Lena Dunham condemns Kanye West’s music video as ‘sickening’

The actor and writer says the video is emblematic of ‘rape culture’, and called its depiction of her friend Taylor Swift ‘hard to watch’

Lena Dunham has publicly condemned Kanye West's "sickening" new music video, calling it "one of the more disturbing 'artistic' efforts in recent memory".

The provocative video for Famous, which shows naked likenesses of celebrities in bed alongside with West and his wife, Kim Kardashian, debuted on Friday night.

Among the celebrities shown as though sleeping in a row on an enormous bed are George W Bush, Donald Trump, Vogue editor Anna Wintour, Bill Cosby, Rihanna, Caitlyn Jenner, Taylor Swift and West's wife, Kim Kardashian.

In the video, the camera slowly pans over their faces and bodies, pausing over each famous figure and parts of their anatomy.


The portrayals are understood to be hyper-realistic wax statues, but in some cases it appears to be the actual celebrity posing. It is not known who of the featured celebrities were aware of or consented to their likeness appearing in the video.

Dunham shared “some disjointed thoughts” on the clip in a lengthy post to Facebook on Monday night, calling it “one of the more disturbing ‘artistic’ efforts in recent memory” and saying it was emblematic of “rape culture”.

"Let's break it down: at the same time [former Stanford University student, convicted of sexual assault] Brock Turner is getting off with a light tap for raping an unconscious woman and photographing her breasts for a group chat ..." she wrote.

“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.”

A representative for George W Bush clarified to TMZ that “in case there was any doubt ... that is not President Bush”. The rep added: “He is in much better shape.”

Reuters contacted representatives for West, Kardashian, Jenner, Trump and Cosby but they declined to comment. Representatives for the other celebrities did not immediately return requests for comment, Reuters said.

The clip is inspired by artist Vincent Desiderio’s 2008 painting Sleep, which shows people in various states of undress sleeping next to each other.

In an essay for W magazine, Desiderio called West’s video “a tableau that was disturbingly familiar, rapturously beautiful and frighteningly uncanny”.

Jason Kennedy of E! News, which premiered the video, blurring out depictions of breasts and genitals, said West wanted the video to be known as "an art visual".

But Dunham – whose parents, Carroll Dunham and Laurie Simmons, are both artists – refused to accept Famous as a provocative work of art when it felt informed by "aspects of our culture that make women feel unsafe".

“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,” she wrote.

She wrote that the portrayal of Taylor Swift, her close friend, in particular “hurt to look at . . . . It makes me feel sad and unsafe and worried for the teenage girls who watch this.

“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 [Wintour], 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.”

West reportedly tweeted then deleted, “Can somebody sue me already #I’llwait” on Saturday, after the clip’s debut.

The appearance of Swift in the clip has caused the most attention given her tense public relationship with West, dating back to 2009 when West stormed an awards ceremony stage during Swift’s acceptance speech. In the song Famous, West sings of Swift: “I made that bitch famous.”

Dunham concluded by calling for West to seek inspiration elsewhere than the exploitation of and dangers to women.

“Here’s the thing, Kanye: you’re cool. Make a statement on fame and privacy and the Illuminati or whatever is on your mind! But I can’t watch it, don’t want to watch it, if it feels informed and inspired by the aspects of our culture that make women feel unsafe even in their own beds, in their own bodies.”

In a subsequent post to Facebook, Dunham shared a photo of herself wearing a T-shirt with her naked self on it, noting the irony in the caption.

Guardian service. Reuters contributed to this report