On Friday, Kanye West debuted his voyeuristic music video for “Famous” — a track fresh off of his latest album The Life of Pablo. In fact, Kanye was so excited about his latest “artistic” endeavor that he threw a watch party at Los Angeles' Forum so his friends and family could witness the highly controversial video on a big screen.
The music video is an homage to American realist painter Vincent Desiderio's mural Sleep, which offers a striking, voyeuristic glimpse into an orgy post-coital. In Kanye's version the sleeping bodies are of famous faces who occupy an integral space in pop culture today. Kim Kardashian, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Amber Rose, Donald Trump, Caitlyn Jenner, Bill Cosby, Ray J, Anna Wintour, and George Bush are all spread out naked on the bed and, obviously, Kanye is lying smack in the center of his immensely perverse “artistic” vision.
On the surface, “Famous” claims to be an exploration of what it means to be famous today — or at least that's what Kanye insists that it means. The music video views beauty through a pornographic lens, specifically in relation to the naked female bodies, and continues Kanye's longtime pattern of dehumanizing women as if their bodies and integrity are merely for casual consumption. There’s naked Taylor Swift, who Kanye has continuously attacked publicly. In “Famous” he not only calls her a “bitch” but also claims that Taylor owes him sex because he's responsible for her fame and success.
West’s ex-girlfriend, Amber Rose, is also fully exposed. Kanye has slut shamed Rose on Twitter numerous times and has degraded her publicly. “It's very hard for a woman to want to be with someone that's with Amber Rose,” Kanye once stated in an interview. “I had to take 30 showers before I got with Kim.”
There’s also Rihanna, who Kanye is supposed to be friends with, yet he has the audacity to show her naked in bed next to Chris Brown, a man who bludgeoned her face in 2009. And what about Anna Wintour and Caitlyn Jenner? Both of these women are a part of Kanye's circle, yet here they are front and center — exposed so they can be ogled at by millions of strangers. Kanye has taken away their voices, and reduced them to nothing but their bodies. There's also the inclusion of Bill Cosby, who Kanye defended on Twitter after Cosby was accused of rape by multiple women, which proves to be perhaps the most disturbing of them all.
Let's get something straight: There's nothing intelligent or artistic about “Famous.” Placing a naked Rihanna next to her abuser isn't art. Exposing Amber Rose's body because she worked as a stripper (to pay the bills, by the way!) isn't art. Demeaning Taylor Swift verbally and visually isn't art. Objectifying women through the male gaze isn't art.
The placement of Bill Cosby in bed next to a group of famous, naked women isn't groundbreaking. In fact, trivializing the sexual abuse allegations brought forth against Cosby is as frightening as it is disgusting. Cosby has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 50 women. Does this mean nothing in the name of art? Did you ever think about how you're violating these women and the other famous women in the video, Kanye? What about consent? Does that matter to you at all?
All “Famous” really proves is that Kanye West is an unapologetic misogynist. Excuses should not be made on his behalf. He is neither revealing a new level of introspection, nor is he disrupting dominant paradigms in pop culture by doing something that's actually boundary-pushing. There is nothing intellectual or revelatory about “Famous.” Kanye is exploiting the bodies of women for fame. He is disregarding Cosby's sexual abuse allegations and using naked doppelgängers as clickbait.
This isn't art, it's trash. Kanye isn't the Renaissance Man he thinks he is. His “art” is violating someone else's identity; it is stripping away their privacy for shock value. When did the degradation of women become avant-garde? When did asking for consent become too much? When did treating women like human beings become a burden? If anything, “Famous” is just another emphatic declaration of Kanye's ignorance.