The main ingredient in any good tragedy is hubris. That excessive pride, the losing of one's self, is essential in anyone's journey from the top of the mountain to a pit of despair; the moment you think you can't be thwarted is the moment you play yourself. In the case of Taylor Swift, who went from in control and on a pedestal to Enemy No. 1 in a matter of seconds on Sunday night, her biggest mistake was believing that one, she would never be recorded by a family who rose to fame by recording everything, and two, that this family would never have the gall to cross her and release said recording. Her biggest mistake was underestimating the Kardashians.
Even though someone is surely yell-tweeting, "BUT SHE GOT FAMOUS OFF A SEX TAPE!!!" right now, the truth of the matter is that Kim Kardashian and her family, led unflinchingly by matriarch and mastermind Kris Jenner, have figured out modern celebrity better than anyone else. Seeing that human beings care more about narrative than truth, the Kardashians have unabashedly morphed real-life events into tabloid storylines, and vice versa. They document their every move with the knowledge that every moment could have utility, and when the time comes, Kris, Kim and co. are not afraid to use their own lives as ammunition.
This has always been the genius of the Kardashians, and it's part of why they've been able to ascend to the throne, so to speak. The other part is that, slowly and surely, the family has built an infrastructure through which they're capable of controlling and dispersing the stories they choose. When Kim Kardashian has dirt, she doesn't just drag it through an episode of an E! reality TV show—she vaguely refers to it during a major magazine interview, teases it on Twitter, maximizes its exposure on Snapchat, flips it into an in-app purchase on her mobile game, then writes a confessional blog about it all on her website, which has a paywall. Every step is another moment for publicity, another moment to own the spotlight, and every step is monetized. It's a flawless construction—devious, sure, but impressive nonetheless.
Taylor certainly understands the Kardashian publicity machine—case and point: her statement from last night was likely sitting in iPhone notes for a very long time—she just thought hers was more powerful. It's true that the "I made that bitch famous" part of Kanye West's "Famous" lyrics is misogynist and offensive, and after the release of video evidence, it seems true that the line really wasn't brought to Taylor's attention, as she claims. But the fact remains that she knowingly lied about the phone call Kanye made to her in February, and a week later maintained the false facade and dragged Kanye's name through the mud in a not-so-subtle acceptance speech at the Grammys. It's hard not to think Taylor was charting out this plan of attack during that phone conversation. The singer, who has had so much success controlling narratives, thought Kanye, and by extension the Kardashian family, were just another John Mayer or Katy Perry. Kim's admission to GQ that Taylor's lawyers sent a letter saying, "'Don't ever let that footage come out of me saying that. Destroy it,’" is proof of that underestimation. Do you dare go against me? Oh, they dare.
But it isn't even what Kim revealed to the public as much as it is how. She and Kanye have had the smoking gun since February—they had it when Taylor positioned herself as a victim in her first statement, when she used Kanye's lyrics against him at the Grammys—and have had enough patience to sit and wait for the perfect moment. That moment on Sunday night when the Kardashians' reality show was airing—against nothing by the way: no sports, no awards shows, no other dominating celebrity news. Just look at Kim's tweets from Sunday, before she released the video, to see how well thought out and curated this whole moment was:
Wait it's legit National Snake Day?!?!?They have holidays for everybody, I mean everything these days! 🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍🐍— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) July 17, 2016
do u guys follow me on snap chat? u really should ;-)— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) July 18, 2016
That's a woman who knows she won. That's Cersei putting on the "Rhythm Nation" dress, pouring a glass of wine, and watching her enemies burn alive.
I've never understood why so many people think Kim isn't good enough for Kanye. The truth is, Kanye may need her more than she needs him. She's the one who got him out of debt; the one who took down a pop culture titan. Before Kim came along, Kanye West was an asshole, and the perception was so solidly set in stone that his only course of action was to accept the label. Now he's a misunderstood genius, a redeemable, too-easy target for vilification. That flip flat out isn't made without the help and expertise of the Kardashians. Do you really think Kanye has patience?
Celebrity is a game. As Kanye hinted at in the visuals for "Famous," all celebrities are in bed together, coexisting and collaborating on a constructed world for us commoners to feast on. Perhaps the hate the Kardashians get is due to the fact that deep down, we know that we created the circumstances that called for this ideal family to exist. We want full access to our celebrities, and we want them to give us drama and stories we can attach ourselves to. Kim Kardashian and her family are merely giving an audience what it asked for, and doing it more expertly and unapologetically than anyone else. That's what Taylor Swift didn't realize.