, “That means that almost anything Kanye wears is going to be something new, and an educational opportunity. That’s what happened with the ZX710.” New? They are re-releases of the original design. An educational opportunity? I have no clear why the author said by this or what he means by it. He has clearly used his influence in fashion to increase his fame and success, and that of his fiancé’s as well. Convincing Anna Wintour to put Kim Kardashian on the cover of Vogue and even her mother inside is not a small feet. Just last year Vogue removed all traces of Kim from their slideshow of the Met Ball even though she was in attendance and highly photographed. He is aware of his influence and even over estimates it sometimes, he went on quite a rant after he just called Louis Vuitton up and offered to design for them and they said no. While his big ego contributes it is clearly the consumers who have given him this power. I understand why celebrities were looked to for style inspiration they wore beautiful designer clothes to glamorous events but I think style icons like West are being replaced by fashion bloggers and I think it will be an interesting and more appropriate shift.

    Here is a link explaining that incident: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/entertainment/2013/11/kanye-west-calls-for-a-louis-vuitton-boycott-inks-deal-with-adidas/

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