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Kanye's main character syndrome has turned him into a villain

West's threatening behavior towards Kim Kardashian West and Pete Davidson is worrying.
Image: Kanye West
Kanye West during the "Power 106 Presents Powerhouse" at Honda Center on June 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.Leon Bennett / Getty Images file

Over the past several days, Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, has shared and deleted numerous Instagram posts about his ex-wife, Kim Kardashian West, who filed for divorce last January. In another time, another era, the public might be rooting for West. He’s a man who exhibits main character syndrome to a worrisome degree and who in casting himself as the hero in a sweeping romance appears determined to hit all of the genre’s beats.

The narrative arc West is trying to manifest is a tried and true one

The narrative arc West is trying to manifest is a tried and true one: The romantic lead realizes he’s made a terrible mistake and must win back his one true love. She may have already moved on, may even be dating someone else, but that’s of no concern to our protagonist. The plot’s needs leave no room for her needs. Persistence against all odds is the virtue that will unlock his partner’s frozen heart.

That’s not how life works, though. West isn’t the only person with a say in how this all plays out. Kardashian West doesn’t have an obligation to return to his arms. Pursuit of the happy ending West has envisioned has so far played out more like a nightmare for those around him.

Let’s run through West’s behavior over the last few days. He’s ended his rebound relationship with the model Julia Fox. He’s isolated himself from friends like the rapper Kid Cudi. He’s raged against "Saturday Night Live" cast member Pete Davidson, whom Kardashian West has been dating for months. In one post, he encouraged his fans to “scream” at Davidson on the street, then mocked Davidson’s attempts to make peace.

More troubling is West’s steadfast refusal to accept the reality of his marriage’s end or any agency that Kardashian West has. He has launched “constant attacks” on her online and in interviews, even as he has insisted that God will bring them back together. On Monday, he shared a picture of a pickup truck filled with roses that many assumed was a Valentine’s Day gift, captioned “My vision is Krystal Klear.” Later that day, he insisted on referring to Kardashian West as his wife when asking his supporters to not “do anything physical” toward Davidson.

And he repeatedly shared her text messages to him, despite her clear discomfort. “Why can’t you keep any of our conversations private???” she wrote West, a screenshot of one text showed. Because “I got a text from my favorite person in the world,” he responded. “I’m your number one fan. Why wouldn’t I tell everyone!!!”

That’s not romantic. That’s not love. That’s the antithesis of love. That is selfishness and self-regard and self-pity rolled up into a torrid mess. Through it all, we’ve watched with bated breath, wondering what West’s next all-caps cry for help will say. And in the end, I’m sad for everyone involved. Was Fox and West’s relationship real or just for clout? I don’t know but neither makes me feel good to consider. Kardashian West has money, family, and fame — but she’s still subject to the whims of a man who has more money and more intense fans. Her kids, who just this Sunday were featured on West’s livestream, have been caught in the middle of a seemingly one-sided feud.

And in West … I see a man who is hurting but doesn’t know how to deal with that pain. This is someone who has alternately rejected and embraced his bipolar diagnosis. Before their separation and in response to his social media rants, Kardashian West pleaded for empathy for West and called out “the stigma and misconceptions about mental health.” She also highlighted how “powerless” families of people dealing with bipolar disorder can feel.

West, for his part, has angrily called out people who would tell him to seek help. “You’re not gonna say anything like, ‘You need your meds, you’re not in your best mental state right now,’” West told the podcast Drink Champs in November. “No, I know what’s going on, and I’m not having it.”

And yet someone has clearly managed to get through to West that his performance wasn’t OK — or at least managed to get his account away from him. The tone of his post Tuesday was entirely different from the stream of consciousness that had been deleted, seemingly reflective toward the troubling nature of his posts. “I know sharing screen shots was jarring and came off as harassing Kim. I take accountability,” he wrote. “I’m still learning in real time.”

That may be true, but the pattern that West has displayed can’t be fixed with a properly formatted Instagram caption. It’s clear that West is an unhappy man. He is also a very wealthy and famous man. His fame and wealth have allowed him to put his unhappiness directly into America’s pop culture consciousness. We’ve got an unnerving view of West’s inner life that makes even seasoned celebrity voyeurs uncomfortable. We should hope that in the process of “learning in real time,” West lets go of the imagined future he’s crafted that is quickly becoming a nightmare for Kardashian West.

At times, West gives the impression that he may not even be taking his cues from the right genre at this point. Based on his words and actions, the story we’ve had a front row seat to has felt at times like it may soon tip over into horror.