Kanye being, well, Kanye
July 8, 2016 5:36 PM   Subscribe

Kanye West has released the new music video for his song "Famous," (warning: explicit, NSFW) featuring disturbingly lifelike wax likenesses of celebrities lying next to eachother naked in a large bed. The celebrities? Taylor Swift, Donald Trump, George W. Bush, Chris Brown, Rihanna, Ray J, Caitlyn Jenner, Bill Cosby, Amber Rose, Anna Wintour, and, of course, Kim & Ye himself. The video has unsurprisingly garnered strong reactions. Kanye's equally unsurprising Twitter response? "Can somebody sue me already #I'llwait". posted by bologna on wry (200 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
So this is the male version of Madonna doing a photo shoot fucking a dog?
posted by Bringer Tom at 5:59 PM on July 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


Soooooooooooo maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnny questions.
I have soooooooooooooo maaaaannnnny.
posted by Faintdreams at 6:00 PM on July 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


So this is the male version of Madonna doing a photo shoot fucking a dog?

No. It's just using a wax version of Taylor Swift's tits to generate controversy.
posted by Talez at 6:01 PM on July 8, 2016 [9 favorites]


LOOK AT ME! EVERYONE LOOK AT ME! PAY ATTENTION TO ME!
posted by leotrotsky at 6:02 PM on July 8, 2016 [30 favorites]


It's lit
posted by clockzero at 6:04 PM on July 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also, not sure about the rest of it, but for sure violating the helplessly snoring Bill Cosby this way was genius.
posted by Bringer Tom at 6:08 PM on July 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


I am so glad that the "Kanye West is an undeniable genius and if you say otherwise it's just because you're racist" moment seems to be passing. I was starting to wonder if maybe I was the crazy one and he wasn't naked after all.
posted by IAmUnaware at 6:08 PM on July 8, 2016 [28 favorites]


If hundreds of millions of dollars doesn't buy you the right to commission and lovingly pose lifelike nude wax replicas and broadcast grainy footage to the entire Earth then what's even the point of having it
posted by theodolite at 6:09 PM on July 8, 2016 [37 favorites]


Like if I won the Powerball it would go down exactly like this
posted by theodolite at 6:10 PM on July 8, 2016


The way technology is going one day the replicas will be made of flesh and conscious, what then? And where's my DVD of The Sixth Day?
posted by Bringer Tom at 6:11 PM on July 8, 2016


Yeah I just... I just... I honestly don't even have the words, really, which is what prompted me to write the post.

I watched it just yesterday and you know that visceral reaction of just.. I dunno, wrongness(?).. you feel in your gut when experiencing something? If my gut had an audible voice I would be deaf.

I'm sorry but if this is art then I would really rather prefer to do without this type of art.

On preview THANK YOU IAMUNAWARE. Yeeeeesh.
posted by bologna on wry at 6:12 PM on July 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


She's an adult. She has agency.

Yeah but the dog?

I mean, I'm an adult and I have agency but if I make a video of me making dogs fight each other that's not really cool. Anyway I have to admit this was the first I had heard of Madge actually doing something that was actually bad as opposed to just controversial.

Kanye however... for all that he keeps saying how he made "that bitch famous" (Swift) he spends a non-trivial amount of time in the video showing a wax body simulation of Swift's naked breasts so who exactly is making whom famous here?
posted by GuyZero at 6:16 PM on July 8, 2016 [12 favorites]


I get that it's supposed to look like 80's VHS but the lighting is so ugly I can't even watch it. It makes it look like a bed full of corpses not sleeping people.
posted by w0mbat at 6:19 PM on July 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


you know that visceral reaction of just.. I dunno, wrongness(?)

I'm not going to say whether this video does it "right" or not because, well, there is no Art Detector that can tell you that objectively. But I have been, if you will, guilty of writing to deliberately evoke that sense of wrongness, because it can be a powerful tool for aligning your beliefs and expectations. Sometimes art works precisely because it's disturbing, as Edward Munsch knew well. In this much of the art seems to draw back to real world drama, as some of the celebrities seem hand-picked for lawsuit bait, and it's a lawsuit they can't win as public figures in the United States. In that sense this is trolling on a really grand scale, and with targets who are so unsympathetic that it's mostly funny instead of pathetic.
posted by Bringer Tom at 6:19 PM on July 8, 2016 [15 favorites]


I dont really have an opinion on Kanye's alleged genius, but damn, he's grossly sexist.
posted by Mavri at 6:19 PM on July 8, 2016 [22 favorites]


It makes it look like a bed full of corpses not sleeping people.

In fairness none of them are alive.
posted by Bringer Tom at 6:19 PM on July 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Money is a hell of a drug.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:20 PM on July 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


This would be an awesome horrorcore video. Actually, knowing the practitioners of the art, it will be an awesome horrorcore video, with Yeezey's dumb and dull yanked out by the roots and supplanted with something truly transgressive and then Kanye will tweet, "Can I sue someone already? #Ican'teven"
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:20 PM on July 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


If the Entertainment Industry had an HR department...
posted by ethansr at 6:21 PM on July 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


this is exactly what art does it causes exactly these reactions throughout all history

" I can understand art from the past that was controversial in its day, but this NEW piece of art that is controversial? NOT ART"

this is a magnificent work. extremely detailed, visceral, powerful.

why do you guys hate Kanye so much? at this point it seems really weird and irrational
posted by coaster at 6:22 PM on July 8, 2016 [53 favorites]


Kanye is a genius. Kanye has done misogynistic shit. Some critiques of Kanye are hugely racist. Some critiques of Kanye are completely justified.

These are all true.
posted by kmz at 6:22 PM on July 8, 2016 [99 favorites]


The way technology is going one day the replicas will be made of flesh and conscious, what then?

Lucy Liu-bot.
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:24 PM on July 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


All valid points, and well stated even. We'll just have to agree to disagree. I really do embrace seeing it from these differing points of view.
posted by bologna on wry at 6:25 PM on July 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


Holy fuck, his music is so goddamn boring. Every time I hear one of his songs I wonder "Who listens to this shit?!"

Mind-boggling.

Literally: Millions and millions of people. Most of the worlds music critics. At a certain point with popular music you have to look around and say: yes, it is you.
posted by JimBennett at 6:29 PM on July 8, 2016 [76 favorites]


Holy fuck, his music is so goddamn boring. Every time I hear one of his songs I wonder "Who listens to this shit?!"

Mind-boggling.


Metafilter: Your favorite band oh jesus christ I can't even anymore.
posted by Huck500 at 6:30 PM on July 8, 2016 [45 favorites]


I have some of his albums but at this point I feel like I should slam my head into a brick wall repeatedly for buying them. Not the first artist I have become unable to enjoy due to factors outside of the music, won't be the last.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 6:31 PM on July 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


why do you guys hate Kanye so much? at this point it seems really weird and irrational

Don't you agree we all have the right to decide whether we like something or not? It's just an opinion, and it's not objective.

Personally I think he has a very true, deep desire to make this world a better place in which to live, and I really do want get behind that desire. But not much he creates, in my opinion, furthers this goal of his.

Do I just not 'get it'? I'm willing to try to get it, I really am, if there's something I am just completely missing.
posted by bologna on wry at 6:35 PM on July 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


this is a magnificent work. extremely detailed, visceral, powerful.

This should not be lost in the noise. The vehicle for the art is what is skunking up the joint - if you mute it, the video puts Kanye right in there with the rest of the wax effigies.

The other problem I had was the lingering over the bewbs rather than the muscley butt-cheeks and dehydrate-yourself-defined nine-packs of the guys - there needed to be equal time.

Re-shoot it so we have lofi monster-cam hovering lovingly over an orgy of the dead famous upon a bed straight out of Rivendell or a Barker novel, one that gleefully objectifies everyone and everything - now that is art. Also it needs someone who can rap transgressively rather than just punch down at women and pretend he has an edge.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:37 PM on July 8, 2016 [17 favorites]


Face it people if this was looping on an iPad and hung on a white wall you'd all be nodding thoughtfully at it
posted by theodolite at 6:37 PM on July 8, 2016 [49 favorites]


I made a bet with Kanye that he couldn't make everyone on MetaFilter sound like my mom.

Now I have to sell my house.

Just kidding! I can't afford a house :(
posted by klanawa at 6:38 PM on July 8, 2016 [63 favorites]


In my world, Kanye just loops his Katrina moment over and over again. I don't want to listen to his music, or hear about his marriage. I just want that one sentence to be Kanye forever.
posted by Ruki at 6:44 PM on July 8, 2016 [11 favorites]


I never realized Kanye was doing his own videos. I'm actually impressed by that. I really, really don't like his public persona and I've really not connected with much of his solo work for about a decade, but the guy is unquestionably one of the best hip hop producers of his time. This beat is kinda repetitive, sure, but I like it. It reminds me of early 2000s underground stuff. Video made me a bit uncomfortable but I think that's probably intended.
posted by Hoopo at 6:48 PM on July 8, 2016


This isn't really a music video. This is the first Paid Political Commercial for his 2020 Presidential Campaign against President Trump.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:52 PM on July 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


Every time I watch it it creeps the fuck out of me in an incredible way. Kanye loves fame but also struggles with it, massively (fighting with papparazzi, appearing weirdly wooden and hostile on talk shows, lots of impromptu political moments on live TV that have gotten infamous levels of blowback). This video is pretty much that, distilled into its decadent, depersonalizing, legally disempowered essence.

This photo (NSFW, obviously) almost hits me harder than the video.

What I like about Kanye is that he can be bold and sometimes on the nose without losing poignancy. I don't think he's the most incredible rapper of all time (or even right now), but is he one of the best artists to ever work in popular media, definitely. I rarely see anything in pop music this thoughtful or effective. I mean, rarely? Almost never in 2016.

(It's funny, because a few months ago I made a comment about how Metafilter can be so homogenous sometimes, like when everyone is dogpiling on Evil Kanye, and everyone insisted this place is not really like that and in fact loves Kanye too much. Ha, ha, ha.)
posted by stoneandstar at 6:54 PM on July 8, 2016 [13 favorites]


Kanye is a genius. Some of his art is misogynistic. But it's more benign than most mainstream rap. Critics of him include racism and sexism/classism directed at his wife. Taylor Swift would not be defended nearly as much if she wasn't a stand in for white American female purity. Lena Dunham is staying on brand.

Failure to engage with this work and wrestle with it's complexity illustrates the cultural myopia of white hegemony.

ffs it's not 2009.
posted by R.F.Simpson at 6:58 PM on July 8, 2016 [26 favorites]


I also find it interesting how much more Metafilter reveres cult or mainstream filmmakers who do lurid genre work-- even if they're personally objectionable, or "fame whores," or donate to George W. Bush like Sam Raimi-- than it digs Kanye. It's an interesting bias; genre film is capable of subversive messaging wrapped in a sometimes sexist, sometimes puerile packaging, and we all understand that implicitly, but popular hip hop music is not?
posted by stoneandstar at 6:59 PM on July 8, 2016 [12 favorites]


Demanding that women engage with this misogynistic piece of work they way you want us to illustrates the patriarchy. I actually don't have to continually put my own interests aside to wrestle with the work of male artists whose misogyny is handwaved away because their "genius" or "complexity." (I stopped wrestling with the complexity of "geniuses" like Woody Allen and Philip Roth years ago for the same reason.)
posted by Mavri at 7:08 PM on July 8, 2016 [100 favorites]


I like how all of this is making people google the name of the most notable American Figurative painter of the last 50 years
posted by The Whelk at 7:09 PM on July 8, 2016 [9 favorites]


Demanding that women engage with this misogynistic piece of work they way you want us to illustrates the patriarchy

Yeah, tell it to every work of popular music that comes out of planet Earth.

I do marvel at his choices of who to include in the video-- they're all related to his fame, obviously, but the narrative is surprisingly tight. It's not really just a hodgepodge.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:12 PM on July 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


Hopefully it inspires people to google Sister Nancy as well.
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 7:14 PM on July 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


At a certain point with popular music you have to look around and say: yes, it is you.

Millions and millions of people eat at McDonald's, too. Critics love all kinds of utter shite.

Give it 20 years. I'm confident I'll be on the right side of history with this one. ;)

This Photo almost hit me harder than the video.

Well, I can't imagine what you'd make of Desiderio's original.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 7:15 PM on July 8, 2016 [18 favorites]


I feel like there's tons of love for Kanye on here, stoneandstar. He's a polarizing guy so there's plenty of hate too, but I am surprised by the statement that metafilter doesn't dig kanye. My impression was that people here dig him more than I do, and I like a lot of his music.
posted by Hoopo at 7:21 PM on July 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


I watched with the sound off because I was watching baseball. So if the sound was necessary for the full experience, I missed it. I'm ok with that.

What kind of nagged at me, besides the weird quasi-invasion of privacy was that many of the women were exposed but the men weren't. Lots of breasts. A vulva-region. No penises. Not that I want to see penises and not that I think it was right to expose anyone (sort of) this way, but it feels misogynistic to exposing women but not men this way.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:23 PM on July 8, 2016 [15 favorites]


"George Bush hates black people."

