Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are among the most highly scrutinized celebrities alive today. MJ Corey, whose Kardashian Kolloquium accounts on TikTok and Instagram analyze the relationships and social media posts of the Kardashian family through the lens of academic media theory, knows this better than anyone else.
“I sometimes seriously, sometimes satirically intellectualize the Kardashians, but more and more it’s become pretty earnest study,” Corey recently said on Don’t Let This Flop, Rolling Stone‘s podcast about TikTok and internet culture, co-hosted by Brittany Spanos and Ej Dickson.
In the past few weeks, however, the tone of the discourse surrounding the Kardashians has become much darker, largely due to the increasingly erratic behavior of West himself. In the wake of their very public divorce and Kim’s equally public relationship with comedian Pete Davidson, West has been using his Instagram to post messages to Kardashian and put her on blast, often attacking her for her parenting skills in the process. Last week, West publicly criticized Kardashian for allowing their daughter North to have a TikTok account; on Monday, he shifted gears and started actively campaigning to get Kardashian back, sending her roses in a truck for Valentine’s Day and posting, “I HAVE FAITH THAT WE’LL BE BACK TOGETHER” and “IM NOT GIVING UP ON MY FAMILY” while encouraging his fans to “scream” at Davidson.
Though Kardashian did not publicly respond to these posts, West posted screenshots Monday of text messages she allegedly sent him expressing concern for Davidson’s safety, saying “U are creating a dangerous and scary environment. Someone will hurt Pete and this will be all your fault.” In the texts, she also appeared to express concern for her own safety, saying, “This is scary and it doesn’t have to be.”
At first, many on the internet jumped to West’s defense, claiming he was just trying to protect his family; others defended Kardashian, saying it was clear West was undergoing serious mental health issues and that his public behavior verged on harassment. Some also speculated whether the whole thing was an elaborate PR stunt designed to draw attention to West’s new album and his relationship with Uncut Gems star Julia Fox, which reportedly ended earlier this week.
Corey, whose content is often focused on how the Kardashians engage with the world through a PR lens, says she isn’t sure whether West’s meltdown is legit, or if it’s just intended to further hype his album Donda 2. But she says it’s been “very interesting to watch people take sides” throughout the social media back-and-forth over the past few weeks. “Everyone is reacting [to this] deeply,” she says. “I’ve been hearing more personal anecdotes and disclosures in my comments, [such as], ‘when my parents got divorced and my dad didn’t handle it great, he did this,’ or ‘when my parent who struggles with bipolar was feeling destabilized, something like this kind of happened.’ I’m seeing a lot more personal engagement than I think maybe I have ever seen in my comments.”
Over the past few days, however, as West’s rhetoric has become more overtly threatening — even posting a meme of someone in a chokehold and tagging Kardashian on the photo — more people watching the back-and-forth unfold have become concerned for Kardashian and her safety. “Everybody just watching Kanye and liking his posts like he’s not actively emotionally abusing his ex in front of the world,” one person on Twitter wrote. “I’m no Kim K fan but this shit out of hand.” West (or at least, someone on his PR team) appears to be attuned to this discourse, deleting all of his Instagram posts on Tuesday and issuing an apology: “I know sharing screen shots was jarring and came off as harassing Kim. I take accountability. I’m still learning in real time,” he wrote in the caption.
Kardashian, for the most part, has largely stayed silent throughout all of this, aside from posting sexy Valentine’s Day photos for her brand Skims on her Instagram on Monday. “This is what Kim does,” Corey says. “This is how she copes. Kim damage controls when Kanye has these cycles by being tight-lipped.”
This week on Don’t Let This Flop, Dickson and Spanos discuss West’s meltdown and Kardashian-adjacent theories, as well as The Tinder Swindler, the private school student known as Swiffer Girl turned credit card scammer Danielle Miller, and a very special Valentine’s Day himbo. DLTF is released Wednesdays on all audio streaming platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, Stitcher and more.