When Guest of a Guest speculated that last night's Kanye West-Taylor Swift incident at the VMAs was scripted it sent a shockwave through Gawker HQ. Brian Moylan thinks it's fake and Richard Rushfield thinks it's real. Punches are being thrown!
Well, we're a little more civilized than that, but we're up for some spirited debate.
Moylan: As Guest of Guest points out, the whole things seems too good to be true, and too many people benefit. Everyone has sympathy for Swift, everyone loves Beyoncé (more), everyone thinks Kayne is (more of) a dick, and everyone is talking about MTV for the first time in a long time. Sure, it wasn't as obviously planned and Madonna kissing Britney Spears, but with a little bit of acting and canny planning, this is a publicity masterpiece.
Rushfield: Well that is the most half-baked argument I have ever heard. As any scientist or detective can tell you, motive alone is not enough to convict for a crime. Yes, MTV likes controversy, but their fake controversies in the past—eg. Bruno falling on Eminem—ham-handedly telegraph "this is a stunt" a mile off. Last night, you saw a moment of genuine awkwardness production-wise after Kanye took the mic when the booth seemed to stumble and be unsure about cutting away—not the hallmark of a pre-planned, pre-coreographed stunt.
Moylan: But why Swift so readily give up the mic? And how did Kanye get such easy access to the stage? I think it all started on the red carpet, where Kanye was conspicuously drinking from a bottle of booze and Beyoncé was talking up how she hoped that Swift would "get her moment" at the awards. It all just seems like foreshadowing for the unfortunate event. As for the production, well, WWE has been pulling stunts like this and making them look real(ish) for years.
Rushfield: Brian Moylan, your conspiratorial mind is seeing shadows everywhere. Why did she give up the mic so readily? First, she's a teenage girl, probably in a daze at the greatest moment of her life. Suddenly, there is Kanye West in her face grabbing her at hand, would you put up a fight? If that were me and I was a teenage Taylor I would just be shocked and think he was about to do some tribute to me or make a speech about Michael Jackson or something. The conspicuously drinking—well, its not the first time Kanye has done that either. Beyoncé wishing Taylor well does create a very neat circle, but a bit too neat to be planned.
If you were going to set this up as a stunt, would you really throw in a foreshadow like that? And why shouldn't she wish Taylor well. Just because your heart is filled with a hate for a young Southern girl who is the first non-tramp role model America's teenage girls have had in a decade, doesn't mean Beyoncé's heart is also made of coal. What needs to be examined here, Brian Moylan, is why you are so committed to locking the sunlight out of your life. To paraphrase Kelly Clarkson, in her letter to Kanye, What happened to you as a child Brian Moylan?
Moylan: It's not about what happened to me as a child, but what has happened to the celebrity industrial complex in my scant years on the planet. We have entered an age where every word that comes out of a celebrity's mouth, every outfit they wear, every Starbuck Mocha Frappachino they are photographed with by the paparazzi has prescripted, chosen, or placed. Every moment that we see in regards to the famous has been carefully planned out by professionals to make people money and to make all those teenage girls clamoring for a virgin queen like Taylor Swift buy more albums or her fragrance or House of Dereon jeans or Mocha Frappachinos. In a universe where everything is fake and for sale how can anything—from Kanye's outrage, to Taylor's sadness, to Beyoncé's righteousness—be genuine. Mr. Rushfield sees a magic bullet, but I see a man on the grassy knoll.
Rushfield: You make some important points and somewhat shame me in my wide-eyed innocence. But I think your argument is ultimately too cynical and not cynical enough. My basic rule of showbiz is that if things go perfectly, its by accident. Especially on a big live production, there are too many mix-ups, confusions and chaos for things to really fall into place like that. You are comparing it to the sparkling surface of Nivea ad on a bus bench, but in a live production environment, you never get anything that shiny. And besides, isn't it just a better world if you can just turn off your mind and just believe that last night a little blonde southern girl got the moment of her life ruined for her by a drunken hip-hop artist but then was saved by the Good Witch Beyoncé? Isn't that a happier place for us all to live?