For that simple statement he gets a pass from me on anything assholish he may have done in the past, present or future.
posted by photoslob at 7:23 PM on July 8, 2016 [8 favorites]


okay, seriously, what is the 'surprisingly tight narrative' of which you speak? what is the 'comment on fame', which he professes? what is this work's 'complexity'?

I am very open to the possibility that I am just simply, remarkably dense. Please, enlighten me.
posted by bologna on wry at 7:23 PM on July 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yeah, tell it to every work of popular music that comes out of planet Earth.

You know, I have to disagree with that kind of statement (basically "get over it") in a discussion, which implies that someone with whom you don't agree has an insufficient grip on reality. Yes, there's a persistent misogyny in quite a bit of popular music. Yes, pointing that out often feels useless. It still isn't everywhere, and it's worth pointing out.

And I like some of Kanye's work, but this is not only boring but reeks of the narcissism of the TMZ world.
posted by Peach at 7:27 PM on July 8, 2016 [16 favorites]


great video. i was at the premiere! it was fun!

here's some kind words from desiderio himself about the video.

and i think this video (and the song, fwiw) was made to touch on "the narcissism of the TMZ world" and confront it, rather than airbrush it... or wax-figure it, as it may be.
posted by raihan_ at 7:28 PM on July 8, 2016 [13 favorites]


watched it, and eh

Commentaries on fame are pretty thick on the ground at this point.
posted by Existential Dread at 7:33 PM on July 8, 2016 [3 favorites]




Ever since that day little Kanye got a boner at Madam Tussaud's he has pursued his destiny.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:40 PM on July 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


BTW I liked this interview video, especially because it captures him breaking character from the standard portrayal of him in media.
posted by polymodus at 7:41 PM on July 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


I really don't want to "enlighten" you; if it doesn't work for you as art, that's fine.

but reeks of the narcissism of the TMZ world

I'm pretty sure that is the point.

It's good to point out the sexism, and critique it. I'm a feminist. I also frequently enjoy difficult art created by men and women who have committed messed up personal behavior. He also included Amber Rose in the video, who he just had a very public spat with, because he criticized her for being a stripper, and she quipped back about his liking a finger up the ass. Drawing attention to that is not exactly flattering to himself. But anyway, sometimes the problematic behavior of a person is part of the way the art is experienced, here it would seem on purpose. We all have a boundary about how problematic things can be before we tune them out, but because other people are engaging with the work doesn't mean you're being forced to.

We also tend to find petty spats delightful when we read about them in (even recently) historical accounts; for some reason that veneer of decency is enough to make even the intellectual set glad gossips. However, we all think that being aware if it when it's happening makes you an airhead. High drama, melodrama, but either way, drama.

Most of the people in the video have a pretty fraught private/public boundary, for various reasons. Rihanna, I'm actually not sure why she's there.

The Taylor Swift thing: Google "Taylor Swift naked" (I mean, actually don't), it's not like you can't find fake pornographic images of her anywhere, or even actual, stolen nude photos of plenty of female celebrities. It's disgusting; it's also apparently a part of celebrity, which is up for critique. Kanye, to me, did an interesting job of illustrating how sordid and bizarre the whole affair is when viewed outside of the context where we expect it to be prepackaged and served to us.

The fact that he dares anyone to sue him when 1) he's broke, which was massively publicized and so kind of hilarious and 2) they really can't in a way that means anything for their psychological protection... yeah, it's fucked.

Swift herself has put a massive amount of time, money and energy into blurring the lines between her personal and her public life and drawing attention to her (staged) public relationships. Whether or not you think it's ethical to include her in this video, her entire allure is based on the idea that you really know her, you're privy to her intimate life.

Obviously, Kim has made her entire fortune off of this illusion, which disgusts some people and inspires awe in others. Because Kim's origin story is sexual and she uses sexual images of herself, we find her more detestable than Swift (who is an OK musician, but let's face it, not really much of an artist).

I don't necessarily think putting fake nude images of women everywhere without their consent is a noble or ethical thing, but I think that the racist blowback he got for "threatening" a petite white woman is not nothing. It's one thing to get bad press for being an asshole; it's another thing to have your entire public image sacrificed forever to the time you were a black man who was mean to a white girl. There are celebrities who say openly sexist and racist things every day, and they really have to be Mel Gibson level bad to make a real mark, unless aided by already present sexism or racism in the culture. He and Kim are two of the most hated and loved celebrities that exist, and the fact that they are a hip hop artist and a openly sexual woman is probably not a big coincidence.

And of course they're narcissistic, most celebs are. This is about them, but it's also about us, because whether you deliberately engage in it or not, celebrity culture is everywhere.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:09 PM on July 8, 2016 [32 favorites]


Well, I can't imagine what you'd make of Desiderio's original.

Yeah, I'm aware of the original.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:12 PM on July 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


Failure to engage with this work and wrestle with it's complexity illustrates the cultural myopia of white hegemony.

Says you; not seeing it because [your explanation here]. Can you indicate what that complexity is? Or point me towards someone who can?

Thanks.
posted by lathrop at 8:13 PM on July 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


And it's linked above, but Desiderio is aware of Kanye's interpretation, and is not nearly as dismissive as you. He says it's a "video of tremendous power and beauty."
posted by stoneandstar at 8:14 PM on July 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


Jesus, right out the gate people are equating this with fucking a dog. Using slang stolen from black culture ironically. Declaring Kanye bullshit artist supreme. Preemptively defending themselves against accusations of racism that nobody is making.

I get why some people don't like Kanye. This did immediately strike me as inherently misogynistic. And while I could twist and turn to explain why it seems as if he's using his own misogyny as well as misogyny in pop culture (with its desire for psychological and physical exposure) in interesting ways, I think the line between critical use and "that's just who he is" is blurry enough thst it's okay to critique it on those grounds and/or dismiss it completely. But people seem to reserve a special kind of hate for him and his work. It really is bizarre.

It's an interesting video and Kanye is an interesting artist who seems to be pushing the boundaries of what pop culture can and should do. His presence makes pop culture's landscape much more interesting. I appreciate that his message is mostly messy and conflicted.
posted by AtoBtoA at 8:24 PM on July 8, 2016 [9 favorites]


And I like some of Kanye's work, but this is not only boring but reeks of the narcissism of the TMZ world.

Uh

anyway this wouldn't be getting nearly as many negative reactions if he hadn't brought Taylor Swift into it again, right? But then it wouldn't be getting as many reactions period. Of course he can't leave that button alone.
posted by atoxyl at 8:25 PM on July 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


I appreciate that his message is mostly messy and conflicted.

You know an artist can actually make music that doesn't relegate women to objects of scorn or desire - even if they do rap?

I mean, if the Insane Clown Possee is more socially progressive than you are, stop and realize where you are standing.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:30 PM on July 8, 2016 [14 favorites]


I think that interview in the post finally nailed down for me why I think Kanye can be irksome. He's talented, capable, smart. His audience showered him with affection as he excelled. Eventually he started buying into it more than the folks who rooted for him in the first place. That's the origin of the grating confidence.

Being all those accolades doesn't make you Oppenheimer, or Napoleon, or Kant. In fact, one thing that I happen to like about the modern day is that I think we're finally moving away from a "Great Man" theory of history. We're abandoning the understanding of radical and momentous action as the product of monolithic individuals. Society changes; technology proliferates because of us, not a single individual.

Additionally, the attention he is subject to, both negative and positive, must be destabilizing. I can't think of a better word. "intoxicating" doesn't quite do it justice. Imagine having so many eyes on you, a multitude of haters and devotees. I cannot blame anyone for any moments of incoherency or strange behaviour in a situation like that.
posted by constantinescharity at 8:34 PM on July 8, 2016 [8 favorites]


He also included Amber Rose in the video, who he just had a very public spat with, because he criticized her for being a stripper, and she quipped back about his liking a finger up the ass. Drawing attention to that is not exactly flattering to himself. ...We also tend to find petty spats delightful when we read about them in (even recently) historical accounts; for some reason that veneer of decency is enough to make even the intellectual set glad gossips.

You do not have to be some fourth-wave total-legalization-for-all-sex-work type to think that what Kanye said (and has said in the past) about Amber Rose was profoundly shitty and deeply misogynistic and not really in the realm of "petty." The aspect of that attack that was unflattering to him was not its apparent exposure of a liking for anal play. Her inclusion here really bothers me; it feels like a personal attack, and on someone who is not, if you will, in the same celebrity league (in terms of participation and benefit) as almost everyone else in the video.
posted by praemunire at 8:36 PM on July 8, 2016 [14 favorites]


"Give it 20 years. I'm confident I'll be on the right side of history with this one. ;)"

it's almost already been 20 years (his first major work was in 2001).

what's 20 years got to do with it anyways. why not give it a thousand years then you'll be really right
posted by coaster at 8:49 PM on July 8, 2016 [8 favorites]


It's all provocation. I mean, do folks just forget how camp works? Kanye is doing an awful lot of playing to expectation. I mean, you either see that, or you don't. It's so much like explaining a joke. The man is a genius.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 8:53 PM on July 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


I mean, if the Insane Clown Possee is more socially progressive than you are, stop and realize where you are standing.

It's possible to be interested in art that contains problematic content without agreeing with it. I find it incredibly frustrating that a lot of conversations about art have to be hedged around making it clear that your taste is absolutely morally pure. An endless race to being the most socially aware person in the room.
posted by AtoBtoA at 8:54 PM on July 8, 2016 [37 favorites]


I think this hits the nail on the head w/r/t to what fascinates me about Kanye. Maybe it'll help those in this thread who genuinely want to understand/parse his latest effort? I don't mean that sarcastically- if you're saying "how could anyone appreciate this" as some sort of rhetorical flourish to make your dislike all the more clear, I don't expect it to sway you. But if you truly wonder what might be going on that you're not seeing..

Film Crit Hulk Smash: Bad Enough To Be True - The Art Of Kanye West

I mean. Even if you completely disagree, it's Film Crit Hulk. Best of the web, indeed. :)
posted by narwhal at 9:00 PM on July 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


"George Bush hates black people."

For that simple statement he gets a pass from me on anything assholish he may have done in the past, present or future.


Yeah. Surely that one moment totally excuses his continued long-distance harassment of Taylor Swift, right?
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:07 PM on July 8, 2016 [5 favorites]


Shit I actually forgot that he also put Amber Rose in it.
posted by atoxyl at 9:15 PM on July 8, 2016


Continued long-distance harassment of Taylor Swift? wtf?

Also, Amber Rose and Kim posed together for photos which is instagram speak for "the hatchet is buried." Amber Rose's only comment on the video controversy was to clap back against people saying that Kanye made her famous.

Also, Kanye claims that most of the people in the bed knew about it and he had to turn away people who wanted a spot in the bed. But I'm sure we're not taking an egomaniac rapper at his word right guys?
posted by R.F.Simpson at 9:23 PM on July 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


Failure to engage with this work and wrestle with it's complexity illustrates the cultural myopia of white hegemony.

Ugh.

How come white hegemony doesn't get in in the way of my love and admiration for Miles Davis, Leon Thomas, Public Enemy, Pharoah Sanders, Alice Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix, Hank Mobley, Art Tatum, Tribe Called Quest, Run DMC, JL Hooker, James Carr, Bobby Bland, Billy Stewart, Grandmaster Flash, Gregory Porter, Candi Staton, Betty Davis, Bettye Swann, Merry Clayton, Timeless Legend, The Sylvers, James Brown, Funkadelic, Fats Waller, Little Jimmy Scott, William Onyeabor, Fela, Otis Spann, Howlin' Wolf, TV on the Radio, Billie Holiday, Bad Brains, Art Blakey, Mike James Kirkland, Curtis Mayfield, Blackalicious, Junior Wells, Little Walter, Witch, Tunji Oyelana... and on and on?

You know, some people hate Kanye's music because they simply find it boring and uninspired. The notion that anyone who dislikes his music isn't capable of understanding the "complexities" or listens 24/7 to Nickelback, Michael Bolton and Kenny G (or whatever) is pretty closed-minded in and of itself. I didn't find my opinion in my ass -- I came to to it after listening to every one of his albums. I get that you disagree with me -- that doesn't mean I think you're an idiot manchild. We just have different taste in music and I find yours mind-boggling.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 9:27 PM on July 8, 2016 [24 favorites]


I approve.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 9:29 PM on July 8, 2016


Part of white cultural hegemony is a refusal to engage in black art that is deemed unworthy of the upper middle class npr multiverse.

It's telling that all the people you mentioned are either dead,jazz artists, or acceptable black rockers like Hendrix and TVOTR. All of those artists have been embraced and/or coopted by white culture. Where are Migos, Young Thug, Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, Wu-Tang Clan or any other black artist that has actually meant something to actual oppressed young people of color in the last 20 years?
posted by R.F.Simpson at 9:34 PM on July 8, 2016 [35 favorites]


We just have different taste in music and I find yours mind-boggling.

You're totally right, people have different tastes. But why come into this thread and shit all over people who do like Kanye and his music? Your first comment was exactly that. Why is it such a big deal that we must know that you don't like Kanye West's music?

