Who Will Survive in America: The Mass Media’s Fascination With Kanye Wes

Date of Award


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Rebecca Overmyer-Velázquez


When you mention the name “Kanye West,” in any public sphere, everyone has a rather divisive opinion on the cultural icon. Over the years, Kanye West has gone from critically adored to vilified and back and forth a multitude of times by the mass media which only begs the question: what makes Kanye West such a polarizing figure in the mass media? He is by no means the first celebrity to speak their outspoken opinions but because he is an African-American male with a strong opinion, the mass media views him in a certain light as compared to other popular culture figures. Kanye West has continuously shifted the paradigm of hip-hop, clothing and album production yet is persecuted in the mass media as yet another “crazy,” “animalistic” or “savage” black man because of his refusal to play by societies racially designated rules of doing and saying the culturally accepted things. This is a media study where I have collected from various mass media outlets from “print” news that include (online) magazines, news articles, op-ed pieces, tabloid articles, think pieces, click-bait articles with secondary sources such as interviews, internet videos and blogs. In total, I have collected more than 100 mass media pieces dating from 2004 to 2016 and have done a close reading analysis of the pieces to identify the key points about what makes West such a conflicting figure. As my research progressed, I discovered that more than anything else, Kanye West is divisive more so than outright hated as I originally believed because he is a black man willing to stand against white America’s culturally designated norms. Some of the weaknesses of my research come back to me being only one person and being able to read only so many articles as well as my bias to having more recent articles in it. With the mass media being the basis for our public perception of celebrity personalities, Kanye West starts an important dialogue about the trend of outspoken African-American personalities receiving more scrutiny and negative attention in the mass media than their white counterparts and America’s failure to recognize it. This research is an attempt to examine the mass media’s underlying racism in our alleged “post-racial” American society with Kanye West being the latest trend of black men being vilified and made an example of.


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