For those of you who haven’t heard about Kanye West’s new music video for ‘Monster’, leaked online on the 30th December, causing controversy and sparking an online petition to ban it before it’s as-yet-unannounced-release-date. Here’s my view.
Banning The Video.
Brilliant feminist voices quickly spoke out against this video:
Melinda Tankard Reist wrote:
“King Kanye has produced a carnage of female corpses, brutality, death. It is horror porn.”
Nina Funnell argued:
“The irony is that if we’re talking about what most red-blooded heterosexual men actually find attractive, it is rarely a sickly looking corpse. (…)
Maybe one day, video-clips will get truly radical and start offering representations of actual, three-dimensional females complete with realistic sexual agency.”
and Feminist Frequency, in her even-handed, intelligent video, concludes with:
“This video fetishizes the aspects of women that don’t even require us to be physically alive.”
And these objections have led to a petition:
The Petition to Prevent Official Release of Kanye West’s Women-Hating ‘Monster’ Video targeted at CEO/Chairman of Universal Music Group (Doug Morris) and CEO of MTV (Judy McGrath). Which you can see, and sign, here.
Now. This is all valid, and I have great respect for these voices. But I would like to suggest an alternative.
Don’t ban it – It was leaked online! Anyone who is interested, and, especially due to the controversy, has now become interested, have already seen this music video.
And banning it only puts him up there with The Greats of Banned Music Videos such as Madonna (American Life, Erotica, Justify My Love, What It Feels Like For A Girl), Van Halen (Amsterdam), Marilyn Manson (Coma White), The Prodigy (Smack My Bitch Up) Nine Inch Nails (Closer), The Cardigans (My Favourite Game) or Rammstein (Buck Dich)… etc.
Does he really deserve that historical remembrance?
Keeping it back from the public who haven’t already seen it seems somewhat futile. Like making sure your prim-and-proper grandparents don’t see the magazines under your flatmate’s bed. They probably wouldn’t have discovered them anyway. Unless you made a big deal about it and everyone heard. Oh, wait…
And his music video has already put him right at the forefront of debates on freedom of speech, censorship of art, and ‘new’ directions in the music industry itself. Wouldn’t it be better if this music video, like other sick videos, was just released into the quickly-bored audience of today and prompty disappears into the bottomless abyss of music-no-one-cared-about?
The Issue Of Misogyny.
Yes. I live in a world where I’m afraid of alleyways at night, I’m scared of strangers, and I really, really need to know some self defence. I know the state of advertising and media today. It is absolutely unacceptable that misogynistic crap exists.
It’s just, I’m sorry, but I don’t think this petition is going to stop that. Sometimes I wonder whether we can stop real misogyny when we stop the hatred of other people’s personal, musical, and conceptual tastes and start trying to see why other people think this okay. Try to find common ground with ‘the enemy’. Instead of drawing further battle lines between how our right interpretation differs from their defective brains’ interpretation.
It is art. And reactions often reveal more about the audience than the art itself. Just because this music video has been made does not, necessarily, mean that people enjoy it. But that’s the assumption that outraged critics have made. On the defensive.
But why not just rest assured? This music video might really be impossible to like.
And… hang on.
Since when did we start taking Kanye West seriously?
When the producers and artists made the video, and the music industry approved it, what were they thinking?
I bet their answer wouldn’t be a serious, rapacious statement on the hatred of women.
It was just to get noticed.
So. Here’s what I think…
It Is Music.
The controversy often seems to neglect to review the actual music. (Is that because it might be decent?)
The album itself was given a persuasively positive review by Pitchfork. It has multiple artists and multiple talents on this one track. Why would all these artists bother if they didn’t think they were making something worthwhile?
Let’s have a look at it.
It’s entitled ‘Monster’. The lyrics mention vampires, zombies, and ‘niggers’. A Gothic statement about what makes a human, half-alive, half-creature, and a political statement about how ‘niggers’ are treated as such? About what we consider to be a ‘monster’, fantastically and historically?
The problem is not that the video exists. The problem is that people potentially take this seriously.
It’s art, y’know? Use your imagination. Maybe this music video is begging you to think for yourself about what’s being lapped up in the charts. What is being bought into.
Wouldn’t it be funny if the video was making a point about the kind of people who would enjoy it? (Psst – Monsters).
If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.
In this consumerist, capitalist society, what you buy, and buy into, is what is perpetuated for more sales of the kind.
As The Economist says, about the recent Top Gear publicity stunt:
If you don’t buy into it, not just with money, but with attention, it dies.
And the music industry would lose this gamble.
So why not try that? Indulge in better culture, endorse better messages, be free! Go think about ANYTHING else!
Something important! : D
Served up: A fresh slice of the leek.
Go ahead, feel free to comment. I favour the policy of minimum censorship.