Yeah, every thread with every movie, artist or piece of media has it's people who say they don't like it (and I've done that, and I am honestly trying to cut down and zip it when that reflex comes out), but it seems Kanye for some reason just inspires more people to pop up and just wanna start something.
posted by FJT at 9:35 PM on July 8, 2016 [8 favorites]


How come white hegemony doesn't get in in the way of my love and admiration for...

But that would be exactly what hegemony does. Hegemony is a particular relation to a perceived Other, and one thing it does is create implicit lists of "approved" and of "prohibited" ways to engage, on purely hegemonic grounds.

Stuff White People Like.

And I would like to think, understanding hegemony entails being more sensitive to this.
posted by polymodus at 9:37 PM on July 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


It's all provocation. I mean, do folks just forget how camp works? Kanye is doing an awful lot of playing to expectation. I mean, you either see that, or you don't.

I actually like a lot of Kanye's work, but, in today's culture, provocation-for-the-sake-of-provocation must be the single most exhausted approach out there. It's pretty much suitable only for teenagers (who do need it to negotiate their relationship with adult authority) at this point.
posted by praemunire at 9:49 PM on July 8, 2016 [7 favorites]


On this same album, Kanye raps "hands up, hands up, doing what the cops taught us / hands up, hands up, then the cops shot us." On Yeezus's "New Slaves," he raps "Doin' clothes you would have thought I had help / But they wasn't satisfied unless I picked the cotton myself." On Watch The Throne's album he raps "What’s the life expectancy for black guys? / The system’s working effectively, that’s why."

In my opinion, "Famous" is a medium song - I like Rihanna's bit, the beat is alright, etc, but the verses (and the video!) definitely do have some issues. But to say Kanye is not a gifted artist, given the above lyrics, and given the week we've just had? Come on.
posted by papayaninja at 9:53 PM on July 8, 2016 [7 favorites]


I can't get behind the harassment of Taylor Swift, no. By which I mean, he's not. It was rude AF what he did, but he wasn't wrong, and Swift absolutely used that moment to catapult her career. There's a weird symbiotic relationship there, and if she can exploit that, so should he.
posted by Ruki at 9:55 PM on July 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


Life of Pablo is FIRE. The more I listen to it, the more I like it. Lyrically, some songs are better than others, but musically, it's the direction that hip hop is going. It's very avant-garde, and reminds me a lot of what Childish Gambino is doing, but it's even more out there.

And the lyric about Taylor Swift is HILARIOUS. If you take Kanye seriously, then obviously he comes off as a douche. But he's not running for president... so... can't we just enjoy him?
posted by john the fourth at 10:10 PM on July 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


But to say Kanye is not a gifted artist, given the above lyrics, and given the week we've just had? Come on.

Being aware of the current cultural climate isn’t really the sign of being a brilliant artist. There are plenty of rappers and punk rockers who have continuously gone over the ground. I’d agree that the lyric on “New Slaves” does take on some interesting context in hindsight, while at the time it struck me as essentially narcissistic.

And the lyric about Taylor Swift is HILARIOUS.

It may be hilarious, but it’s also mean and gross. It’s like listening to Kendrick Lamar rap about bitches, where the rhymes are oh-so-much better. It no doubt makes me an old, but I hate it so, and every time I listen to good kid, m.A.A.d city it twists in me.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:24 PM on July 8, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think at this point he's just making videos with bizarre symbolism to openly flaunt his Rap Illuminati credentials/to troll credulous cranks into believing that such a thing exists.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:36 PM on July 8, 2016


Good kid Mad City is a different animal altogether though, with Kendrick in an almost constant state of becoming other characters and/or past/present versions of himself. I think Kanye's work can be read in that way (most plainly in Blood on the Leaves) but it takes a lot more mental gymnastics to get there.
posted by R.F.Simpson at 10:36 PM on July 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


Good kid Mad City is a different animal altogether though, with Kendrick in an almost constant state of becoming other characters and/or past/present versions of himself. I think Kanye's work can be read in that way (most plainly in Blood on the Leaves) but it takes a lot more mental gymnastics to get there.

You can read it anyway you want - this is me being an old man saying that I don’t like people calling women “bitches” in their track titles and cynically assuming that for all the notions that people are sophisticated consumers who interact with media at a high life, folks very often do not and simply see words as words. West’s treatment of Swift has been gross, the notion that everyone is okay with laughing along with the gag continues to be such. It makes me sad, and has kept me away from the album as a whole.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:44 PM on July 8, 2016 [6 favorites]


Kanye absolutely refuses to live in your boxes and it seems to make so many of you so upset that he's a decent person and an unprecedented artist — who as far as I've heard treats people in his personal life with integrity and respect.

The twitter spats are performance art even if they are also real. To misunderstand this is just "he had a gun" lite. The boob shots are exactly what the culture wants. This is the male gaze fucked through a ten-dimensional celebrity hyperlens and regurgitated into a literal wax mold of its own haunting, grotesque likeness. We can't look away, and we don't deserve to. We made this, its ours to confront. If you don't see yourself in this work, I don't think you're looking closely.

Obviously I can't even with Kanye. He offends me, he frustrates me, he blows my mind. I respect him, I don't, I don't know, I have no way of reducing him into a simple quantity. His music, all of it basically, has rocked my world and reached me on a deeper level and more intensely than most things or experiences of any kind ever have. I have felt the most alive that I have ever felt at times while experiencing his work. (I would draw comparison to many of my sexual experiences and various troubled situations, often problematic, difficult, wild, and undeniable.)

Hand-wave and scold and condemn away I guess, if it makes you feel better. I don't think Kanye would even show up on the "Threats to Women" radar if such a thing existed. There are so fucking many people who are doing so much more harm than he, and to toss him out because you're uncomfortable is absolutely perpetuating what others upthread have made reference to about white culture and white cultural hegemony.
posted by an animate objects at 10:50 PM on July 8, 2016 [16 favorites]


This photo (NSFW, obviously) almost hits me harder than the video.

I kind of love the full scene photo because it instantly reminds me of the Last Supper. Although maybe it needs one more figure? As is, the bed has twelve, making Taylor Swift and Kanye together the center, taking the place of Jesus.

Also: Does Trump sleep with The Hair? I need to know.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:05 PM on July 8, 2016 [7 favorites]


Surely that one moment totally excuses his continued long-distance harassment of Taylor Swift, right?

See, I find this the most endearing thing about Kanye. Taylor Swift is fucking awful, not to mention she's built her entire career on dis songs and snide comments. I thoroughly enjoy his baiting her. He's doing her no commercial harm at all, no harm with her fans, he's just annoying her. Which she deserves for her calculated exploitation of tween girls and her certainty to trash anyone who crosses her very publicly.

I'll never understand why a celebrated artist with hard won cred married Kim Kardashian. I can only conclude he must actually love her a lot.
posted by fshgrl at 11:15 PM on July 8, 2016 [7 favorites]


So when West has a public fued with a woman, which includes him creating a wX naked model of her without her permission and then putting it in a video, he is doing her a favor, but when she has a public fued she deserves criticism?

I like Kanye, but his behavior toward West has been misogynistic, and the double standards applied to his behavior and hers is maddening.
posted by maxsparber at 11:20 PM on July 8, 2016 [18 favorites]


Eventually he started buying into it more than the folks who rooted for him in the first place. That's the origin of the grating confidence.

In Defense Of Kanye’s Vanity: The Politics Of Black Self-Love
posted by andoatnp at 11:38 PM on July 8, 2016 [1 favorite]


The naked women in the video is a totally different issue than Kanye taking the piss with Swift.

I'm sorry, personally find T. Swift exploitative in her own way. Does that make Kanye excusable? No. But life is complex.

Everyone has their deal. Swift is full of bullshit and so is West. If feminism is real the idea is we're equal, so why is his crap worse than hers? Btw, I am female. I just think the double standard expected in media needs to end.

Also, I'm a content provider for media. This isn't I know shit better than others thing, but I know what being a woman doing "man's job" is like. Daily bs. But you need to wrap your head around the fact that being equal means a whole lot more than complaining.
posted by syncope at 11:40 PM on July 8, 2016 [4 favorites]


There are so fucking many people who are doing so much more harm than he

You admit that he's doing harm then. And because people think he's a genius or complex your argument is that's ok; you'll tolerate the harm he causes because you think his art is worth it. I think that's fucked-up.

His misogyny is concrete and well documented. His genius is purely subjective.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 12:02 AM on July 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


"Yeezus" was clear about Kanye's mode -- he is taking society's expectation of black men and accentuating, augmenting, and amplifying it until it is as large and monstrous as we believe black men to be, and then he is throwing it in our faces over and over again so that we might understand that the problem isn't them, but us.

Overly sexual? Check. Misogynist? Yeah. Status-obsessed? Selfish? Consumerist? Disrespectful? Violent? It's the overt statement running through everything he's done since "Yeezus," and it's all foregrounded right here in the video.

Your anger, confusion, outrage, and revulsion at him is exactly what he wants you to feel. He won't wink at you to let you know he's actually smarter than you think he is, because that would let you off the hook. He's not breaking character, because the black male character he's playing is one we've created, not him.
posted by incessant at 12:11 AM on July 9, 2016 [20 favorites]


it's real interesting that people are substantially more concerned with Kanye's feuding and sexual remarks about Taylor Swift when he has been, if anything, markedly more misogynistic and cruel to Amber Rose.
posted by Krom Tatman at 1:34 AM on July 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


Mod note: A few comments deleted. The whole "Why do people even care / pay attention to him?" thing is both super tired and predictable, and has already been expressed here. Please just check out some other threads to find stuff that you would like to discuss rather than complain that people are discussing something you don't think they should be discussing. (Also, flaggers, if you are going to immediately comment in reply to something you just flagged, it only makes bigger derails and more work for us.)
posted by taz (staff) at 1:37 AM on July 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Publishing nude images of someone without their consent, even fakes, and singing about how you want to have sex with her is sexual harassment. Claiming it's somehow justified because the victim is famous and you don't like her (or even worse, because other people have already victimized her by publishing fake nudes) is super extra gross.
posted by straight at 1:57 AM on July 9, 2016 [39 favorites]


See, I find this the most endearing thing about Kanye. Taylor Swift is fucking awful, not to mention she's built her entire career on dis songs and snide comments.

She's written plenty of good tunes. People still like that stuff.
posted by Coda Tronca at 2:08 AM on July 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry but if this is art then I would really rather prefer to do without this type of art.

this is not really a great mindset for making a FPP
posted by Krom Tatman at 2:11 AM on July 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


If feminism is real...

Um...what even???
posted by greermahoney at 2:18 AM on July 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


This, basically, is rape culture in a nutshell. Excuse the actions of a man because he's a genius, or because she deserves it, or whatever. And then later, in another thread condemn Bill Cosby, and go to bed secure in the knowledge of being one of the good people.
posted by happyroach at 2:35 AM on July 9, 2016 [33 favorites]


this is not really a great mindset for making a FPP

And I say unto you, verily, verily, ye shall not shareth parchments with thine tribe founded on thine ignorance and hate, least ye be branded a hater amongst men.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:41 AM on July 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


JimBennett: "Literally: Millions and millions of people. Most of the worlds music critics."

Ima go out on a limb and guess "Most of the world's English-speaking music critics." I suspect that understanding the lyrical content is almost a requirement for enjoying Kanye (not sufficient, but necessary). I'm guessing among non-English speaking music critics he doesn't get rated quite so highly.
posted by Bugbread at 2:46 AM on July 9, 2016


Dued! Wax nued fued!
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 3:18 AM on July 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


"I was just being ironically sexist/racist/homophobic" isn't treated as a legitimate defense any other time anyone else uses it.
posted by kewb at 3:50 AM on July 9, 2016 [14 favorites]


The "either/or" approach to art, which is also by far the worst thing about fandom culture in general, needs to fucking die. No, you do not have to pick sides between different artists, or different thoughts, or different cultural views. No, your choice of "Kanye or Taylor" does not stand in for some brilliant symbolic commentary on something something something something. There is no battle here to be "won", there is no "definitive historic view" that your opinion will somehow help shape, and this mode of artistic conversation in which people use their opinions essentially as status symbols, as tools to help establish their opinion as "right", is highly damaging to art and culture, and just kind of fucking grotesque besides.

Kanye West is brilliant. He is doubtlessly one of the most interesting artists on the planet, both from a sheer musical perspective and from a culture/celebrity/fame perspective. He thinks more about his persona than he lets on in public, and there's ample proof of how damn thoughtful the guy is if you give enough of a shit to look for it.

He is also wildly sexist. While I find it admirable for artists to use their art to confront their personal problems, I don't think the artist's responsibility stops with opening up about their problems. An artist needs to control their work, and to understand its implications. An artist who doesn't fully understand the context in which their work is created loses the capacity to fully take advantage of that context. Does Kanye's sexist, incorporated into art, help women or hurt them? Does it say anything interesting to the women the art is about? Or does it turn them into objects to be commented on and taken advantage of?

I think the Bound 2 music video, with his culturally-objectified wife riding naked on him while he rides a motorcycle, was terrific and hilarious and all kinds of fantastic. I also think the context of Kim Kardashian herself appearing in the video, and her being y'know his wife, is important. But I can't bring myself to watch the video for Famous, because I have no interest in women who Kanye only targets because he had public spats with them being reduced to nudes in an art piece. Even if the video is brilliant, which with Kanye it probably is. Something can be brilliant and unacceptable all at once.

