Kanye West’s “famous” video: are we overreacting?
There are Kanye lovers all around me. I know more than one person who modeled (for free) on the YEEZY Season 3 show, most recently I got into a heated debate over my indifference with an acquaintance who would probably die for him on some Game of thrones, “I’m with House West,” type shit.
I’m saying this to make it clear that I don’t like Kanye West, but I don’t hate him either. He’s a bit like the black sheep of the family who is so shamelessly contradictory that he can’t help but inspire resentment as it forces others to recognize the more embarrassing dualities inherent in their own personalities, but few imported.
That said, normally when someone takes to the internet to share a Kanye gripe, I’m all about it. However, Lena Dunham’s recent removal from her “Famous” music video left me feeling “uneasy”, to use Dunham’s own verbiage.
Yes, I totally agree with her concerns about our current cultural climate and her painfully obvious lack of concern for the safety of women. Dunham is correct that Brock Turner absolutely shouldn’t have received a simple slap on the wrist for raping an unconscious woman, just as disgraced comedian Bill Cosby absolutely shouldn’t have been able to get away with drugs. and sexually assaulting women over the decades.
I agree that the image of “recumbent, unconscious and waxy bodies of famous women, twisted as if they had been drugged and thrown aside by a rabid”, as Dunham describes it, is deeply, deeply disturbing. It’s also true that the issue of consent has been an important and recurring conversation because, as cases like Brock Turner illustrate, there are more people than we’d like to think who just don’t care. obtain consent. West using the likeness of 10 celebrities without their permission is rightly problematic for this reason, but this is where our thoughts diverge.
Here’s the thing: West exposed both men and women without their consent, much to the chagrin of both sexes (just ask Ray J). And yes, it is true that the patriarchal structure which is still very ingrained in our societal consciousness creates very different attitudes about the purpose and acceptability of male nudity and sexuality in relation to women, nonetheless, it still seems a little unfair to make West the poster child for misogynistic attitudes, rape culture and the general objectification of women. Particularly because West was open to the fact that the inspiration for the video came from the painting by artist Vincent Desiderio in 2008, To sleep, and not an inherently chauvinistic desire to reduce women to mere sexual objects, even if is with Taylor Swift and possibly Amber Rose.
Despite the shock-jock approach, West trying his hand at joining contemporary art with hip-hop isn’t exactly that different from Jay Z tapping Marina Abramovic for “Picasso Baby” or Drake playing with the visual language of James Turrell. in “Hotline Bling.” West is also known for experimenting with new formats in music videos, so the only real difference is that he’s an intentional provocateur while Jay Z and Drake are much less. Many of West’s decisions are based on prompting a reaction, positive or negative. Shortly after the video was released, he even tweeted and deleted the following …
While the inspiration falls outside Dunham’s immediate reproach, it also challenges West’s artistic endeavor, calling the video “one of the most disturbing” artistic endeavors in recent memory. “
Unlike Dunham, who qualifies his right to judge what is and is not considered art by his generational ties to the art world (his parents are artists), my parents are not. Perhaps that’s why dismissing West’s efforts to create a dialogue about celebrity by co-opting a particularly orgiastic piece of contemporary art seems a little elitist. It also feels like it conveniently paves a way to keep him up in the air as an example of all that is wrong with a culture that (as Dunham rightly puts it) makes women feel unsafe. .
Dunham goes on to say the following …
I live for the naked crush of Carolee Schneemann and Hannah Wilke, for the arty porn of Kathy Acker, for the gnomes of Paul McCarthy with anal plugs and Vito Acconci masturbating under the gallery floor and Carrie Mae Weems casting a blinding light on the pleasures and terrors of black femininity. If it was banned, I will probably like it. Because I know that the work of art is to make us think in a way that is not always orderly or comfortable. But it looks different. I’m sure the Bill Cosby doll being in bed alongside Donald Trump is kind of a statement, that I’m probably trolled on a very high level. I know there is a more wired or colder reaction to be had than the one I have now.
Didn’t West’s video prompt Dunham to write a long, rambling Facebook post (his lyrics) about feeling insecure? Isn’t that the result of being uncomfortable and having to think of something in a way that is “messy”. Are they not its own parameters for defining art?
Yes, West has borrowed the bodies of unconscious participants, recreated them, and exhibited them naked for the world to see, and Dunham is right, as a viewer you start to feel like a creepy voyeur with questionable morals. But then again, Richard Prince took the Instagram photos of dozens of unsuspecting strangers and turned them into high-profile art, selling them for over $ 100,000. This is arguably also a violation, or at the very least an appropriation, but it is perhaps more acceptable because Instagram photos are for public consumption and the work is devoid of anything that could be considered. as an objectification.
With all of this in mind, Dunham’s dissection of “Famous” seems exaggerated; it mentions, among other things, snuff movies, suicides and sexual assaults broadcast live. Again, while I wholeheartedly understand her concerns, that doesn’t mean she’s right to confuse several issues and then use a broad stroke to apply the result to West’s artistic or non-artistic intentions. Presenting “Famous” as an attack on women’s safety and their power to consent requires ignoring both the male presence of the video, its inspiration and its intent. Does it make sense to raise concerns about consent? Yes.
However, in this context, a more relevant conversation would be about the loss of self-ownership that often comes with fame. There is a reason why Kanye West selected 12 “famous” bodies to display and not 12 regular, disguised, schmegular individuals (shout at Cardi B). Would Dunham have felt so helpless if West had appeared alongside his wife with 10 sleeping models draped over their beds?
Would any of us have reacted?
Or are we really reacting because nude faces are indeed famous and we’re just as titillated and abhorred that West has exposed them in the most vulnerable, revealing, and human way he can think of.
Also find out how the “Kanye Effect” is impacting the fashion industry.