Janelle Monàe dropped her highly anticipated album and accompanying mini-film Dirty Computer on Friday, and fans can't get over all of the greatness the project embodies. The film — which features overt themes of intersectional feminism, sex-positivity, and unapologetic black pride — has led Monáe and Tessa Thompson's Dirty Computer characters to become the internet's latest obsession. And with one glance at the sci-fi film, it's easy to see why.
The 44-minute video, which Monáe has dubbed as an "emotion picture," premiered on the BET and MTV networks before becoming available on YouTube on Friday. The short showcases Monáe portraying Jane 57821 alongside Thompson, and it's set in a future world where people exist as “computers.” Speaking of the project ahead of its release, Monáe told Rolling Stone:
"Dirty Computer is a near-future story that takes place in a totalitarian society. I play a citizen, living life, finding love, being myself in a society where that makes me an outlaw, something 'dirty' that the society needs to get rid of. I think it speaks to where we are right now, and what we’ve gone through recently as black millennials, and as women, and as Americans."
Interest in Monáe's project has been building exponentially after the release of several music videos over the past few weeks, which hinted about the project's overall narrative of women's empowerment and self-love.
All of those visuals now appear as part of the film’s larger storyline in which memories are deleted and Jane 57821 gets reprogrammed to dwell in this new world, according to Pitchfork.
Creed actor Thompson, who has been a longtime friend of Monáe's, notably appears throughout the project in several different aspects that have sent fans into a frenzy about her character's undeniable on-screen chemistry with Monáe's Jane 57821.
While Monáe and Thompson have been the subject of dating rumors for some time now, neither of them has ever confirmed or talked about any relationship, beyond the one that they've shared on a professional and friendship level.
When asked about how she felt about fans 'shipping them on the internet by Entertainment Tonight in February, Thompson responded: "Janelle and I have been really close. We've been really good friends at this point for about three and a half years. Janelle is somebody that is interested in empowering not just women but people to be who they are."
Continuing that message of being yourself, in an April 26 interview with Rolling Stone, Monáe revealed she's dated both men and women in the past, though she did not expand on any relationships in particular. She also shared that she identifies with aspects of pansexuality, explaining, “I’m open to learning more about who I am." Monàe continued:
“Being a queer black woman in America ... someone who has been in relationships with both men and women – I consider myself to be a free-ass motherf*cker.”
The same day that Monáe's Rolling Stone interview came out, Thompson posted the below tweet in support:
While Dirty Computer seems to signal a major progression in Monáe's music career, it's something that she's had on her mind for quite some time, per Rolling Stone.
"I actually had this title … before my first album The ArchAndroid," Monáe told Beats 1's Zane Lowe, "and it scared me because a lot of the things that I knew that I needed to say were very deep, very personal, from the heart. … This is an extremely vulnerable album and it took me a while to make it because I'm a self-editor."
Thompson also explained her take on the project during a recent interview at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. Per Women's Wear Daily:
“It’s set in a dystopian future in which the government is plucking folks that are ‘dirty computers,’ essentially, that are different. And many of them are black and brown and queer people, and they’re trying to sort of wash them of the things that make them who they are and their memories. So as a narrative structure the videos are the memories that are being wiped."
The Westworld actor continued, “So we made a little movie. I’m a huge fan of science fiction and speculative fiction. I think inside that space you can sort of talk about where we’re going as humans and it’s more palpable, and people have an easier time digesting ideas inside of a space that feels like it’s a skosh from reality.” And it sounds like the internet is a fan as well.
Viewers of Monáe's latest offering seem to be totally here for the new project, and the addition of Thompson makes it that much more special.