Taylor Swift, similarly, is all kinds of talented, says and does all kinds of great things, and on the other hand is a bunch of different sorts of irritating and reprehensible. Some people can tolerate or ignore the irritating stuff; some people don't entirely have the capacity to appreciate how damn good she is at what she does. But both sides exist, and—crucially—neither one is relevant to people's criticism of this video. Making a sexist gesture about a celebrity is sexist regardless of how famous the celebrity is. It's sexist regardless of the intent. Unless the person you're making the gesture to understands and consents to, and is complicit in, the gesture in question, then you should probably stop and ask yourself if you're being sexist (and even if they are totally cool with it you might be being sexist anyway!). And I think the sexist nature of the action is amplified when it's (1) created by a famous person (2) who is a man (3) for a music video intended to be watched by millions of people (4) and deliberately uses naked women's bodies to stir up controversy.

I haven't seen the video, and I don't really want to get into the details of its artistry, because those details are beside the point. "Kanye made a video featuring a naked Taylor Swift impersonator" is already plenty problematic. And his line from the song, which I have heard, is a misogynistic dismissal of an artist who he "made famous" by interrupting her winning an award for best music video of the year, so she wasn't exactly a nobody. In my sheltered hometown, Taylor Swift was a bigger deal than Kanye ever had been; I'm not exactly offering that as praise, but I think that if it's a question of fame vs. artistic prowess, Swift is at least Kanye's equal.

The back-and-forth arbitration in this thread, in which people are going "not sexist!! art!!!!", or "kanye's awful!!! taylor!!!!!" or "taylor's the worst!!!! kanye!!!!!!!", pretty much undercuts the one important thing about art, which is that, as a reflection of society and individuals and the world, its potency is established by its numerous facets—that the art which resonates the most over time is the art which captures the most angles of a thing, and makes connections whose meanings are only revealed as people have time to reflect upon the piece as a whole. Brilliant isn't a label you just slap on something you like. It refers to art which literally "reveals"—which exposes new things to light.

There's an argument to be made that the fierce conversation over this video means it's at least somewhere along the road to brilliance. And, again, knowing Kanye, I bet there's more going on than just naked Taylor. But it's also got naked Taylor as one of its facets, and tbqf it's really fucking disheartening that in 2016 we're willing to ignore gross misogyny against a woman who already receives a lot of bullshit sexist flak just because the guy being gross is an artist. That's a leeway I don't think men ought to keep getting. And that doesn't mean you can't love this video or find it meaningful or think that Kanye's a genius—seriously, in a lot of ways Kanye's really great, and he is a genuine performance artist whose grandiosity does a lot of interesting things. But cockily (ahem) insisting that Kanye's talent means people who dislike what he's doing with a music video is wrong feels just as ugly as insisting that, just because Kanye's doing something gross as shit here, he's therefore been a talentless hack the whole time.

Food for thought: if Kanye anticipated people being wildly offended by his doing this, then people's getting wildly offended is a part of his art, and he's implicitly accepted that as part of the consequences for his actions. If you really think he's a performance artist, why shout down people who think he's a gross fucking sexist? Those people are clearly a part of his work, and you'd be showing his art a lot more respect by listening to what those people have to say than you are by refusing their right to involve themselves in his piece. Fountains exist to be peed in, according to some performance artists. Naked Taylor Swifts exist to be dismissed as disgusting, according to people who have any sensitivity towards misogyny whatsoever. Stop getting in the way of Kanye's disgusting sexist art!
posted by rorgy at 4:42 AM on July 9, 2016 [49 favorites]


I don't care about Kanye one way or another but this is really good and I enjoy it a lot.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:35 AM on July 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


your choice of "Kanye or Taylor"

There are rumours that Taylor may go 'full Miley' at any minute, so that ought to be fun if she decides to retaliate at the 'I made that bitch famous' stuff.
posted by Coda Tronca at 5:35 AM on July 9, 2016


I've never been a huge fan of his music, though I tend to like it when I hear it. I did like this video a lot, though I agree that he could have done a better job of handling the comparative levels of nudity (something the original painting did very differently). And I like how a number of artists currently seem to be moving in a more self-reflective, even avant garde direction, including the Kendrick Lamar album noted above. Smarter and more complicated music can only be a good thing.

And, I dislike how a lot of the criticisms of Kanye seem, to my ears, to be filtered through a fog of racism, and ditto the defenses of Swift. That's not to dismiss all the criticism, of which he deserves plenty, but still we (collectively) could do much better on this front.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:37 AM on July 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


This photo (NSFW, obviously) almost hits me harder than the video.

So many tits and vaginas. No dicks.
posted by Talez at 7:36 AM on July 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


The best part of Kanye's art is that he has really gotten under the skin of the last two presidents. How many other artists can claim that one?
posted by srboisvert at 7:53 AM on July 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm glad that Count the Dicks and Vaginas is where feminism has gotten us today.

Seriously, fucking Taylor Swift-- where was she loudly condemning the awful upwelling of racism against West or any black artist? He career was literally launched by a wave of hugely racist preoccupation with the uncouth black man who transgressed a sweet white little country-pop angel. Sexual harassment is shitty, no doubt about it, but it's not the only way to be shitty.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:56 AM on July 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


So many tits and vaginas. No dicks.

That is part of the video's point. The women are forced to be face up or ass up, exposed, objectified, and the men are shown in repose, safe, neatly covered by the sheet.

Guys -- it's all right there if you accept that it's a piece of art worth exploring and engaging with instead of something just to rail against.
posted by incessant at 7:58 AM on July 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


He career was literally launched by a wave of hugely racist preoccupation with the uncouth black man who transgressed a sweet white little country-pop angel.

In fact she'd had the biggest selling album of the year and won four Grammys before the incident with West.
posted by Coda Tronca at 8:06 AM on July 9, 2016 [24 favorites]


Watching it with the sound down the first time, I liked the piece. It had a strange beauty and the iconography of fame had a deep resonance. Watching it with the sound up felt like moving closer to read the "artist statement/explanation card" you sometimes see at modern art galleries. It spoilt the piece completely to find out what the artist thought it was about.
posted by drnick at 8:42 AM on July 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


> I find it incredibly frustrating that a lot of conversations about art have to be hedged around making it clear that your taste is absolutely morally pure.

Thank you for this. You have put perfectly why I find most MeFi discussions of art so useless.
posted by languagehat at 8:48 AM on July 9, 2016 [30 favorites]


Guys -- it's all right there if you accept that it's a piece of art worth exploring and engaging with instead of something just to rail against.

And it's also not required that anyone - particularly any woman - feel obliged to "explore and engage with" something they find misogynistic.

Aside from his weird obsession with Taylor Swift, I'm disturbed by 1) his even creepier obsession with Amber Rose, 2) putting the images of Rihanna and Chris Brown next to each other, given his violent history towards her, and 3) adding Actual Rapist Bill Cosby to the little tableau of images of naked, unconscious women, especially since he is accused of drugging women.

I'm not going to say it's not art - because I think pretty much anything can be art - and I'm not going to say it's completely meaningless. But it's also not something I should feel obliged to support by analyzing it or engaging with it. As far as I'm concerned, this comment is pretty much the limit of my engagement. For someone like Kanye, being ignored is probably his worst nightmare, and as long as the misogyny is there I plan to give it to him in spades.
posted by Salieri at 9:01 AM on July 9, 2016 [18 favorites]


So many tits and vaginas. No dicks.

But this is literally how it works in American pop culture. Skinemax? No dicks. Hollywood movie? No dicks. I don't even think he could have posted the video on YouTube if there were dicks showing. It's not just art, it's art to make money, so he has to simultaneously play within the boundaries that we've culturally created-- this more that "dicks are bad for video unless on pornhub"-- and then push that boundary in a way that draws attention.

And this just serves to make Taylor even more famous. She can get all huffy about it, but she's going to rake in even more cash from this when she creates her 'response song'. It's like getting a promotion. They're goddamn celebrities-- getting more attention is how they survive.

Commentary on famous people is different than revenge-posting nudes of your ex, and that's why it's constitutionally protected. And the guy has some sense of humor-- Ray J in the bed with them! That's just funny, but it also demonstrates that he understands just how pivotal that moment was in launching Kim into the zeitgeist. He understands what celebrity is better than the people who pay attention to him (and pay his bills).
posted by john the fourth at 9:15 AM on July 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


Guys -- it's all right there if you accept that it's a piece of art worth exploring and engaging with instead of something just to rail against.

Personally, I'm tired of it when women's criticisms of sexism in art are attributed to them not understanding that it's art. It's really condescending and dismissive.

You want to say the sexually objectifying treatment of female subjects is an intentional commentary; fine, let's roll with that, even though it is far from given. I think it fails, because (a) it's not a revolutionary or particularly thought-provoking point, and (b) it's made in such a way that the commentary is indistinguishable from the thing it's commenting on. It ends up being just more sexism.

And then there is the issue of consent, to make it worse. Just because your point is laudable enough, or your work artistic enough, does not make publishing faked nudes of women without their consent okay. You can recognize that it's art, you can recognize that Kanye is often underestimated, while still having a problem with this.

I've had that happen to me, by the way. Someone I got into an argument with on the internet found a photo of my face and photoshopped it into a porn pic and spread it around. It was more obviously fake than that photo, but I still felt very angry and violated -- furious, even, at this sexualized attack. So if you want to talk about art, let's talk about the audience. Who do you think that Kanye is communicating with, and what is he trying to communicate? Is it effective? Who's not the audience, and who's the collateral damage?
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:17 AM on July 9, 2016 [42 favorites]


She can get all huffy about it

This is such an ugly, minimizing way to characterize the a woman's negative reactions to having simulated nudes of herself widely published.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:21 AM on July 9, 2016 [43 favorites]


Aside from his weird obsession with Taylor Swift, I'm disturbed by 1) his even creepier obsession with Amber Rose, 2) putting the images of Rihanna and Chris Brown next to each other, given his violent history towards her, and 3) adding Actual Rapist Bill Cosby to the little tableau of images of naked, unconscious women, especially since he is accused of drugging women.

I find the video disturbing for those reasons as well. I've got no beef with Kanye as a person or artist or creator of this video. It may very well be intended to draw attention to or critique objectification of women, but first of all, I don't need my awareness of that raised because I'm really really really really aware of it already, all the time, everywhere, in art and literature and daily life. And the way it does that is via many minutes of male-gazey camera work lingering lovingly over sexualized body parts of unconscious women figures. Which is not shocking or transgressive or anything -- it happens every fucking week on Criminal Minds.

But I don't need to experience those images and don't find them illuminating or diverting or whatever. Watching the video made me feel like I was being made (or at least strongly invited) to share the worldview of Brock Turner. If other people enjoy it as art or entertainment or social commentary, that's fine by me, though.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:21 AM on July 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Kutsuwamushi, I did not mean to imply that a critique of the piece wasn't allowed or warranted -- just that the knee-jerk "yuck this sucks it isn't art it's just stupid" reaction that doesn't engage with the piece (of which there's a lot in this thread) isn't justified. I'm sorry that wasn't clear.
posted by incessant at 9:24 AM on July 9, 2016


It's engaging with the work, just in a way you don't like, and to dismiss it as knee-jerky is extremely condescending. I mean, this is exactly why intersectional politics exists -- so that we can be aware that Swift, while undeniably having privileges as a white person, nonetheless can be the target of sexism, and that West, while undeniable the target of racism, nonetheless has privilege as a man.

Here's what bothers me. I read an interview a little while ago where Swift explained that when she travels, when she checks into a hotel, she spends a half hour searching the room for little cameras, because there is such demand for nude shots of her that she can never be sure that someone hasn't illegally bugged her room. Her life is basically the nightmarish closing scene of The Conversation, where Gene Hackman has demolished his apartment searching for surveillance devices that he can't find. And that's her life forever.

She has a right to bodily autonomy. When men take that away, it's a misogynist act, a profoundly disrespectful violation of a very basic right to privacy. It's art, no doubt, but it's using art in a misogynistic way, and viewers have a right to respond to that misogyny.

Believe it or not, that is also engaging art. It's also criticism. And, speaking as someone who has been an arts critic for two decades, I have too often seen political critiques of art rejected as somehow being blinkered or not getting it, which always strikes me as a marvelous way to preserve mysogyny in art and marginalized those who take issue with it.
posted by maxsparber at 9:39 AM on July 9, 2016 [43 favorites]


This is such an ugly, minimizing way to characterize the a woman's negative reactions to having simulated nudes of herself widely published.

That wasn't my intent-- it was my intent to minimize her negative reaction as a celebrity-- but I've realized that you really can't separate the two, and I apologize for saying that. I also just read what maxsparber wrote about her hotel room searches, and that does sound nightmarish.

In terms of having a right to body autonomy though, is it not true that you give up at least some of that when you become a celeb, or at least the type of celeb who makes their money wearing slinky gowns and appearing in sexualized magazine spreads? Does engaging in that type of transaction with society mean that they're opening this door to giving up some of that autonomy? I'm not saying that it's right, just that it feels different to me.

