Recently, a friend (Mr. Culture) posted this on his wall:
Reviewed some leaked versions of the “Monster” video. The whole thing is full of dead white models. Kanye is OBVIOUSLY trying to say something. This is becoming a striking trend throughout all of his imagery (including the album cover). Been doing a little research on this- trying to piece together some thoughts and articulate what I think its about… but help me figure this out if you’ve also noticed.
I’ve definitely noticed.
Mr. West has been doing a lot of commentary on the price of fame via his G.O.O.D. Friday tracks, Runaway film and of course, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
There are some obvious statements here: With fame comes an absurd amount of power, probably more than one person should ever posses. Our society has an inexplicable need for expensive things, as impractical as they may be. Sometimes, people are douchebags.
But still, what’s with all the dead white chicks?
Crediting the plethora of bodies to the whole zombie/vampire/werewolf craze that has infiltrated pop culture since Twilight is a fair appraisal of the video’s content. As the song was released around Halloween, it only makes sense that various monstrosities would be depicted. To be honest, the hanging models reminded me of American Psycho more than anything else.
But it’s rare I get a chance to over-analyze anything these days, and I agree that something is up with Kanye’s imagery of beautiful but dead women. It goes beyond the MBDTF hype, back to 808’s & Heartbreak. It doesn’t take a psychoanalyst to connect much of the material on 808’s to the passing of Kanye’s mother. Interestingly, ‘Ye admitted he feels his encouragement of Dr. West’s move to image-obsessed Los Angeles was responsible for her plastic surgery-related death.
This blame-game is fully expressed on MBDTF and through Runaway (the track and the film) in particular. Griffin (Kanye’s character)’s discovery of the perfect woman who happens to be unacceptable to society has interesting parallels to the guilt Kanye bears for his mother’s death. On the track for Runaway ‘Ye sings: “Yeah, I always find somethin’ wrong/You been puttin’ up wit’ my shit just way too long” Beyond the message that women will put up with shit from rich and famous men (which is true; we will) this lyric speaks to a deeper complex: the inability to hold onto love due to West’s absurd expectations of women, which originate from his mother. Held underneath a cultural magnifying lens, the Phoenix self-destructs much as Kanye did professionally with his VMA outburst and Dr. Donda West did with her decision (apparently independent of Kanye) to undergo risky plastic surgery.
Did I mention that in addition to the Phoenix representing Kanye’s ideal woman/mother figure, she also represents his inner, primeval artist (the id)? To continue the informal psychoanalysis, Griffin is the ego (organized, realistic) and the entire dinner party is Kanye’s super-ego (critical, moralistic).
Anyway, both Runaway and Monster make an interesting point about beauty. ‘Ye is attempting to distinguish between shallow, timid, created beauty (models/”good girls”, Pusha T’s line “Young, rich and tasteless”) and deep, powerful, unapologetic, natural beauty (the Phoenix, music itself, ‘hoodrats”). This dialectic is arguably Kanye’s driving force: the conflict between the delight in materialism and high society inherent to pop stardom and the condemnation of superficiality and forced exile necessary for his artistic genius to function. As stated above, he finds this duality implicit in his mother’s death. It’s not exactly an Oedipus complex, but I feel like Freud would have a field day.
In the video for Monster, Kanye simply expands upon this internal conflict and is exploring its consequences. Long demonized by the media, with this album he is accepting his role as a ‘monster’ and no longer pretends to be satisfied with the culture of superficiality. The real Kanye West still fully participates in the superficialy culture – on look to his tweets about Versace and Louis Vuitton prove that. But these obsessions are also part of his monstrous profile. As part of his therapy-through-art, Kanye has come to a place where he can accept his faults and toast to douchebaggery. From there, depicting dead and/or possessed models is a natural metaphorical progression.
This may not be what Mr. Culture had in mind when he posted his observation. Either way, Kanye has successfully made statements through video about his personal grief, the implications of fame/beauty, and the cannibalistic nature of media.
Notes: I’m an unabashed Kanye fan. In fact, he’s one of three artists whose entire discography I own. I really enjoyed his little film, but I hope he never pursues an acting career. Or gets a better audio engineer next time. That video way up there is a leak, so don’t get your panties in a twist if it’s taken down. No, I did not read his cover story for XXL. And, I repeat, I HAVE NO TRAINING in psychoanalysis beyond what I remember from my shitty H.S. Psych class. Thanks for reading 🙂