Here we go, although I must say I’m a bit bored of Swift and West(on … Twunked likes her little pun).

The comments from my last post inspired me to consider this incident in a different way. Here’s how I see it:

We have four players: Kanye, Taylor, Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Or rather, we have the constructed images that the real people known as Kanye, Taylor, Beyoncé and Jay-Z and others use to sell us “their” music. Or clothes, or perfume, or sunglasses or shoes or T-shirts or binders or anything else with their names and/or faces attached.

• Kanye steals the mic from Taylor and stomps on her moment, in a misguided attempt to defend the absent Jay-Z’s woman from a perceived slight, thereby removing both women’s agency. (Which … is its own post unpacking that particular piece of social baggage.)

•Taylor is shell-shocked and leaves without making a speech.

•Beyoncé reclaims her agency by calling Taylor back, which does not restore Taylor’s agency.

•Taylor completes her speech.

Each of these players is not, effectively, a real person in this situation. They are each the embodiments of their respective brands. And those very, very valuable brands are not created and shaped by our players as individuals. They are created, shaped, promoted and controlled by lots of people for economic benefits many, not the least of which are those four, enjoy.

In a very real sense, these are not people, they are enacted economic properties. And that is something each of them has chosen by becoming a public figure and not merely singing in their own showers.

Now, in this situation, Kanye acted in a way that was consistent with his brand, that is, a loudmouth jerkoff. Beyoncé acted consistently with her brand. Taylor acted consistently with her brand.

Therein lies the problem. Both Beyoncé and Taylor Swift’s brands are carefully packaged and skillfully executed. But Beyoncé’s brand allows her to embrace her own agency, while Taylor’s limits her agency.

None of these brands is who these people actually are. They may be in some ways similar, but the brand is not the person. See: Martha Stewart.

Taylor Swift’s brand is, I believe, socially damaging. Millions of young consumers who do not have the critical thinking skills to unpack these ideas of branding are influenced by what they see as her actions as a person.

Beyoncé’s brand sends what I believe is a socially healthier message, because she retains her own agency. However, I would still have a talk with my child about how Single Ladies promotes what I believe are damaging notions, namely, that if a man respects a woman as a woman and as a partner, he will marry her, and that a woman’s goal is to be a wife. Which is not to say it’s not a fun — and very lucrative — single. (Waaa-ohh, oh oh ohhhh oh oh …)

But the really sick thing is, we collectively responded to this really minor pop culture incident in ways that show brands work. Even I was like “aww, poor little Taylor” and “Beyoncé is a class act, Kanye” for a bit.

Now, if you like, you can discuss Swift’s Road Not Chosen. Unfair, I know, but it’s my house.

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One Response to “In which there a discussion of branding and agency. And Kanye.”

  1. torgonator424 says:

    Brenda, you got it. PR companies are paid big time to stage “celebrities” for ratings and $$$, all fobbed off to the public as “news.”

    Glad you like Steinbeck; I also like Harlan Ellison

    I’ve heard the guy’s one tough cookie .