Or is having that perspective just completely misogynist with no wiggle room? I'm honestly curious.
posted by john the fourth at 9:57 AM on July 9, 2016


By many accounts he not only had his first album completely put together and in his back pocket a good four or five years before he was able to put it out, but he had mapped out what he was going to do for his second and third.
He probably is one of the top producers to come out of hip hop.
He's smart enough to stay relevant, keep his name coming out of a lot of people's mouths, and able to devise ways to commodify himself.
I've watched enough interviews of him to understand that he is very thoughtful.
It's also easy to see that when he's in front of a camera his persona is basically a teetering house of cards set together by his hulk of an ego that really can't contain itself under the slightest provocation. I find it really odd to not be able to see or hear him talk about something that doesn't directly relate to himself in some way. It honestly wouldn't surprise me if he secretly kept his old web page that he filled with models pictures and "yeezy!" orgasmically sputtering from their lips scrawled in MS Paint.
Besides all that, his flow is middling at best and all of his freestyle I've heard is pretty garbage. I've never considered his rhymes to really be that great at all.
Still just appears to be a narcissistic asshole, and it's not exactly astonishing that he put himself in the middle of post-coital orgy. Sure Kanye, everybody wants to fuck you*eyeroll*.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:58 AM on July 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


It's possible to be interested in art that contains problematic content without agreeing with it.

This, a million times. I regret juxtaposing it as sexism against Taylor vs. racism against Kanye, because it's beside the point. Basically the argument comes down to: this art shouldn't have been made, because Taylor Swift (despite the fact that hey, Donald Trump probably isn't too happy about his imagined nude ass all over this video and the internet, either). I disagree.

Uh, I'm not sure it's an orgy, exactly. He and Kim are in the middle for... obvious reasons. I mean, Kim is the living embodiment of what every (female) celebrity goes through, except she has made that work her main labor, without a mediocre singing or acting career to cover it up.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:00 AM on July 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


In terms of having a right to body autonomy though, is it not true that you give up at least some of that when you become a celeb, or at least the type of celeb who makes their money wearing slinky gowns and appearing in sexualized magazine spreads? Does engaging in that type of transaction with society mean that they're opening this door to giving up some of that autonomy? I'm not saying that it's right, just that it feels different to me.

No. Nobody gives up bodily autonomy ever. How the fuck do people still not get this? People don't "deserve" treatment or form an obligation based on what they wear or how they express themselves.
posted by Talez at 10:02 AM on July 9, 2016 [22 favorites]


is it not true that you give up at least some of that when you become a celeb, or at least the type of celeb who makes their money wearing slinky gowns and appearing in sexualized magazine spreads

It's the price of fame for most women. It's very fucked. Fame itself is fucked. It's a pretty disgusting industry overall.

Also, though, no she doesn't give up bodily autonomy, yes she does give up a legal defense of herself. That in itself is pretty fucked up, and seems to be part of this project, whether you agree with the way it was done or not.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:02 AM on July 9, 2016


I'm sure it was just a sleepover.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:07 AM on July 9, 2016


Seriously, fucking Taylor Swift-- where was she loudly condemning the awful upwelling of racism against West or any black artist?

You are defending Kanye by saying she was asking for it because she was dressed that way.
posted by straight at 10:08 AM on July 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


is it not true that you give up at least some of that when you become a celeb, or at least the type of celeb who makes their money wearing slinky gowns and appearing in sexualized magazine spreads?

What?!

No, appearing in "slinky gowns" and "sexualized magazine spreads" doesn't mean you have given up your right to autonomy and privacy. You've agreed to do those things -- set the boundaries for those things.

I'm having trouble with the words I need to respond to this. Being sexy in public is not consent to having your privacy violated. Taylor Swift does not need to dress and act like a nun in order for her boundaries, such as abouthow much of her body she will show, to be respected.

The idea that a woman wearing a "slinky dress" at an event somehow negates her right to autonomy, privacy, respect is seriously an echo of rape culture.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:10 AM on July 9, 2016 [42 favorites]


It's because West operates within the world of pop music rather than art that he can get away with such a lack of ideas though. JG Ballard published 'Why I Want To Fuck Ronald Reagan' in 1968 and Jeff Koons was selling pictures of himself bumming a porn star in 1989. We've had all this done to death and he adds nothing much to it.

As has been pointed out, by contrast his track record in producing original and influential pop music is excellent.
posted by Coda Tronca at 10:11 AM on July 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I did not mean to imply that a critique of the piece wasn't allowed or warranted -- just that the knee-jerk "yuck this sucks it isn't art it's just stupid" reaction that doesn't engage with the piece (of which there's a lot in this thread) isn't justified.

Exactly how far would Kanye's harassment have to go before it would be grounds for dismissing this video? If he'd used actual stolen nude selfies of these women, would we be then be allowed to say, "gross, I'm not watching that and it's not okay"?
posted by straight at 10:12 AM on July 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


I sort of want to click on the link, but I refuse to participate in Kanye's professional click-bait schemes. naked famous people, an invitation to "sue" him...10+ million guaranteed views.

No need to spend money promoting your art when you can use a fake controversy to let others do it for free.
posted by pleem at 10:12 AM on July 9, 2016


Not that you need me to tell you this, but of course anyone is allowed to say "I'm not watching and that's OK" at any time -- but a flippant "So many tits and vaginas. No dicks." looks at the piece on a purely surface level, ascribing misogyny to the intent of the piece. I wanted to consider that the piece is exploring and commenting society's misogyny.

Kanye's professional click-bait schemes... No need to spend money promoting your art when you can use a fake controversy to let others do it for free.

This is what I consider not engaging with the piece.
posted by incessant at 10:24 AM on July 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Everyone depicted in this video has used their own image to amass cultural power. No one in this video is somehow disadvantaged by the propagation of their likeness. Revenge porn and this music video aren't even related. These bodies aren't being demeaned. This is an interpretation you can arrive at if you actually watch the video, because it was not the artist's intent to demean the bodies in this video.

Not watching the video is a bad way to form an opinion on the video.
posted by an animate objects at 10:27 AM on July 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


If the idea of the video bothers you enough that you are choosing not to watch the video, this thread is not the place to be, because this is a thread for discussing the video.
posted by an animate objects at 10:32 AM on July 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


People are engaging, just not in a way that you like. Noting that the piece has a double standard is engaging; attributing that to misogyny is engaging. Having opinions about how Kanye promotes his art, even if they are negative opinions that cause you not to want to view the art, is engaging.

The people who aren't engaging aren't commenting on this thread.

No one in this video is somehow disadvantaged by the propagation of their likeness [...] These bodies aren't being demeaned

Yeah, no -- this is bullshit. It's the women whose bodies are being used who get to decide when exposing them is worth it for their careers. It's their choice whether or not they want to disrobe, whether the resulting image is demeaning or not. You don't get to decide no harm was done.

Consent. This shouldn't be a hard concept.

And taking away someone's consent is demeaning. It's demeaning to the individual whose consent is ignored, and it's demeaning to women as a whole because how ignoring our consent and reducing us to our sexuality is so. fucking. common.

(And men have a right to privacy too, but I'm focusing on the women here because the frequency, intent, severity, and consequences are different for women in ways that make it worse.)

this is a thread for discussing the video.

We are discussing the video.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:41 AM on July 9, 2016 [20 favorites]


"I didn't watch the video

"I've never really listened to his music but

if you haven't looked at this mans art, you verifiably don't know what you're talking about. it's pretty much racism. Kanye is a gentleman, who's never actually hurt anyone except in love. this is a breakthrough work that shows vulnerability, mastery. the sculptures WERE MADE BY THE SAME GUY WHO SCULPTS FOR JEFF KOONS AND MATHEW BARNEY

THEY ARE WORKS OF EXCEPTIONAL QUALITY AND DETAIL

KANYE WEST SPENT MILLIONS RENDERING A LIFE SIZE FULLY PHOTOREALISTIC SCULPTURE OF CAITLYN JENNER, NUDE. It is BEAUTIFUL! THE HUMAN BODY IS BEAUTIFUL! HUMANITY IS BEAUTIFUL
posted by coaster at 10:45 AM on July 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think it's okay if people are bothered by Kanye's explicit and specific misogyny towards Swift, or the sexism in general, that they feel they don't need to watch the whole video to express their disapproval. If Kanye wants to be outrageous, then it shouldn't be surprising that would naturally be a part of the discussion.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:45 AM on July 9, 2016


In a society that actually respected women's bodies and autonomy, this video would be regarded as universally banal. I think that's the point.

Watching the video evidences exactly as much. These are naked people asleep. They aren't cuddling, they aren't embracing. They're just sleeping together.

And they're all really goddamned famous. And the song is called Famous. Because it's about Fame. Which is Banal.

You can't exploit royalty. Kanye knows this. No matter what he says about Taylor Swift and Donald Trump and Rihanna and Amber Rose, those people will be absolutely fine. He knows this. He can say whatever he wants to and they will be fine. To withhold acknowledgement of this reality is to discriminate, from my perspective.
posted by an animate objects at 10:53 AM on July 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


He can say whatever he wants to and they will be fine.

Amber Rose probably did feel pretty fine after she utterly destroyed him on Twitter without even needing to get out of second gear.
posted by Coda Tronca at 10:56 AM on July 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


p.o.b.
people can do anything they want. but if someone says 'the thing about this is' and they have never seen, touched, listened to, read, or experienced that thing, then they "don't know what they're talking about."
posted by coaster at 10:58 AM on July 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


From my perspective, treating these women's consent as something that's trivial or that can be waived is a symptom of a huge fucking cultural disrespect for women.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:00 AM on July 9, 2016 [21 favorites]


I watched this video. I watched it with enormous trepidation because I was worried that it would feel exploitative.

Kanye knew that I would be in that mindset. The whole world is saying, "SHOW US YOUR TITS" so Kanye said, "HERE ARE ALL THESE TITS. WHAT NOW, MOTHERFUCKERS. THIS IS WHAT YOU SAID YOU WANTED RIGHT? HERE IT IS." It's a big ass slap in the male gaze's face.

I don't think Kanye is a shining beacon of women's empowerment but when I watched this video, it gave me hope that someone like him could make a statement like this.

The video features 5 minutes of literally snoring. Snoring. And you want to tell me Kanye is trying to use other people's bodies to shock and titillate? I disagree.
posted by an animate objects at 11:04 AM on July 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


It's the price of fame for most women. It's very fucked. Fame itself is fucked. It's a pretty disgusting industry overall.

Also, though, no she doesn't give up bodily autonomy, yes she does give up a legal defense of herself.


Because women are regarded not as individuals, but as objects that have sex done to them. Not not by "Hollywood", not by "The media", but by individual people, who need to take responsibility for THEIR attitudes..

Don't make a statement that it's "the price of fame" as if Fame is some abstract force like gravity. The situation is what is is, because men believe that other men should have the right to do whatever they want as far as treating women like objects. "Fame" did not plop nude wax models of women on Kayne's bed, and "Fame" is not argung that he has the right to do so.


Everyone depicted in this video has used their own image to amass cultural power. No one in this video is somehow disadvantaged by the propagation of their likeness.

So to extend these arguments about fame, Gretchen Carlson has no right to sue Fox News and Roger Ailes. The Cosby Women have no right to press charges because of all the publicity they gained. And of course Samantha Geimer should be nothing but grateful to Roman Polanski.

The argument is, all a harasser has to do is make is harassment public, and hey, it's all good, because she got the "benefit" of publicity. All teh better if she is attractive, or wealthy, because then she "deserves" it.

This is basically regarding all women as involuntary sex workers; as people with no autonomy, no choice as to whether or how they're sexualized. Oh wait, did I say people? They aren't even considered people, merely flesh robots to be used by male geniuses.
posted by happyroach at 11:05 AM on July 9, 2016 [17 favorites]


Considering that fame and banality are polar opposites and in actuality negate each other, I would conclude that yeah he was going for a shock factor. If you actually listen to the original audio when he unveiled this at his show, you can hear him gleefully say "wait, wait, wait..." and the crowd scream as each person appeared on the screen. If you really think he was hoping people would be yawning while watching it then I just cannot contextualize where you're coming from.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:14 AM on July 9, 2016


In terms of having a right to body autonomy though, is it not true that you give up at least some of that when you become a celeb, or at least the type of celeb who makes their money wearing slinky gowns and appearing in sexualized magazine spreads? Does engaging in that type of transaction with society mean that they're opening this door to giving up some of that autonomy? I'm not saying that it's right, just that it feels different to me.

Or is having that perspective just completely misogynist with no wiggle room? I'm honestly curious.


I mean, I guess you don't realize, but that's just another way of saying "She was asking for it because of the way she was dressed."

