By now the whole Kayne West/Taylor Swift moment at the MTV Video Music Awards has reached its equilibrium, so there’s nothing really much to say about that hasn’t been said by everyone else, up to and including the president. But I would like to point out something that’s been overlooked in this whole silly thing, which is that Beyoncé Knowles, in the gracious act of ceding her spotlight to Swift after winning the Video of the Year award, also brought home a point regarding the value and purpose of awards in general (and certainly, of the VMAs in particular).
Bluntly put, Beyoncé, with seven Grammys, nine VMAs and (currently) seventy other awards of various stripes (not counting the ones she was given as part of Destiny’s Child), is largely beyond most awards at this point; that VMA is just another piece of hardware to stack somewhere. It’s not to say she probably doesn’t enjoy winning, because it’s always nice to win something. But I bet you that had the award gone elsewhere, she’d have spent about a tenth of a second lamenting the fact, if that. Swift, on the other hand, is near the beginning of her career and outside of genre of country music hasn’t gotten many awards; this was her first VMA. It’s important, at this point, in the mainstreaming of her professional career, and in personal terms, it was probably pretty cool to a nineteen-year-old girl.
Beyoncé’s ceding of her award time to Swift wasn’t only a nice thing to do, it was also a recognition that the award means more, and is more important, to someone like Swift than someone like her. So not only did Beyoncé do the right thing — allow Swift the moment she had been deprived by a jackass — she also rather accurately established her place in the food chain (i.e., way up at the top) and did it in the savviest, least diva-like way possible.
Not in a calculated way, to be sure; I think she felt bad for Swift and genuinely wanted to give her the moment that was taken from her. But it’s also true Beyoncé’s actions at the moment were far more memorable than either the award she won or any acceptance speech she could have made. For Beyoncé, being seen as gracious and giving is in fact the actual prize for her. She’s smart to recognize the fact.