Sunday, 16 January 2011

What's that coming over the hill?

(Trigger warning)

When I first saw the (leaked, probably unfinished) video for Kanye West’s ‘Monster’, I felt a bit sick. Then I thought, Kanye is an asshole. Everyone knows he’s an asshole. And the concept for the video is not that original. Basically, monsters have jumped the shark.

Some thoughts on the video:

1) Yes, it's misogynist. Glamorizing brutalized bodies of dead women, totally eroticized. The scene with Kanye in bed with two dead women where he puts one of their hands in the other's crotch is particularly gross. It’s just hacked-up bodies of dead women, waiting to be fucked.

2) The lyrics are predictably anthemic ("Everybody knows I'm a motherfucking monster! Imma need to see your fucking hands at the concert") and inevitably sexist. Jay-Z's contribution is particularly disappointing (I have delusions about Jay-Z given his awesome wife):
Murder murder in black convertibles
I kill a block I murder avenues
Rape and pillage a village, women and children...

3) The racial aspect is interesting. The blog Racialicious points to:
The dichotimization of women as it pertains to race; in the video, white women are predominantly locked into roles of subordination to the point of gruesome lifelessness while black women are cast as aggressive, angry and threatening sexual beasts.

The point of the video might (might) be a pointed comment on the stereotype of the Black man as dangerous (to white women) monster; but honestly it's a pretty weak reclamation if so, and not worth the sexual violence it takes to make the point.

4) I have been tempted to write about Nicki Minaj for ages, but haven't seen enough to make up my mind whether she's the Hip-Hop Lady Gaga or not.

"Pink wig thick ass give em whip lash..."

She appears in the video at 3.37 and basically outshines the others by far as S&M Nicki and a tied up Barbie Nicki (and the only woman with any agency in the whole thing). Barbie Nicki isn't passive though: she takes up the gauntlet and defends herself pretty thoroughly to the other Nicki. There's a good depiction here of the internal struggles related to the image(s) of women in the public eye.

On a side note, it sounds like her experience of working with Kanye would come under the heading of 'bad working environment'. She has this to say of her time with him:
I heard through Drake that Kanye wanted me on his album, and I got on the next thing smokin’ to Hawaii. I didn’t think that he was gonna like me. I always figured that he was one of those conscious rappers, so I thought that he wouldn’t want girls to be dressed overtly sexy—and I go to the studio and he has nothing but pictures of naked women on his computer that he’d invite me to look at... He was watching porn when we were in the studio—no shame in his game.
Kanye has said tons of stuff in interviews about his major interest in porn, and there is a big conversation to be had about the usual (and increasingly humiliating) depiction of women in porn, alongside the racial depictions of both men and women and how this is filtering into the mainstream - especially music videos. The hard thing is to do this without (for example) blaming teenage girls for pandering to boys' fantasies (as a Sunday Times article recently did under the guise of 'concern'*), or saying that women sex workers themselves have no agency.

But anyway, for a 26 year old woman to be working in that environment - it's going to be tough to retain any sort of pro-women integrity. The saddest thing possibly about Minaj's comment above is that she thought West was a 'conscious' rapper. Yikes.


There, I said it.

6) At the risk of undermining all of the above, here is a 'Sesame Street' reinterpretation of the video.

*This is by Natasha Walters, whose book 'Living Dolls' is quite good, but largely denies teenage girls' sexual desires, blames them too much, and is pretty unsubtle in its approach to porn and young people.


  1. Could we start a facebook campaign to have the muppet video released instead? I really liked it and it must have taken a lot more work than the other one.

  2. I've just asked this of a RC blog trying to avoid any implied criticism.

    RE: Vatican Bloggers Conference May 2 Rome.
    (I think I saw an Anglo-Catholic blog on the list. May be mistaken)

    How many women's names do you see?


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