Staging Impropriety: Jes Grew at the VMAs
Twitter and Facebook were aglow, seconds after Kanye Westâ€™s most recent flare-up, this time snatching the microphone from a bewildered Taylor Swift, who had just won the â€œBest Female Videoâ€ award at MTVâ€™s VMAs. West was ostensibly â€œprotestingâ€ Swiftâ€™s victory over fellow nominee Beyonce Knowles. Westâ€™s behavior at such events has become something of a clichÃ© 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 charityâ€”himself. Something was afoot.
In a weekend that was in part defined by black improprietyâ€”Michael Jordanâ€™s Hall of Fame acceptance speech and Serena Williams vitriolic verbal attack on a line judge at the US Openâ€”Westâ€™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 â€œKing of Popâ€ 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 Westâ€™s name was mentioned throughout the evening were also part of that script and we all sat enraptured wondering how Knowles might respond to Westâ€™s misguided attempt to â€œspeakâ€ on her behalf. After a stirring performance of â€œSingle Ladies (Put a Ring On It),â€ all eyes were on Knowles when she received the award for â€œVideo of the Yearâ€ and called Swift to the stage to recover her interrupted moment.