Rant-ish? On Kanye’s ‘Monster.’

Decided to throw this up here before the label undoubtedly takes it down: Kanye West‘s leaked video “Monster.”

Soon there will be a host of blogs that pick a part every scene to explain what Kanye is trying to tell us, but here is the short version: there are a lot of dead, eroticized women- dead model-esque women hanging from the ceiling like chandeliers, dead women lying in bed made to pose in “sexy” positions, dead women body parts lying around a mansion…there just seems to be dead women everywhere.

But to be fair, there were also women who are seemingly alive and kicking, depicted as man-eating zombies, screaming banshees and werewolves.

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.

Nicki Minaj‘s scenes are mild compared to rest because  A) they have no corpses of any kind and B) the self-interrogation part can be seen as “edgy” and “different.” But, that would be too kind. What sort of internal conflict can be that deep if the two versions of yourself that are having issues with one another — dominatrix Nicki versus barbie Nickie —  are also ones that readily appeal to male-fantasies?

The imagery is all there and deep down we know it’s all wrong and sounds awfully similar to the modern patriarchal views of women today. Upon watching it my sister and I got to talking about how surely controversial it was but also about how unsurprisingly typical the video is — considering the source, but more importantly considering the culture we’re living in.

Here’s EW.com‘s Simon Vozick-Levinson:

These are intentionally ghastly images, meant to disturb. In addition to being a fantastic posse cut, “Monster” is all about ugliness. West’s chorus proclaims that “Everybody knows I’m a motherf—ing monster.” Now you can see that metaphor played out quite literally. But to what end? Images of models who look like they’ve been murdered are nothing new in the fashion world. America’s Next Top Model centered a whole episode around this morbid theme in 2007, drawing deserved criticism from feminist commentators. Jezebel.com elaborated on “The Problem With Fashion’s Obsession With Death” (link contains NSFW images) over a year ago. Glamorizing violence against women this way as we enter 2011 isn’t just potentially pretty offensive to a lot of people — it’s played out and boring. I expect better from an artist as boundlessly creative as Kanye West.

I agree for the most part except for the part about expecting better. Better? Really? From Mr. West? And this is when I get upset. Why every time upon watching a new Yeezy video do we get pissed but then go back to rap-syncing  My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy from start to finish-until of course another single gets video treatment, and women are yet again reduced to props on a set.

Why is it that we wait for graphic visuals to accompany graphic lyrics that project women in a less-than-favorable light? Why be shocked when we already heard the song before? The lyrics in “Monster” seemed just as offensive toward women before they were translated on to film:

Kanye

so mommy best advice is to get on top of this
have you ever had sex with a pharoah
I put the p-ssy in a sarcophagus
now she claiming I bruise her esophagus
head of the class and she just want a swallowship

(snip)

Jay-Z

none of you n-ggas have seen the carnage that I’ve seen
I still here fiends scream in my dream
murder murder in black convertibles
I kill a block I murder avenues
rape and pillage a village, women and children
everybody wanna know what my achilles heel is

“Monster” didn’t even sound that bad after I heard the Chris Rock skit at the end of  “Blame Game,” most likely because it dealt with a very tangible idea of men and how they relate to the women they date instead of necrophiliac fantasies that, thankfully, don’t plague the everyday interactions between the sexes. In the skit, Rock is the local dude who has just finished sleeping with a woman who seems to be West’s ex-girlfriend. Rock asks the woman, in an array of ways, how she stepped up her sex game since the last time they slept together and she replies mechanically several times over again “Yeezy taught me.” The only time she answers differently is when she adds for comical effect, “Yeezy reupholstered my pussy.”

So what is it that bothers us? Is it the violence toward women in a visual context?  If Lady Gaga did it would we be as mad? If Minaj was holding a man’s severed head would we feel better? Is conflating sex with violence, “art”? Do visually offensive anti-women messages trump the audibly offensive? Can one eroticize death without being sexist?

I wish I knew.

What I do know is that Kanye West has always seemingly been a self-deprecating, narcissistic, undeniably talented man who has made it clear he loathes most women.

Even in the song “Monster”, it seems Ye prophetically acknowledges that he will probably offend, via Bon Iver:

I-I crossed the line-line
and I’ll-I’ll let God decide-cide

West’s impulsive stunts, moments of unfiltered streaming-of-consciousness demonstrate that his main objective has always been to shock, upset and at the very least leave us feeling uncomfortable.

As uncomfortable as Jay-Z looks in the video. Yea, uncomfortable but complicit, just like Jigga.

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Naima

Naima "Nai" Ramos-Chapman is the Associate Editor at Campus Progress, a dancer with Taurus Broadhurst Dance in D.C., and an aspiring visual artist (she doodles). Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @Naimaramchap.

2 comments to Rant-ish? On Kanye’s ‘Monster.’

  • SEK

    Isn’t he playing to type here, though? The whole point of the song is to respond to critics who branded him a monster for interrupting Taylor Swift, so the completely over-the-top lyrics (from all parties) are deliberately so. Put differently: given that on every other track on the album, Kanye deliberately undermines his persona, it’s strange that he doesn’t here … until you realize that he’s calling the persona he’s creating in the song “monstrous.” I’m not saying he doesn’t have issues with women — he does declare they should all run away from him, after all — but I think this song’s just a matter of poor execution.

  • I agree with Naima, to a certain extent. The race-gender relationship is blindingly hi-def throughout the video but I think you’re over analyzing. It’s a video. About monsters. What else did you expect to see? It was very Halloween-y and if anything super safe.

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