Why No One Is Coming After Kanye For His "Famous" Video

Why No One Is Coming After Kanye For His "Famous" Video

In the ten minute video featuring replications of Taylor Swift, Anna Wintour, and more, West confirms that celebrity is art in 2016

In the ten minute video featuring replications of Taylor Swift, Anna Wintour, and more, West confirms that celebrity is art in 2016

Text: William Defebaugh

At a viewing party at Los Angeles' Forum on Friday night, Kanye West debuted his new music video for "Famous" off of his album The Life of Pablo—a video that is, without a doubt, West's most provocative work to date.

Inspired by a Vincent Desiderio painting, the clip (viewable only on Tidal) shows 12 of the most famous people in the world lying naked in bed together: George W. Bush, Donald Trump, Anna Wintour, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Taylor Swift, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian West, Ray J, Amber Rose, Caitlyn Jenner, and Bill Cosby. From what we know, the only real bodies in the bed belong to West and his wife—the others are the result of some form of prosthetic magic.

The world immediately waited for responses from those whose likeness West represented in the film (especially Swift, who has already been in an embittered battle with West about the track, thanks to the now-infamous line: "I think me and Taylor might still have sex/ Why? I made that bitch famous"). West even tempted the video's subjects with a since-deleted Tweet: "Can somebody sue me already #I'llwait." And yet, to the disappointment of many, it's been three days since the release and no one depicted has commented on the work (aside from Chris Brown, who offered his approval).

Why? Because the video is undeniably genius.

First of all, let's consider how it was filmed. The shaky camerawork and the amateurish lighting make the viewer feel as though they are intruding on the subjects in their most intimate, and vulnerable states (especially once the music cuts out, and we can only hear the sound of their breathing). Could there be a better metaphor for fame?

This brings to mind West's infamous statement that everything about his and Kim's life together is "performance art"; even in respite, their lives are on display. (The fact that this video actually is recreating a piece of art only drives this point home further.) It's impossible not to feel uncomfortable while viewing "Famous," because it arouses a certain level of shame that we as viewers are guilty of in our curiosity—or rather, obsession—about celebrity. The fact that the people aren't even people, but only molded versions of them, speaks volumes in and of itself, begging the literal question: are these people we worship, and condemn, even real?

And then there is how the video was created and released: presumably without its subjects' permission (and at a public viewing party, no less). Perhaps this is the reason that Swift and others have not come after West for the video: they know that even the experience and inherent betrayal of the work speaks to something true about the very nature of being famous in 2016.

When considering this, the video's ending feels more genuine than provocative; West writes "Thank you" to the cast of friends, family, collaborators, and co-celebrities depicted, ending with one line: "For being famous." Cheekiness aside, it's not ludicrous to think that on some level, West might be being sincere—that he actually is thanking these celebrities for putting their lives on display for the rest of us. After all, if they didn't, then what would we have to talk about?

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