There hasn’t been a ton of celebrity push back on Kanye’s “Famous” video with the exception of Lena Dunham, who pushed back on the message, saying that it made her feel uncomfortable in different ways than the “rabble-rousing” sexually-themed art she grew up with. A couple days after the video went live, in part she wrote the following on her Facebook page:
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.
Wendy Williams, along with her Hot Talk panelists (Don Lemon, Jenny Mollen and Sharon Carpenter) discussed Dunham’s thoughts (starting at 0:47) this week and all four of them disagreed with her conclusions. Carpenter said the video is art and is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable and the people who don’t like the video probably have a problem viewing West as a real artist. Lemon agreed, saying the art world is at times elitist, explaining the video was inspired by painter Vincent Disederio and is art, adding that rape wasn’t the first thing he thought about watching the video. Mollen disagreed somewhat saying the inclusion of Bill Cosby took the video to a different place, but also said perhaps such a depiction is necessary given how Cosby is in the news as of late. Carpenter also pointed out the people in the video are sleeping, not drugged.
Surprisingly, none of the panelists mentioned Dunham’s close friendship with Swift as a motivating reason for her speaking out about the video, a relationship that one can argue creates a personal bias that takes away her ability to speak objectively about West’s work. Williams did argue that Dunham herself has frequently represented herself naked, which is very much an apples and oranges comparison. Whatever one thinks about the video, Dunham choosing to show herself without clothes is entirely different than West positioning female celebrities, some of whom he’s not friendly with, next to men known for assaulting women and treating women badly.