Staging Impropriety: Jes Grew at the VMAs

Staging Impropriety: Jes Grew at the VMAs

by Mark Anthony Neal

Twitter and Facebook were aglow, seconds after Kanye West’s most recent flare-up, this time snatching the microphone from a bewildered Taylor Swift, who had just won the “Best Female Video” award at MTV’s VMAs. West was ostensibly “protesting” Swift’s victory over fellow nominee Beyonce Knowles. West’s behavior at such events has become something of a cliché and as such it was almost to be expected. But this time was a bit different, in that West was not protesting on behalf of his usual favorite charity—himself. Something was afoot.

In a weekend that was in part defined by black impropriety—Michael Jordan’s Hall of Fame acceptance speech and Serena Williams vitriolic verbal attack on a line judge at the US Open—West’s moment seemed like staged Jes Grew, as Ishmael Reed might refer to it, in response to what has been several months of improprieties liberally taken at the expense of black bodies, be it the late “King of Pop” or the current President of the United States. It is part of a script that West has carefully crafted, in the best (post-modern) spirit of P.T. Barnum. The boos that appeared whenever West’s name was mentioned throughout the evening were also part of that script and we all sat enraptured wondering how Knowles might respond to West’s misguided attempt to “speak” on her behalf. After a stirring performance of “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It),” all eyes were on Knowles when she received the award for “Video of the Year” and called Swift to the stage to recover her interrupted moment.

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5 thoughts on “Staging Impropriety: Jes Grew at the VMAs

  1. I’m so sick and tired of people trying to make some things seem like racial issues or a conspiracy! Some things and some people are just WRONG!!! West was just plain wrong!

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