Kanye West's latest music video, which can be streamed exclusively on Tidal, is billed as NSFW. So it's not surprising that it's already getting some strong reactions — some more headline-grabbing than others. In a post on Monday evening, Lena Dunham called Kanye's "Famous" video "disturbing," noting that, while she was a fan, the video, which features West in bed, at times, with naked wax figures of the likes of George W. Bush, Donald Trump, Anna Wintour, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Taylor Swift, Kim Kardashian West, Ray J, Amber Rose, Caitlyn Jenner, and even Bill Cosby, all people that at some time, Kanye's had beef with or an opinion about — was dangerous for a few reasons.
There are grainy shots of West on TV, saying things like "George W. Bush hates black people," and other imagery from Kanye's career. The video took 3 months to shoot and, according to West, is a general statement about fame and the commodification of celebrities.
Lena Dunham thinks it's disturbing. "Now I have to see the prone, unconscious, waxy bodies of famous women, twisted like they’ve been drugged and chucked aside at a rager? It gives me such a sickening sense of dis-ease," she wrote in a Facebook post, where she also claimed to be a fan of Kanye and Kim Kardashian.
So she's not hating on the artist, she just doesn't like the product. For her, the problem is all in the naked wax figures of women she considers friends. And although I can see her point about the "grainy roving camera" being akin to "snuff porn," as Dunham wrote, her post feels more like a defense of Taylor Swift, her friend, than anything else.
Hear me out.
This song was already steeped in controversy when Kanye said that Taylor Swift had approved a lyric on the track about the pair maybe one day having sex and that he made her "famous." Released before the Grammys, Swift used the lyric to make a statement about women reclaiming their own successes. Recently, in a GQ feature, Kim Kardashian claimed to have video proof that Swift did approve the comment and it's all part some big celeb-cover up.
Which is sort of what Kanye's video is all about, if you want to look at it that way. Dunham has a point about the representation of the female body. But she openly admits to not being able to watch the parts with Taylor Swift because of their friendship and, presumably, the conflict between the pop star and Kanye. Her Facebook post is titled "Peeking From Between My Fingers," and that seems to have been exactly what she did: she didn't really watch it and was annoyed by the concept to begin with.
I understand the feeling. I don't watch Girls or read a lot of Dunham's work for the same kind of reasons: I prejudge what it's all going to be about and skip it and then pretend to have an opinion on it after the fact. I'll admit it. I don't want to all-out defend Kanye, because I can see Dunham's point about having a zero tolerance policy anytime female bodies are "used."
But there's something really un-sexual about those figures and when you pair the imagery with the music, there seems to be a really interesting statement about celeb culture and the fine line between life and art and selling yourself. Like a Bret Easton Ellis novel where the rich and famous complaining about being rich and famous.
If Kanye were, for example, fake drugging the female wax figures with Bill Cosby, I could see how that would be "sickening." But it seems there's a more obvious, almost boring statement West is trying to make about how everyone in Hollywood is really "in bed together" and doing the same sort of stuff.
The video is definitely raw, so if you have kids who could come across it, you might want to screen it first. See for yourself if you see what Dunham sees, but her reaction seems like a knee-jerk one to me. On the other hand, I don't think I would like to see a naked fake me or my friends in bed with any of those people either.