Sorry, Lena Dunham: Kanye West's "Famous" Has Nothing To Do With Rape Culture
Much to Lena Dunham's dismay, Kanye West’s video for “Famous” has nothing to do with, and should not contribute to, the subject of rape culture.
Kanye West’s video for “Famous” may be disturbing to some. Kanye West’s video for “Famous” may be confusing for many. But Kanye West’s video for “Famous” has nothing to do with, and should not contribute to, the subject of rape culture.
Sorry, Lena Dunham.
The Girls creator and star decided to put her two cents in on the recently released art-visual, which is inspired by the painting “Sleep” by Vincent Desidero. It features 12 scarily-accurate wax figures of celebrities including Anna Wintour, Donald Trump, Caitlyn Jenner and West’s perpetual frenemy Taylor Swift sleeping naked next to each other in a large bed.
The track, off of Ye’s February 2016 album The Life Of Pablo, has been controversial to say the least. Some of the first lines in the over three-minute song imply that West himself is the reason for Swift’s immeasurable levels of fame due in part to their infamous altercation at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.
“I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex,” he proclaims in a braggadocious manner. “Why? I made that b**ch famous,” he continues.
Dunham probably felt compelled to let her fingers walk across her keyboard because she's a very close friend of Taylor Swift, likely feeling the need to defend her gal pal after she was found in big bad Kanye’s line of fire for the umpteenth time. However, to take it to such a dark place by disjointly comparing it to current scenarios of rape culture when it’s merely a recreation of a painting with famous people instead of regular people…is a bit of an unnecessary reach.
“Let's break it down,” she started her lengthy Facebook post off with. “…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.”
Straight from Mr. West in a Vanity Fair interview after the video’s Friday night release, “Famous” is “not in support or anti-any of [the people in the video]. It’s a comment on fame.” It seems to be a comment on the vulnerability some of today’s biggest stars, which they seem to have hidden for the sake of their egos. The sleeping symbolizes them letting their guard down in the most vulnerable state a human can be in, enjoying peace for once in their often hectic worlds.
Now, this is not to say that there aren’t some morally reprehensible aspects about the video, such as Kanye more than likely not getting permission from the celebrities portrayed to use their likeness for the sake of the art. However, lack of consent is a sad part of fame (how many times have bikini pictures or naked pictures from stars on vacation been posted without consent?) Plus, the wax figures weren’t portrayed in a sexualized way- they were positioned in nearly the exact same sleeping positions as the people in the painting (I assume Ms. Dunham sleeps straight up and down if she thinks that certain sleeping positions are akin to being “drugged and chucked aside”). Kanye even said in the Vanity Fair interview that any part of the video that may have been taken in a sexual way was edited out. What may have caused a stir was the fact that we know these celebrities very well, so seeing them stripped down and vulnerable surely could be interesting to see since we see *most of* the stars fully clothed.
However, if the video was so triggering and gave off the essence of rape as Ms. Dunham implies, then why didn’t the original painting elicit the exact same response when it was released several years ago?
People sleeping naked (something I'm certain Ms. Dunham’s character Hannah has done on the HBO show Girls more than once) should not elicit the same outrageous response as a woman being raped while unconscious behind a dumpster and not receiving judiciary justice. Through her skewed vision of feminism, Dunham is holding West accountable for something that has nothing to do with what she’s trying to convince people he should be held accountable for. I guess if she’s naked, it’s okay, but if a man portrays people naked in an effort to emulate a painting he was inspired by, it’s ultimately predatory, a representation of rape and should be lambasted? When a woman chooses to show her breasts, it's okay, but when a man does something depicting the female form, fingers are pointed, and women are instantly objectified.
Plus, she’s the very last person to comment on how a woman should feel in a situation that could be sexually threatening considering she's no angel. In her memoir, Not That Kind Of Girl, Dunham discusses how, as a young girl, she would touch and kiss her sister inappropriately and bribe her with candy, writing that “anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl I was trying.”
But, I suppose that’s fine, because it was “experimental." Right?
I am in no way defending Kanye and his choice to include certain people in his video without their consent. His art is his art, and it shouldn’t be demonized to the extent that Dunham has taken it, especially when she has admitted to some pretty vile things between the pages of a book.
It’s one thing to not like that your friend is portrayed in the video, Ms. Dunham, but another thing to take it to a level that it’s not even close to being on, in order to demonize someone’s interpretation of art in the effort to stand up for said friend. It didn't have to go there.