So I mean, no, you don't give up that right because you choose to wear a "slinky gown".
posted by Imperfect at 11:20 AM on July 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


I read an interview a little while ago where Swift explained that when she travels, when she checks into a hotel, she spends a half hour searching the room for little cameras

Doesn't she have a gofer who does that for her?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:21 AM on July 9, 2016


The gofer would be the most likely to try to procure the photos, and have the media connections to sell them.
posted by Coda Tronca at 11:27 AM on July 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


In heated threads on MeFi, it used to be really common to see an exchange like this in feminism/racism/lgbtq threads. For example, this sort of thing would happen in a thread about Black Lives Matter:

WhitePerson: [over-the-top racist comment, meant to mimic what an actual racist would say]
PoC: what the fuck?
WhitePerson: I was just showing what a racist person would say, as hyperbole. Isn't racism offensive and horrible?
PoC: reading what you wrote was offensive and horrible, even if you were trying to hyperbolically show how horrible people can be. I know how horrible people can be because I've been on the receiving end of real comments much like your fake one. Your comment isn't adding anything and is just depressing and gross.

I'm white, and I'd read the WhitePerson's comments and immediately see them for what they were and understand the poster's intent. But after seeing enough PoC MeFites explain how hurtful these types of comments were, it was obvious that even if the WhitePerson was trying to make a good point, they were making it extremely badly because it was hurtful.

Anyway, the analogy isn't perfect because argument =/= art, but this is basically how I see Kanye's video. Maybe his art is simply hyperbolic and super-misogynistic because he's trying to make a point about the male gaze. Fine, I understand that in an objective sense. But for me, subjectively, I already know the male gaze fucking sucks, so as a woman the video doesn't really do anything for me except make me depressed that a man is exploiting women's bodies yet again, regardless of his actual artistic intent.
posted by gatorae at 11:29 AM on July 9, 2016 [24 favorites]


if you haven't looked at this mans art, you verifiably don't know what you're talking about. it's pretty much racism. Kanye is a gentleman, who's never actually hurt anyone except in love.

Didn't realise Kanye was a member.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 12:30 PM on July 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


Is it interesting that we're discussing bodily autonomy in the context of 1) famous people & 2) wax sculptures? Couldn't this work simply be considered parody or satire?

For instance, Mad & Cracked magazines have represented famous people in scathing/sexist/misogynist/racist terms for decades. They've skewered (rightly or wrongly) anyone under the sun that's achieved the requisite amount of fame necessary to absolve the publication of libel for no greater purpose (in most cases) than evoking a laugh.

Whether or not the art is in good taste, isn't it ultimately an extension of that right of art to play with "objects" in the public domain?

I quote "objects" because I'm referring not to Taylor Swift's body- that isn't in the public domain whatsoever- but the representation of her body, which.. well, isn't that the point of Kanye's credits mid-video?

IANAL, but my recollection of things like The People Vs. Larry Flynt & some cursory articles I googled (here and here) certainly support this perspective. Which is just to say that by virtue of being famous, you are now open to precisely the kind of work Kanye has produced.

For me, there's a lot to unpack. I watch Kanye's interview regarding his own homophobia prior to 2005 and I choose to believe that he has similarly been enlightened to feminist concerns- especially given his marriage to Kim Kardashian. Therefore, I take it on faith that the "male gaze" and misogynistic representations of boobs & butts vs. backs & delts are part of the art (and part of the point of the art) rather than an extension of Kanye's (supposed) real and actual misogyny.

Is it awful that TS has to sweep her hotel rooms for cameras? Absolutely. It's vile that some of us have such disregard for another person that they would prop up an industry in order to possibly secure some grainy footage of that person's body.

Is it awful that Kanye created a wax sculpture of a naked TS in order to use it in a video that (among other things) pointedly remarks on the price/demands of fame in our current (and very fucked up) fame culture? I don't know. I can't muster the same revulsion I feel for secret cameras in Taylor's hotel.
posted by narwhal at 1:19 PM on July 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


I finally decided to watch the video yesterday. I felt it was quite depressing and poignant, especially throughout the ABA' structure of the piece. I don't know how it would rank on the scale of "student art projects", but as someone who does not keep up with music, the various symbolism and musical changes conveyed that bit of resonance, just speaking for myself. I am surprised that it moved me somewhat, so I'm not ready to dismiss it.

Tentatively, the subject of the piece seems to be celebrity culture in America. There's a moment when a careful viewer notices that the sounds are meant to imply that these wax figures are snoring. It is about sleeping, not sex, the kind of implicit, sex that typical music videos and lyrics have exploited to become an expectation. In parallel, that these are recognizable celebrities lying with other celebrities says something about power and fame, e.g. that they are like regular people but not, that (at the end of the video) one of them "awakens" and that's when the viewer should experience a bit of fear. So symbolically, these are a few of the things that are going on in the video.

As another example, when the video got to Cosby/Bush/Trump, the visual language gave me the sense that they are being criticized for something. For what, I'm not entirely sure—by this what I mean is the language has to be unpacked to show how it works, or doesn't work, in this context; further analysis and thinking is needed to articulate a reading of the scene.

While these themes and messages are tentatively there, does Kanye succeed in subverting his environs and status quo? I can't judge, because I don't feel I have the necessary context nor broad knowledge of mass/popular art to make a comparison.

Does the video exploit women by portraying their bodies without permission, and moreover, exploit people by using their identity without permission? It is obviously problematic, and public discussion has established as much. My intuition is, as per the standards of art, this primarily depends on whether the reference or portrayal is critique, satire, etc. Answering this requires attending to the language and content of the piece.
posted by polymodus at 1:35 PM on July 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


I also think it's pretty important to start talking about the morality of publishing fake nudes of another person without their consent because in another decade, Kanye won't have to just rap about wanting to have sex with Swift, he'll be able to create a photo-realistic CGI video of her doing it with him. Will you defend that as some kind of legitimate artistic statement as well?
posted by straight at 1:37 PM on July 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure what to think about the video. It is disturbing, for sure. I do know that Kanye started putting out genius music 12 years ago, and he continues to be at the forefront of hip hop. That's really impressive.
posted by persona au gratin at 2:02 PM on July 9, 2016


the sculptures WERE MADE BY THE SAME GUY WHO SCULPTS FOR JEFF KOONS AND MATHEW BARNEY

Hey, I worked for Mathew Barney and I'm pretty much a doofus.

To me, the biggest similarly between Kanye and, say, Koons is the fusion of complicity/critique or banality/transcendence; it seems like both artists relish exposing how those seemingly oppositional impulses define and perpetuate each other under capitalism. Also, Kim and Kanye are doing this in a pop context that actually makes the contemporary art context seem obsolete, which is another plus.

Ultimately, what Kim and Kanye have taught me better than any blue chip certified, ArtForum sanctioned PoMo artist of the last 30 years, is that my own aesthetic preferences (which often trend toward the acetic, the wistful, the scruffy and the twee) have a clear racial and socio-economic location and are, as such, part of a larger system of cultural oppression. And I thank them for that, though I now miss having a place of refuge from all the celebrities rubbing their asses in my face all the time.
posted by ducky l'orange at 2:23 PM on July 9, 2016 [9 favorites]


@straight: I also think it's pretty important to start talking about the morality of publishing fake nudes of another person without their consent because in another decade, Kanye won't have to just rap about wanting to have sex with Swift, he'll be able to create a photo-realistic CGI video of her doing it with him. Will you defend that as some kind of legitimate artistic statement as well?
Maybe this wasn't directed at me, but I do think it's an interesting philosophical question.

In fairness, I'd already considered the problem of your hypothetical future prior to my post, so my response may be further along the train of thought than expected.

I don't support Kanye's artistic expression in degrees (such that it's fine up to a point) but rather in kind. This is to say that a likeness, when used for artistic expression (vs. making truth statements, etc.) is viable regardless of the "realness" of the likeness.

Put another way, it is in many ways a limit of technology that has prevented us from simply mocking up another human and doing what we will with it. In early society, one was limited to stories, sketches, sculpture, and theater. Enter writing and photography and film and suddenly we can "fake" another person much more realistically. Now, thanks to computer assisted art, any one of those "fakes" can be rendered all the more lifelike.

So why not just assume the eventuality? Not only will we one day be able to create a perfect CGI likeness of TS in a video, but, further, one day I might actually be able to create a lifelike robot (leaving aside the further conundrum of AI & the rights of a sentient machine) that could serve as my artistic plaything. Rather than limit myself to a costly and time-consuming video with carefully created CGI, I could do realtime performance art with an utterly realistic & lifelike TS robot that interacts with me on a stage. And because there's no accounting for taste, go ahead and assume that the art is some sort of depraved re-enactment of The Aristocrats.

Where does one draw the line? Are dolls only ok because we've been sufficiently poor craftsmen that we have automatically known a doll from a real person?

And with respect to the rights of one's body, am I "allowed" to see a person on the street & picture that person naked? Am I "allowed" to picture the audience naked when I'm nervous about performing? If I wanted to do art about a dream I had wherein I interacted with a naked Taylor Swift, need I permission? If I recreated that dream as a comic book, would that be ok? Is it only when I recreate the dream with a lifelike facsimile that it's wrong?

For me, all of these hypothetical situations are ok in and of themselves.

Here's another way of putting it. When Tina Fey pretends to be Sarah Palin, the resemblance is pretty stunning. With better makeup, proper staging, and a more carefully scripted scene, one could theoretically fake footage of Sarah Palin actually doing something in the world. It could catch fire online, permeate the media cycle, & the real Sarah Palin might find herself trying to defend her actual person from the allegations of the film. That would be improper usage of a likeness & it doesn't require CGI or hypothetical futures. On the other hand, Sarah Palin has also been parodied in pornographies that certainly take the question of art vs. taste all the way to the line. Perhaps some of us here would object to this, but could we honestly say that an actress pretending to be Sarah Palin & having sex on camera has violated the rights of Palin to her body?

I think this is all extremely fascinating by the way. Thanks for engaging, everyone.
posted by narwhal at 2:27 PM on July 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


Yoko Ono once tried to copyright 'the likeness' of John Lennon rather than make copyright claims over specific photos.
posted by Coda Tronca at 2:44 PM on July 9, 2016


Okay, honestly though, with a general disclaimer that Kanye does indeed make misogynist art, I actually thought this video was weirdly poignant, and even more weirdly innocent. Mostly because it evoked a very specific kind of dream, the one where you and everyone else you know, living and dead, make up and resolve your differences, and all is forgiven, both the people you've hurt and the people who have hurt you: one of the more devastating dreams to wake up from. Does anyone else here have these? Those dreams where you're cuddling with an ex or people who have died and you're all in a state of bliss and forgiveness and weird, pure love, and then you wake up and feel totally gutted? That's what this felt like to me. "Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens." These bodies did not read as sexualized to me at all, men or women, degrees of nudity or not. They were all at peace, sleeping. The main source of discomfort was that they seemed dead and when they started breathing I almost cried in relief. Maybe that's down to personal neurosis-- there's something deeply calming to me about watching people be asleep after the "are you still breathing" check, idk. But what the narrative of the video mostly read as to me was: I had a dream and you were there and you were there and you were there, and everything was finally OK. It felt like the absolute opposite of Lena Dunham's "Brock Turner's victim" interpretation-- it wasn't a of drugging these women and men and showing their bodies off like sexual trophies but a fantasy that everyone who was part of Kanye's rise to fame is on good enough terms to be sharing the intimacy of sharing a bed. They're all OK. Chris and Rihanna are fine. Amber is smiling. Taylor has reconciled with them apparently, and she's there too. Oh, and his mom in law. It's like none of the heartbreak or the violence ever happened. And then the camera zooms out to the men bracketing this weird family sleepover and that illusion cracks: Cosby the rapist and Trump, and the last face reveal of GWB. Back to reality. The man who Kanye modeled his black preppie image after is a serial rapist, GWB with so much death on his hands, we all remember Chris beating Rihanna, what Kanye's done to Amber means he can and should never have access to that scene of her sleeping peacefully ever again.

WRT the outrage: yeah, sure, likeness rights and boundaries, but honestly am I the only person here who thought this was one of the least offensive/violating things Kanye has ever done regarding famous women in general and Amber Rose specifically? Like, where was all this outrage when the outro to "Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" dropped? To all the lyrics in that album describing a horrifyingly abusive relationship with her? My reaction to people who are super upset over Kanye baiting the ongoing drama of Kanye vs Taylor who haven't been there over the way he's treated Amber Rose over the years is like, lol, okay, that's cute. Lena, your previous fb entry was a picture of your plastic bead friendship bracelets, that's cute too. High school feminism is adorable. If you want to actually go to the mat for abused women, by all means, come back when you're ready to be serious.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 3:37 PM on July 9, 2016 [12 favorites]


In reading discussions of Kanye West's work, I often find it difficult to ascertain whether a commenter loved it or hated it until the very end of the comment, where they come right out and say it.

I'll paraphrase:

In this work Kanye West does A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y. He's a complete asshole.

In this work Kanye West does A, E, I, O, U and sometimes Y. He's completely amazing.


To me, this says a lot about his art. It also says a lot about me, that I would view the merit of an artist through such a lens, but in my narcissism I wonder if this might be what Kanye wants me to see.

And then I realize that I'm critiquing my own narcissism and I think, Yes, absolutely.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 3:53 PM on July 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Also, a friend's response to this was "I wonder what human emotion Kanye keeps substituting with 'fame'?" and I think that pretty much wraps it up completely.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 4:05 PM on July 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Sometimes I daydream about a world where people don't believe that art has objective quality, but is entirely subjective. Where an artist who makes stuff that someone really likes is not "a great artist" but "an artist whose works I love." Where an artist who makes stuff lots of people really like is not "a genius" but "an artist a lot of people really like."

