Ever since its premiere on Friday, Kanye West's "Famous" video has been a topic of conversation. Probably because the 10-minute video zooms in and out of a bed, featuring naked depictions of several celebrities and politicians. The group ranges from West himself to Donald Trump to Anna Wintour to Taylor Swift to Bill Cosby. Not one to be left out of a major pop culture moment, in a Facebook post on Monday, Lena Dunham perfectly articulated her thoughts on "Famous" and why it's problematic. While watching the video made me uneasy, I don't think I could have summed up why better than Dunham did. She totally hits the nail on the head. Here's an excerpt:
At the same time Brock Turner is getting off with a light tap for raping an unconscious woman and photographing her breasts for a group chat... As assaults are Periscoped across the web and girls commit suicide after being exposed in ways they never imagined... While Bill Cosby's crimes are still being uncovered and understood as traumas for the women he assaulted but also massive bruises to our national consciousness... 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.
While, of course, those instances (the allegations against Cosby, which he has vehemently denied, Turner being convicted of sexual assault, etc.) are separate from the video itself, they're still influential parts of culture that tie into how women are treated and respected in society. In West's video, the camera pans across the sleeping naked bodies of the famous individuals. It feels eerie and invasive, to say the least. As Dunham points out, surely West had an artistic vision — likely a stance on overexposure of celebrities — but it feels wrong to do so without getting permission from those individuals beforehand. Something tells me Wintour didn't give the OK for a replica of her body to be posed alongside a naked Trump.
Tying into this problematic portrayal, Dunham further explains,
I don't have a hip cool reaction, because seeing a woman I love like Taylor Swift (f*ck that one hurt to look at, I couldn't look), a woman I admire like Rihanna or Anna, reduced to a pair of waxy breasts made by some special effects guy in the Valley, it makes me feel sad and unsafe and worried for the teenage girls who watch this and may not understand that grainy roving camera as the stuff of snuff films.
She's not wrong. It feels unfair to take these celebrities, who have built reputations for themselves, and diminish them to being passed out, naked bodies. Sure, it's not their actual bodies, but they are representations of them shown in a vulnerable, exposed state. Plus, it doesn't exhibit respect for them, by just having them strewn about the bed. Although Swift hasn't yet commented on the video herself, I'm glad her good friend did so and defended her.
As Dunham points out, she thinks West is "cool," but just can't agree with a video that "feels informed and inspired by the aspects of our culture that make women feel unsafe even in their own beds, in their own bodies." I can't help but agree with that statement. She still respects his art, but that doesn't mean she has to condone such a bizarre and arguably demeaning of portrayal of people she cares about and respects.
While the Girls star points out that she debated whether to say something, quite frankly, I'm glad she did. While West's video may be deemed "art" by some (and I'm not arguing against that), that doesn't mean it doesn't violate basic principles of human decency.