Over the weekend, Kanye West asked fans to shell out $25 to attend the LA premiere of the video The Life Of Pablo cut “Famous.” Livestreamed and available for the next week exclusively via Tidal, the video depicts West in bed with a naked Taylor Swift, Bill Cosby, Caitlyn Jenner, Amber Rose, Ray J, Kim Kardashian, Chris Brown, Rihanna, Donald Trump, Anna Wintour, and George W. Bush. Several of the individuals featured in the video have since commented on their appearance, with Chris Brown joking about his pose and George W. Bush’s reps confirming that it was not actually the ex-President. And now, as Pitchfork points out, the writer and star of HBO’s Girls Lena Dunham took to Facebook to voice her distaste for the scene depicted.
Dunham’s post calls West’s video “one of the more disturbing ‘artistic’ efforts in recent memory” and says “it feels informed and inspired by the aspects of our culture that make women feel unsafe even in their own beds, in their own bodies.” She also notes, “It gives me such a sickening sense of dis-ease.” Read her full message below.
Peeking From Between My Fingers: some disjointed thoughts on the ‘Famous’ video
Like many pop culture addicted Americans, I wait with bated breath for what Kanye West will do next. Aside from his Twitter mayhem, he has created some really “next level shit” as the kids would say. I could also happily watch Kim Kardashian West chip the paint off a window ledge for hours and be fascinated. I admire that whole family, love the way they depict women as better in numbers and masters of their own destiny. I’d spend all summer at Kamp Kardashian. But it’s possible to hold two competing thoughts in your mind and the Famous video is one of the more disturbing “artistic” efforts in recent memory.
Let’s break it down: at the same time Brock Turner is getting off with a light tap for raping an unconscious woman and photographing her breasts for a group chat… As assaults are Periscoped across the web and girls commit suicide after being exposed in ways they never imagined… While Bill Cosby’s crimes are still being uncovered and understood as traumas for the women he assaulted but also massive bruises to our national consciousness… Now I have to see the prone, unconscious, waxy bodies of famous women, twisted like they’ve been drugged and chucked aside at a rager? It gives me such a sickening sense of dis-ease.
I was raised in the art world by a dad who painted aggro scenes of sexuality and war and a mom who, ironically enough, has photographed some butt naked life-sized dolls of her own. I live for the nude rabble rousing of Carolee Schneemann and Hannah Wilke, for Kathy Acker’s arty porn, for Paul McCarthy’s gnomes with butt plugs and Vito Acconci masturbating under the gallery floor and Carrie Mae Weems shedding a blinding light on the pleasures and terrors of black womanhood. If it’s been banned, I’ll probably love it. Because I know that art’s job is to make us think in ways that aren’t always tidy or comfortable. But this feels different.
I’m sure that Bill Cosby doll being in the bed alongside Donald Trump is some kind of statement, that I’m probably being trolled on a super high level. I know that there’s a hipper or cooler reaction to have than the one I’m currently having. But guess what? I don’t have a hip cool reaction, because seeing a woman I love like Taylor Swift (fuck that one hurt to look at, I couldn’t look), a woman I admire like Rihanna or Anna, reduced to a pair of waxy breasts made by some special effects guy in the Valley, it makes me feel sad and unsafe and worried for the teenage girls who watch this and may not understand that grainy roving camera as the stuff of snuff films. I hesitated a lot about saying anything cuz I figured the thinkpieces would come pouring in. But I didn’t see this angle being explored as much as I had hoped. It’s weird to feel like you’re watching alone. I bet I’m not.
Here’s the thing, Kanye: you’re cool. Make a statement on fame and privacy and the Illuminati or whatever is on your mind! But I can’t watch it, don’t want to watch it, if it feels informed and inspired by the aspects of our culture that make women feel unsafe even in their own beds, in their own bodies.
Y’all, I’m so sick of showing up to the party angry. But at least I brought cake.
If you have a Tidal subscription and haven’t seen the video yet, check it out here. Those without a subscription will be able to watch the video at 7PM EST tonight on E! News with a repeat broadcast at 11PM.
Swift herself has not commented on the video, but you’ll remember earlier this month her rep gave GQ a statement about the song:
Taylor heard it for the first time when everyone else did and was humiliated. Kim Kardashian’s claim that Taylor and her team were aware of being recorded is not true, and Taylor cannot understand why Kanye West, and now Kim Kardashian, will not just leave her alone.