The version of Kanye West‘s “Monster” video that you may have seen today is an unfinished, unsanctioned leak. The video quality is fuzzy, some of the images appear to be watermarked placeholders, and the clip is currently available only as a YouTube stream that will no doubt soon be yanked by West’s label. Even as a rough cut, though, the “Monster” clip already has the entire Internet talking and debating. After all, “Monster” is an all-star selection from the year’s best album, and fans have been eagerly awaiting the video treatment for this incredible song since August.
Does the leaked video live up to the hype? That depends on your tolerance for arty shots of dead women in various states of undress. The clip as it stands now is full of half-naked female corpses — hanging from the ceiling by their necks as Rick Ross reclines, slumping over in bed next to West, sprawled face-down on a couch behind an uncomfortable-looking Jay-Z. At one point, West stands casually holding a woman’s blood-dripping severed head in one hand.
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.
It’s no coincidence that the leaked “Monster” video’s best sequence, wherein Nicki Minaj diabolically interrogates herself, doesn’t rely on the stale dead-model motif. I only wish the rest of the video were more like Minaj’s part — unsettling and edgy, dangerous and sexy, but also original. In fairness, the video does include several other non-corpse-strewn scenes, and again, this is only an unfinished leak, so it’s possible that West’s final version will be substantially different from what’s out there now.
In the meantime, have you seen the leaked “Monster” video? What do you think of its controversial imagery?
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