Coffee Rhetoric: Monstrous

January 11, 2011

Monstrous

Urged on by friends who seemed overly excited by Nicki Minaj's fervid verse, I listened to Kanye West's all-star collaboration on the track, "Monster." Notoriously particular about the music and artists I listen and pay attention to,  I found myself nodding along in spite of my reluctance.  I'm not a hardcore Kanye West fan (I'll never forgive him for bestowing fame and fortune on the mute femme-bot known as Amber Rose)- or detractor (I think he's talented, enjoy some of his work, and even defended him during Taylor Swift-gate, when he Mic-snatched the annoying and saccharine country singer and did the infamous shrug seen 'round the world, elevating his douchery to epic proportions)- but in keeping with his current Avant-garde projects, controversial album art for his latest (and awesome) offering, My Dark Twisted Fantasy, and modernistic fashion choices, I found the dark, macabre lyrical quips right on track in keeping with this re-branded,  douchier more artistic than usual version of Kanye. I also found myself more impressed by Nicki Minaj's contribution to the song as well. She proved to be more than a one-trick pony with a dubiously luscious ass. She held her own, and then some, on an all-male track, and seemed to deviate from her whole "Harajuku Barbie" schtick, showing the breadth of her lyrical skills. Plus Jay-Z helped bring up the rear with his talk of vanquishing bitter vampires, ungrateful interlopers and such. In fact, Monster is heavy with horror movie tropes. I was in. I couldn't wait see the video... 
Um, so then I saw the video... *insert blank stare here* ... While I'm not sure what the inspiration was, I was a bit taken aback by the visuals. The video begins with a dead-eyed, limp model hanging by her neck, from a chain... Then the subsequent wide shot shows several other dead models hanging from chains in little else but their underwear, flanking rapper Rick Ross as he casually sits amongst their dead carcasses, puffing on a cigar... Next up? Kanye West... lying in bed... next to two dead models with broken necks, their eyes open but vacantly staring off... The video just goes downhill for me from that point on... 

Listen, I'm no prude. I'm known for seeking out obscure, off the cuff Art House/Experimental films that would cause the vast majority of the population to doubt my mental stability. I'm a fan of Richard Kern and Catherine Breillat. I've watched and grimaced my way through several films from the Torture Porn genre, so this is not a holier-than-thou rant arguing about the perverse nature of pop-art and rap videos. I'm all for seeing a little cutting edge perversion in art, and any rumblings disclaiming that admission would be b.s. because I suspect we all harbor curiosities when it comes to exploring perverse behaviors that're within some semblance of reason. However, there's imagery and ideas that are even twisted enough to make me squirm... which is a difficult feat...
During many aspects of the video, there seemed to be no discernible message connecting the dead, decapitated women with the crux of the song other than for shock value... and therein lies my issue. While I still enjoy listening to Monster, watching Kanye West lying in bed with two dead, broken necked models, as he re-positions them to touch one another reeks of necrophilia and it just makes it difficult for me to remember that I enjoy the song. There is a LOT going on in this video and none of it is particularly enjoyable to watch... including Jay-Z rapping his verse as yet another dead model lays splayed on a leather couch behind him. The visions of decapitated model heads and entrails offered no further hope or high expectations for the duration of the music video. I was over it by the time the Nicki Minaj, Dominatrix vs Nicki Minaj, Barbie (tied up in a chair) scene came up. 
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This video expounds on this disturbing trend of women featured in compromising situations... namely dead and dismembered ... or as zombies. It sort of reminded me of this movie I wrote about a while ago, that shook my core and prompted me to make haste and return it to Netflix. And in likening Monster's video to Dead Girl, perhaps the most chilling aspect or the one thing that bothers me about it rather, is the apathetic way in which Kanye, Jay-Z, & Rick Ross drift amongst the carnage of limp and dismembered female parts. While I understand the nature of the song itself and perhaps the video is a metaphor for... for... something... It always unnerves me when the female aesthetic goes beyond the usual titillating pictorial of T & A (which can also become problematic when done horribly wrong) - and manifests into something way more sinister and malevolent. And so enter the birth of films like this, this, and videos like this to counteract that victimization, much to the chagrin of many men, who are quick to deem it man-hating propaganda ... I'm just speculating.  Seeing women as tortured, mutilated corpses within the context of a music video is unusual and dare I say trumps the disturbing nature of Eminem's Stan video, where its antagonist places his pregnant girlfriend in the trunk of his car. Are women, hanging by their broken necks from a ceiling not hateful, misogynistic visuals? I suppose dousing some video vixen with a bottle of high-end champagne or swiping a credit card down the crack of her gyrating ass isn't humiliating enough.  Please weigh in.