I sometimes imagine what the Internet would look like in this world. No more YouTube arguments about how Musician X must be great because they sold a lot of albums, or counterarguments about how consumers are sheep and what is important is that critics dislike Musician X. No more arguments about whose kid could have made which art and whether or not that is indicative of the quality of that art. No arguments about controversy in art based on assumptions regarding whether art is objectively good or bad.

It's not as good as when I daydream about winning the lottery or having superpowers, but it's still a nice daydream.
posted by Bugbread at 4:34 PM on July 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


And with respect to the rights of one's body, am I "allowed" to see a person on the street & picture that person naked?

Seems like a pretty bright line to me. Of course you can think about a person naked. But when you open your mouth and subject them to unsolicited descriptions of your sexual fantasies about them, or publish drawings of your sex fantasies about them or sing songs about having sex with them or whatever, you're violating their consent. You're taking away their agency and using them as an object. I think that's wrong and you shouldn't do it.
posted by straight at 4:45 PM on July 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


TIL that some people on metafilter really really hate Taylor Swift.
posted by small_ruminant at 6:52 PM on July 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


Here's the hell of it. Kanye doesn't even like or want Taylor Swift. Hes still mad she won an award he thought a woman who aroused him more should have won. Worse, he made a fool of himself on international television saying so. That shame is now a feud with a woman who doesn't care about him. Who doesn't think about him unless a "Lifestyle" reporter - not a music industry reporter, a "Lifestyle" reporter - asks her what she thinks about him hating her. She will say something pleasant about him and his work, and move on, like nothing even happened.

The RAGE. He is rap's Gamergater.

He is an impotent little troll. Using dated flow awkwardly with slightly less dated beats, and dripping with scorn for women for being women while he commands the camera to hover over wax breasts.

He might as well taken that huge bed and put a fleshlight on it with his own face taped to the bottom like Morris Moss' mug. It would be at once more transgressive, honest and relevant.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:01 PM on July 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


@straight: Seems like a pretty bright line to me. Of course you can think about a person naked. But when you open your mouth and subject them to unsolicited descriptions of your sexual fantasies about them, or publish drawings of your sex fantasies about them or sing songs about having sex with them or whatever, you're violating their consent. You're taking away their agency and using them as an object. I think that's wrong and you shouldn't do it.
Ok, but what if I'm subjecting Swift's likeness to some fanfic where TS & I are best friends? What if in my fictional universe, we're a dynamic duo who fight crime? What if I draw a comic of this? What if my friends & I self produce a movie with our iphones? What if thanks to great makeup & lighting, we're able to recreate the TS character with an uncanny likeness? Is this ok? Is it when sex is involved that suddenly a bright line is visible? If so, where does the bright line appear? Is it when the fanfic introduces some sexual tension? Or when we kiss for the first time? Or what about the scene where Clothes Goblin steals our outfits rendering us naked but devoid of any/all sexuality?

It seems to me that if it's wrong to take someone's likeness and subject it to sexual fantasies, then it would also be wrong to subject it to any sort of fantasy. Or are sexual fantasies bad but violent fantasies ok? Or maybe no sexual or violent fantasies, but everything else is game? Or are only "good" fantasies allowed? Who decides what "good" is?

This is where I think the problem stands out. Inherent in your argument that sexually representing another's likeness without consent is bad, is an unstated premise that doing just about anything with another's likeness without consent is either 1) bad or 2) subject to a value judgement about that action.

If it's bad, no exceptions, then any art with any depiction of anyone without consent is bad. That strikes down a wealth of art from Mad Magazine back through Dante's population of hell consisting of notable Florentines and beyond. That's a tough pill for me to swallow.

If it's bad according to a value judgement, then we have a subjective bad and not an objective bad. If I despise violence, I can assert that all Quentin Tarantino movies are bad. But that doesn't make them objectively bad. This is what I mean with respect to taste vs. art. Art can still be playing perfectly well within its boundaries while possibly offending someone's taste. But the argument against such art must be made from a position of taste (e.g. "I don't like it.") rather than objective purity (e.g. "It's not ok. It shouldn't be allowed. It's bad. It's wrong.").

I think it's hard to tease the subtle difference between "poor taste" and "bad." And I think judging something to be "bad" can be an excuse to turn away without considering why something that seems to be in such "poor taste" resonates so fiercely with others. In the case of "bad," the art is wrong & anyone who thinks differently is wrong. In the case of "poor taste," the viewer might be wrong & the stakes of engaging with the art are higher.

I'm certain that plenty of folks who recognized themselves in "Inferno" decried the work as vulgar and wrong rather than in poor taste. And yet now, we teach the work as one of the most notable pieces of western literature. Tastes come and go. Offended sensibilities change with time. If Kanye's work ends up in the dustbin of art history as some sort of footnote warning future artists how not to do parody, so be it. But I assert that it will remain a matter of taste rather than an overstep of the boundaries of art.

Seriously, I continue to enjoy the development of this thread. Thank you, thank you.

As an aside, I want to be perfectly clear that hiding oneself behind the shield of art in order to perpetrate violence or harm against another person is absolutely and categorically bad. I honestly can't understand the actual relationship between Taylor Swift and Kanye West because I have no real information. It's like trying to figure out if Tom Hanks is really a good guy by watching and re-watching his movies.

But disliking someone (whether actually or for the sake of art) and lobbing vitriol at that person is at the heart of a lot of art. The rap battle is structured around this kind of give and take. Hamilton, an immensely popular musical with people of all stripes and sensitivities, is filled with characters who hurl vicious barbs at one another. Yes, words wound, but also (and especially with regard to famous people), we expect a certain degree of resilience. This is precisely why libel suits are so difficult (and should be!) to prosecute against public figures. It's why we can delight in the mockery of Donald Trump's small hands or laugh along with Larry David's caricature of Bernie Sanders. Let's remember: Kanye's terrible crime against Taylor Swift was interrupting an awards show. An awards show, people. Think about how dreadfully boring it can be to sit in an auditorium at your corporate campus to watch people accept awards for things like Most Improved Team or Best Project Synergy. And yet, when it's a televised event and we're celebrating the accomplishments of people who are already compensated above and beyond (to the point of absurdity) the average working person who's tuned in to said event, it's a high crime and a devastating lack of decorum. This is theater. All of it. Twitter and awards ceremony stages and media coverage and yes, I believe, this song and its music video.

Maybe TS is hurt by Kanye's actions. Maybe she's reached out to him, privately, as someone would do in the real world and asked him to stop. Maybe Kanye blew her off and he continues this behavior in full knowledge of the destructiveness of his actions. I don't know. I don't believe anyone aside from Taylor or Kanye knows. But if the only people who are hurt by the exchange are people reading into Kanye's side and Taylor's side, then no, I don't think Kanye has in any way overstepped his rights as an artist.
posted by narwhal at 8:47 PM on July 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


I keep double checking the list to make sure there are other people in the bed besides Tay Tay because this thread sure does like to focus on that figure only.

Anyway I refuse to believe trump doesn't have a way grosser bod than this portrayal. Like at LEAST a little bit of a tail, right?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:26 PM on July 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


Let's remember: Kanye's terrible crime against Taylor Swift was interrupting an awards show.

No, that was the initial media storm and lots of people (like Obama) pretty calmly pointed out he was a dick for interrupting, and left it at that. The really bad stuff is West's lyric about 'I could have sex with that bitch' or whatever mindless rubbish he thought up 10 seconds before the tape started rolling. When I had to explain that to my Swift-fan daughter we didn't focus much on West's 'art.'
posted by Coda Tronca at 1:23 AM on July 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm not a huge fan of the prevalence of the term "bitch" in modern parlance precisely because it can be construed anywhere along the spectrum from harmless to hurtful. How it's meant or interpreted in this song is just as muddled as anywhere else. If it's always offensive to you, then it's offensive in this usage. But I don't think any of us has the ability to objectively determine its intended level of offense or even its perceived level of offense to Taylor Swift. If TS released a statement explaining that "hey, in this case, it's an endearing term, please don't publicly crucify Kanye" would you have a different explanation for your daughter? And what if she felt that way but didn't feel the need to release a public statement? What if she personally isn't bothered by the lyric but finds herself in a situation where she needs to publicly denounce it?

Still, I think it's interesting to consider the possible back story of the lyric. There's a very public "he said, she said" history wherein supposedly Kanye got Taylor's blessing, Taylor's PR claimed KW ever asked for her blessing but instead a Twitter shoutout, Kanye further insisted that he talked to Kim about the lyric and called Taylor specifically, Taylor made her cryptic/not cryptic statement at the grammy's, and Kim concurs that Kanye got TS' blessing.

Again, I think this is all fascinatingly complex & as such doesn't deserve a simple "misogyny" stamp & move on. At the same time, I understand that for some people, the appearance of a thing is sufficient evidence of the thing. "Bitch" is a tough word.

Also, though it may not make a difference to you, the lyric is "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous (God damn) / I made that bitch famous." My reading of the lyric shows Taylor construed as a partner in the sexual behavior (me & Taylor might have) rather than the object of some perpetrated activity (I could have sex with/I could fuck Taylor). Additionally, he calls her "bitch" with regard to fame, not sex. I realize I'm splitting hairs & I'm sorry if even my proposal that this lyric could be read charitably offends. I'm just doing my best to understand and to thoughtfully discuss this topic with folks who see it differently.
posted by narwhal at 2:03 AM on July 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


narwhal, I appreciate the effort and thoughtfulness you've put in to your comments. But I think you are bending over backwards looking for nuance where none appears. Swift has been very clear in her position on this and it is not a favorable one.

He put the naked representation of a young woman he's had a very public feud with in his video, said he could have sex with her and called her a bitch who is only famous because he made her so. That is not an ambiguous message that requires deep parsing.

This is completely independent of any merit the song or West's work does or does not have. As others have said, lots of art (even great art) is problematic. But come on, this isn't a case of misinterpretation or friendly rivalry. He put the naked avatar of Swift in bed with him and called her a bitch! She flat-out denies she gave permission for any of it.
posted by Justinian at 2:42 AM on July 10, 2016 [13 favorites]


I think most charitable reading you could give KW on the 'feud' is that KW knows that he and TS sort of complement each other with their respective lack of self-awareness or sense of humour... the instant KW came up against someone with genuine sharp wit in their arsenal (Amber Rose) it was all over in seconds.
posted by Coda Tronca at 2:53 AM on July 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


He put the naked representation of a young woman he's had a very public feud with in his video, said he could have sex with her and called her a bitch who is only famous because he made her so. That is not an ambiguous message that requires deep parsing.

I'm really leery of "he said, she said" comments about stuff involving boundary-pushing behavior by men, because...well, that's the kind of phrasing that then becomes thrown around in more serious cases involving harassment and rape.

And please keep in mind that Swift's fan base contains a large percentage of girls and young women who are seeing all of this play out in public. Sure, Swift is an adult and maybe is secretly enjoying the extra publicity while playing the scold on social media, but "ironic" misogyny or misogyny to make some deeper artistic point can still be deeply hurtful to actual women out there.

And those young women are seeing proof of how even being famous is no guarantee of a "no" being taken seriously, and how a man's artistic statement is the most important consideration and they're expected to just sort of suck it up and be grateful for the attention.
posted by Salieri at 5:33 AM on July 10, 2016 [9 favorites]


"Awww @kanyewest are u mad I'm not around to play in ur a--hole anymore? #FingersInTheBootyAssBitch," she tweeted. "Lol @kanyewest Now u wanna delete ur tweets cuz Muva has arrived? #TwitterFingers #UrGettingBodiedByAStripperN---a."

This counts as genuine sharp wit?
posted by ostranenie at 6:47 AM on July 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ok, but what if I'm subjecting Swift's likeness to some fanfic where TS & I are best friends? What if in my fictional universe, we're a dynamic duo who fight crime? What if I draw a comic of this?

This must happen somehow.
posted by ostranenie at 6:53 AM on July 10, 2016


This counts as genuine sharp wit?


I guess you're right it's not Oscar Wilde... but in the context, it did raise a smile rather than the pure-aggression-from-a-position of power that West was putting out. And she was quick on her feet when he said he had to have 30 showers after he'd been with her: "Wait 30 showers? But Kim let RayJ nut on her....". I mean, it's crude as hell and everything but you just had to laugh a bit...
posted by Coda Tronca at 7:17 AM on July 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Is it when sex is involved that suddenly a bright line is visible?

That's one obvious line. Surely you're not claiming there's no such thing as sexual harassment? This business if asking "Well how close can I get to harassing someone without being guilty of harassment?" is pretty gross.
posted by straight at 8:45 AM on July 10, 2016 [10 favorites]


Do centuries of patriarchy and male artists treating women like things instead of people impinge on your total creative freedom today (if you care about being part of the solution rather than part of the problem)? Yes. That is one small bit of the damage done by patriarchy.

The KKK and the Confederacy ruined my freedom to paint my car to look like the General Lee in the Dukes of Hazzard, but complaining about it would put me in company I'd rather not keep.
posted by straight at 9:02 AM on July 10, 2016 [9 favorites]


This counts as genuine sharp wit?

