In response to Kanye West’s most recent foray into the pro-Trump world of “Making America Great Again,” Lana Del Rey has emerged as a heralding figure in criticizing Kanye and his misguided world of self-involvement. Though West deserved to be called out for what has been described as a “hostage” situation by SNL cast member Kenan Thompson, Del Rey was not the celebrity who was best equipped to do so.
Following his most recent SNL appearance, footage of West emerged on social media in an unaired post-show segment: West brought members of the SNL cast back onto the stage, only to make vague and inherently indecipherable claims against the production company. Touting his red MAGA hat throughout the entire ordeal, he then took to Instagram to further pledge allegiance to his accessory:
Fans of West were quick to criticize the star’s ongoing commitment to Donald Trump and right-wing politics. Many were already disturbed by his outright awkward appearance on SNL and infuriated by his failure to drop Yandhi, the singer’s upcoming ninth studio album, on the night of his appearance. Most notable of these fans was Lana Del Rey, who performed at West’s and Kim Kardashian’s 2014 wedding but was quick to respond to West’s Instagram post:
“Trump becoming our president was a loss for the country but your support of him is a loss for the culture. I can only assume you relate to his personality on some level. Delusions of grandeur, extreme issues with narcissism–none of which would be a talking point if we weren’t speaking of the man leading our country.” Del Rey wrote.Taken from Instagram
Though Del Rey’s claims support her previous political commitment to an anti-Trump America, her chagrin is unequivocally hypocritical, given her own actions this summer.
The singer was set to perform in Tel Aviv’s Meteor Festival (September 6-8 2018) before backing out in response to ongoing backlash from fans and international organizations in light of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Del Rey posted this note to her fans one week prior to her formal withdraw from the festival, drawing criticism on all sides for her insensitive conflation of peace in the region as possible through her performance and potential engagement with both Israeli and Palestinian children.
It is here where Del Rey’s references to West’s personal “delusions of grandeur” and “extreme issues with narcissism” reveal their own highly problematic agenda. West and Del Rey exude clear savior complexes in regards to broader political issues, both of which are toxic and unwelcome in the current political climate, but are especially dangerous when we allow one to defend the other. Where Del Rey ignores decades of violence and political oppression in the name of artistic expression, West continues to carelessly use allusions to the alt-right to promote himself. Both exhibit clear displays of delusion and narcissism, yet Del Rey is being heralded for calling out West while evading scrutiny for her own, similar behaviors. Though her actions are performative at best and downright toxic at their core, she is being seen as a hero for standing up to the Trump administration and its supporters, Kanye included.
By praising Del Rey—even if her actions were well intended—we simultaneously forget that she has played into the same politics and toxic notions of celebrity power. We need to recognize that activism (read: slacktivism) among celebrities is rampant and often comes with a savior complex closely attached. When we allow public figures to play with important issues to fuel their own personal agendas, we set a dangerous precedent for celebrity power. In the past week, Taylor Swift has received endless praise for her decision to openly endorse candidates and encourage voting amongst her fanbase. Swift’s actions are important and impactful (240,000 more registered voters) but it appears that in the swarm of praise and recognition, the world has forgotten her profound silence throughout the 2016 Presidential election and the U.S. leg of her 2018 stadium tour, Reputation. I am all for celebrities using their notoriety as a platform, but we cannot blindly praise them for their decisions, no matter how well intended they may be.