Kanye West Ruins VMAs for Two Colleagues

So. As you may have already heard, Kanye West made an ass of himself last night by grabbing the microphone away from Best Female Video winner Taylor Swift during her acceptance speech in order to declare that Beyoncé should have won instead, utterly ruining Swift's moment. Later in the night, when Beyoncé won Best Video of the Year, she graciously gave the time which should have been for her own acceptance speech to Swift instead. [Videos with transcripts below.]

Most of the coverage of the event has been framed with some variation of, "West is total douche to Swift; Beyoncé is class act." And, yeah, Beyoncé really is a "class act" (we'll come back to that)—but I find it really interesting that the story being told is that West ruined things for Swift, full-stop.

Because, while I suspect that Beyoncé invited Swift back onstage because she genuinely wanted the young artist to have her moment, the truth is that she would have risked criticism if she hadn't. And, you know, she wouldn't have deserved it. It wasn't she who stole Swift's thunder, and it wasn't her obligation to make amends. But West put her in a position where merely accepting her own hard-earned award would have garnered accusations of selfishness.

So, great—Swift finally gets to give her speech, but what about Beyoncé's?

Everyone's so busy complimenting her on being "classy" that no one seems to have noticed that the woman who just won Best Video of the Year had her moment stolen, too. But isn't that always the way, when a woman (especially a woman of color) self-subjugates in order to atone for someone else's mistakes? Wow, how classy! What a class act! Every time I hear those words, I just cringe—because I know I'm probably about to hear a story that reduces at its essence to a marginalized person having properly demonstrated "hir place."

Beyoncé totally gave up her own shining moment to a white woman who'd been wronged by a man, who'd also, by the way, embarrassed Beyoncé in the process.

Wow! She's a class act!


Beyoncé was a class act (and not in the "recognizing her place" way) before West dropped his hot mess all over the VMA stage—which is WHY IT WOULD HAVE BEEN NICE TO HEAR HER SPEECH, too. And since MTV doesn't make enough profit ("Thanks for that great video content, Beyoncé!"—oh, the irony) to extend their broadcast by 30 damn seconds, I guess we'll just have to wait to hear it until West wins a VMA and yields the stage to her.

Male Presenter I Don't Recognize: And the Moonman for Best Female Video goes to [opens envelope] Taylor Swift.

[Cut to Swift in the audience, whose mouth falls open. She mouths: "What?!" Her song "You Belong With Me" begins to play as she walks to the stage. She hugs the presenters and accepts the statuette.]

Swift: Thank you so much! I always dreamed about what it would be like to maybe win one of these someday, but I never actually thought that it would happen. Uh, I sing country music, so thank you so much for giving me a chance to win a VMA award! I—

[She is interrupted by cheers and applause; cut to Pink in audience applauding; when the video cuts back to the stage, Kanye West in onstage with Swift and has taken the microphone away from her.]

West: Yo, Taylor, I, I'm really happy for you; I'mma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time! [West points to Beyoncé in the audience, who looks bemused and laughs uncomfortably; the audience boos] One of the best videos of all time! [He shrugs as the audience continues to shout, and hands the microphone back to Swift, who looks stricken.]
Rolling Stone notes: "To add insult to injury, after Kanye handed the microphone back to Swift, her time was up, and MTV cut to a video featuring Tracy Morgan and Eminem."

Andy Samberg: And the Moonman for Best Video of the Year goes to— [opens envelope and shows it to Jimmy Fallon]

Samberg and Fallon: BEYONCÉ!!!!!

[Cut to Beyoncé in the audience smiling; she makes her way to the stage as "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" begins to play, then dances with Samberg and Fallon before accepting statuette.]

Beyoncé: Thank you. Wow. This is amazing! I remember being seventeen years old, up for my first MTV award with Destiny's Child, and it was one of the most exciting moments in my life. So I'd like for Taylor to come out and have her moment. [the audience goes wild] Where are you?

[Swift comes out and the two embrace; Beyoncé gestures for Swift to take center stage.]

Swift: Um. Maybe, maybe we could try this again? [the audience cheers] I would really like to thank Roman White, who directed my video, and Lucas Till for being in it. And I would like to thank all the fans on Twitter and MySpace and everyone who came out to my shows this summer. And I would like to thank my little brother's high school for letting us shoot the video there. Thank you so much!
Swift said: "They told me to stand by the side of the stage, and I didn't really know what was going to go down. But I thought it was so wonderful and gracious of her to do what she's always done. She's always been a great person before anything else. Before the talented artist, the superstar, she's always been a great person and I just, I thought I couldn't love Beyoncé more tonight, than tonight."

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