#UrGettingBodiedByAStripperN---a is pretty great.
posted by great_radio at 9:15 AM on July 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


I can never get particularly involved in analyzing anything related to the Kanye West/Taylor Swift cross-promotion, cause I'm never quite media savvy enough to figure out whether it's a work or a shoot.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:18 AM on July 10, 2016


Hes still mad she won an award he thought a woman who aroused him more should have won.

This is a delusional bordering on racist caricature interpretation of the VMA incident. Look up Nicki Minaj's VMA feud with Taylor Swift for more context on why the award rankled. For extra credit: the video Swift won the 2009 award for was "You Belong With Me". I challenge you to describe one scene of that video without looking it up and then tell me that you don't actually know part of the dance from Beyonce's losing video for "Single Ladies".
posted by animalrainbow at 10:09 AM on July 10, 2016 [11 favorites]


Mefi discussions of Kanye are very similar to Mefi discussions of Serena Williams, and both end up making me uncomfortable.
posted by TwoStride at 10:23 AM on July 10, 2016 [7 favorites]


That's one obvious line. Surely you're not claiming there's no such thing as sexual harassment?

I think the argument here is that there is indeed no such thing as sexual harassment. Or at last not when the harasser is a "genius". Or you know, if she's pretty and/or wealthy and/or famous, she deserves it. Or hey, she said something back, so she must be into it. Or it's a commentary on sexism and media.

So basically, unless a series of very specific boxes are ticked off, sexual harassment doesn't exist. Arguments which I'm sure the guys who follow women down streets saying "smile", or who take upskirt pictures of cosplayers will totally appreciate.
posted by happyroach at 11:29 AM on July 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


Gretchen Carlson has no right to sue Fox News and Roger Ailes

I obviously don't think this is true, and this is exactly the point-- celebrities DON'T have the legal protections to defend themselves from the media at large that a woman in the workplace who receives harassment from her boss does. The point is literally that... there is such a thing as law, and it doesn't protect celebrities from this kind of thing. It is actually the price of fame, whether that should be the case or not. In the world, it is, and people apparently like it that way, or they wouldn't watch so much reality TV.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:59 AM on July 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


I just can't get that upset about this. It's a seedy, creepy video. Anyone jacking it to Taylor Swift's creepy, fake wax titties can already google "Taylor Swift porn" and find a million photoshops of her head on random porn stars' bodies. (If they have a fetish for nude Taylor Swift snoring next to nude Donald Trump it's going to be a more difficult google search.)

We all apparently believe in some kind of contract between celebrities and the media where we consume a simulation of their lives in exchange for giving them lots of money and attention. Celebrities trademark their own names, for crissakes. It doesn't mean they don't have bodily autonomy, but it does mean that:

"There is an ever-present conflict between the celebrity’s ownership rights in his or her image and the right to freedom of expression protected by the First Amendment. The celebrity has a right of publicity, which enables the celebrity to prevent his or her image from being used in an unauthorized manner for profit. However, artists’ works are traditionally held to be protected under the First Amendment."
posted by stoneandstar at 12:09 PM on July 10, 2016


Sometimes I daydream about a world where people don't believe that art has objective quality, but is entirely subjective. Where an artist who makes stuff that someone really likes is not "a great artist" but "an artist whose works I love." Where an artist who makes stuff lots of people really like is not "a genius" but "an artist a lot of people really like."

I sometimes imagine what the Internet would look like in this world. No more YouTube arguments about how Musician X must be great because they sold a lot of albums, or counterarguments about how consumers are sheep and what is important is that critics dislike Musician X. No more arguments about whose kid could have made which art and whether or not that is indicative of the quality of that art. No arguments about controversy in art based on assumptions regarding whether art is objectively good or bad.


Your dream is my nightmare. The fascinating thing about art is that it is objective. That these modes of qualitative and quantitative analysis exist. That when ten people look at Piss Christ and walk away with ten different opinions of it, they're each walking away from the same damn thing.

The nuance that art is worthwhile because it inspires subjective reactions to objective material is, well, trickier than insisting on either objective or subjective modes of appreciation. But the objective matters as much as the subjective, and indeed one of art's fundamental purposes is to catalogue the ways in which our supposed "correct" interpretation of parts of the world is, in fact, grossly different from other people's equally–"correct" ones.

The right to hold a subjective opinion is as pernicious as its foil, the right to claim something as objective fact. Both, of course, are genuinely important—sometimes your opinion matters because it matters to you, and sometimes the cold hard facts are what matter. But we're inclined to cherish one or the other as more fundamental than its counterpart, with people's identifying by one or the other shaping a decent amount of the rest of them as well. That, in turn, becomes yet another meaningless dichotomy by which we attempt to simplify an unusual world.

The temptation, I think, is to dismiss the two altogether, and to call their relationship to each other worthless or inscrutable or what-have-you. Certainly that's why the STEM stereotype of a human being dismisses the arts: why pay attention to something that isn't objective fact? But the flip side, which is to dismiss the possibility of an objective significance, leads pretty quickly to moral relativism. I remember talking with my father, half a decade ago, about how through a certain lens FOX News is the most massive postmodernist project of all time: how its entire purpose relies on the assumption, or realization, that what people think of as "news" isn't actually news, it's the trappings which surround news. Has Slavoj Zizek written a book about this? I bet Slavoj Zizek has written a book about this. But never matter.

The objective truth behind art—the science of art, if you will—is of watching humanity fragment around a single object or event or experience which is entirely approachable and accessible and on display. The catch is that you can only approach or access a given thing based on your own perspective and experience. Who you are defines what the art in question is. The ways in which others see it differently from you define the ways in which you and others are different, in ways you might never notice if there wasn't a focal point from which you could observe the splintering.

It's so sad that people see that as exhausting. Or that their approach to it is to, ironically, attempt to simplify the process, to provide rules which allow somebody to define what's objectively valuable and what isn't, according to their particular splintered lens.

I think it's a testimony to how genuinely interesting of an artist Kanye is that he's dividing people over, not whether or not portraying Taylor Swift naked is sexist, but over whether or not his method of doing so is itself subversive and feminist. I think the people saying it's a subversion comprehend the need for feminist statements about objectification, and the people who're offended about this for its misogyny understand that it's intending to be subversive. Which means the conversation isn't about feminism or subversion, necessarily, so much as it's about the worth or dignity of individuals portrayed in art as opposed to the worth or dignity of the art itself.

My perspective, as offered above, is that I think somebody as famous as Kanye risks his choices being amplified so broadly that they become gross. I also think that Kanye is aware of this, and chooses to exaggerate himself even more in response, to call attention to the gross nature of celebrity and fame. Which is why the song's being about fame is important to its contents—not just on a surface level, but on the level of our discussion about it itself. But I think that that can be really fascinating and still be a really shitty thing to do to a woman, particularly if it was done without her consent. I also think that Kanye could pick more interesting symbols to deconstruct than Taylor Swift, who refreshingly is far more interesting as a human being than she is as a symbol.

At the end of the day, there're far too many fascinating artists in the world for me to compare Kanye to and find him wanting for me to not judge him fairly harshly for this video. Not so much so that I won't follow along to see whatever Kanye does next, but if other people are sick to death of this sexist asshat being treated as this important, I can't blame em. And I'm judging Kanye knowing full well that he's really damn smart and subversive and talented. If he was less brilliant, I wouldn't need to hold him to standards this high in the first place.

That an artist can make something this interesting and still be condemned by people who can see how interesting it is from a certain lens isn't a repudiation of the idea that art should be fascinating and controversial. It's proof that it ought to be. The emphasis, however, should be on controversy, genuine rather than contrived. The people saying this music video is problematic matter just as much, if not more, than the people who love this video precisely because of how problematic it is. That it's problematic should not be incidental to its construction, if we respect Kanye as an artist. And its being problematic should not end at people going "ooh, yeah, I see, that's controversial", and moving on. People have a right to be bothered by it, and to reject it, and to demand more. Their doing so is good for our culture, good for art, and a good example of why art ought to be held to a higher standard than just about anything. It reveals us for who we are. We ought to look around at everybody else and see exactly what it's revealing.
posted by rorgy at 12:25 PM on July 10, 2016 [8 favorites]




It is actually the price of fame

Yes, but what point are you trying to make with this? As far as I can tell, no one is arguing that Kanye broke the law. The law is a completely different topic than the one that we're arguing about.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:12 PM on July 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Guess wut everybody
posted by stoneandstar at 9:28 PM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


When the narrative changes to "wow, Taylor Swift is an asshole, how could she do that to Kim & Kanye???" I'll be satisfied.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:31 PM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Holy shit.
posted by kmz at 10:10 PM on July 17, 2016


The difference is that some people assumed Taylor Swift never gave permission. Some of us were lucky, or privileged, and were more careful in terms of weighing that.

Let's try to be better at not jumping to conclusions, because it polarizes opinions, pushing different people further apart. It just plays into the manufacturing of outrage by mainstream entertainment, which aptly Kanye's music video about famous people, was partly implicitly about. Let this be a lesson.
posted by polymodus at 11:53 PM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Taylor Swift's response to the video of her giving "permission".
posted by blub at 1:13 AM on July 18, 2016


So let me see if I understand what is going on here, she lied about giving permission at all, then said the bitch line was not what he quoted to her and pissed her off so she just said she didn't give permission, is that about it?

A part of me wants to walk out into traffic for caring enough to even ask, I should just assume this is all cooked up marketing to keep all three of them trending on Twitter.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 1:15 AM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


A part of me wants to walk out into traffic for caring enough to even ask, I should just assume this is all cooked up marketing to keep all three of them trending on Twitter.

I've been thinking of this as Kanye as Andy Kaufman and Swift as Jerry Lawler.

Kim is obviously Tony Clifton
posted by Existential Dread at 6:58 AM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


> I should just assume this is all cooked up marketing to keep all three of them trending on Twitter.

I first read this as "coked up marketing," but I'm not sure there's significant difference.
posted by languagehat at 8:21 AM on July 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


In other news, FOX has video of Gretchen Carlson laughing and dismissing a sexist joke as no big deal, which proves she actually consented to all that other stuff she's complaining about.
posted by straight at 11:11 AM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think that is extremely not what actually happened here. Taylor Swift could have come out honestly saying that she had a conversation with Kanye but felt uncomfortable with the lyric after all; instead she tried to pretend that it was a total ambush. Like she has done, repeatedly, in the media.

Anyway, it's mostly likely all a bunch of behind the scenes PR and none of these people are really speaking for themselves in any meaningful way, so again I say, who cares? At least we got a little art out of it.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:45 AM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I should just assume this is all cooked up marketing to keep all three of them trending on Twitter

Also, again, it seems that when a slim white girl looks like an ass in the media, it's all a bunch of cooked up drama, but when Kim or Kanye looks like an ass, then, you know, it's because they're actually total assholes, how could they, they're responsible down to the last drop. Seems loaded!
posted by stoneandstar at 11:46 AM on July 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


My criticisms of the misogyny are the same whether these are the actions of real people or fictional characters in some reality marketing stunt.
posted by straight at 4:04 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Awesomely Luvvie went to town on the "white damsel in distress" narrative at play....
posted by TwoStride at 4:09 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


As did Damon Young at VSB.
posted by TwoStride at 4:11 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's a huge difference between Gretchen Carlson plastering a pained rictus on her face in public, on live television, so as to go on surviving in a job, a career, where her boss, colleagues, and audience are all some of the worst white men in the world -- and a powerhouse like Taylor Swift having a friendly, respectful conversation with a peer in private, responding positively to the relevant lines of the song, and then saying:
"And you know, if people ask me about it I think it would be great for me to be like, ‘Look, he called me and told me the line before it came out. Jokes on you guys, We're fine.' You guys want to call this a feud; you want to call this throwing shade but right after the song comes out I'm going to be on a Grammys red carpet and they're going to ask me about it and I'll be like, ‘He called me.' It's awesome that you're so outspoken about this and be like, ‘Yeah, she does. It made her famous.' Its more provocative to say ‘might still have sex…' It's doesn't matter to me. There's not like one [line] that hurts my feelings and one that doesn't."
only to turn around in front of the biggest audience she can find and pretend to have been blindsided and victimised by the big, scary, rude black man, a racist narrative she's been exploiting since the 2009 VMAs. I've actually come to quite like Taylor Swift over the years, but her thing with Kanye has been so consistently offensive to me. This time she played herself.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 6:07 AM on July 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, listening to that conversation I felt like she was luring him into a trap. "Oh, sure, just put whatever lyrics you think best, I'm kewl." Yeah, RIGHT. This girl micromanages everything about her image, she'll just let this guy choose whatever words he wants? I don't think so! Nope, this was a setup on her part, I'm pretty sure.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:11 PM on July 19, 2016


I'm not hearing the part where she gives him permission to publish a video with a nude mannequin shaped in her likeness.
posted by straight at 9:12 PM on July 19, 2016


I felt like she was luring him into a trap.

The more likely story is that a man called a woman a bitch in public because he could, and said that he could fuck her because he made her famous, not because of some ridiculous Machiavellian plot.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 9:31 AM on July 23, 2016


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