Art says more about the values of a particular society than almost any other area of life. Politicians come and go. Most sports heroes die a sports hero’s death after retiring, their highlight reels not replayed often. But art, literature, music and visual media (movies, TV shows, etc.) tend to transcend their time periods. Societies can learn about the past through great literature or music. Who hasn’t read or been exposed to Shakespeare or listened to the music of Beethoven or Mozart? Even the most ignorant teenagers can tell a stranger about classics ranging through various forms of art. Disney movies are a rite of passage for children no matter how old the film. Every little girl knows who Ariel is, and every little boy knows whose nose grows when he lies. So when art plays such an important part in framing a culture’s narrative, the popularity of ridiculous or immoral art can be more damaging to the soul than global warming or cigarette smoking.
Recently, Kanye West’s despicable excuse of a song, “Bound 2” on the similarly titled album, had its music video unveiled to the world. The song was released earlier this summer, but the provocative and racy video starring the rude and talentless West as well as his famous-for-being-famous fiancé Kim Kardashian was posted on YouTube on Nov. 19, just in time for Thanksgiving viewings the whole family could enjoy together.
Not only does the music video show a nude Kardashian riding with West on his motorcycle, it also has numerous suggestive moments of the two simulating sexual pleasure as well as the over-the-top sexual metaphor of a white horse running freely in ways that popular author Cormac McCarthy could only wish to emulate in his fiction.
Despite being unappealing in visuals, the song’s lyrics perpetuate an anti-woman, sexist and misogynistic worldview. Such charming lyrics as “ I wanna f*** you hard on the sink, ” “Hey, you remember where we first met? OK, I don’t remember where we first met” and “She asked me what I wished for on the wishlist […] Have you ever asked your bitch for other bitches?” fill the “love song” about two people bound to each other.
Already the song has been mocked by popular actors Seth Rogen and James Franco with a shot-for-shot remake, Rogen playing the Kim Kardashian part. Mockery, in this case, is not a form of flattery.
Sadly, our culture is embracing such morally repugnant trash. Julian Kimble of Complex went so far as to call the song “a brilliant way to end the album.” Kimble side-notes the problems with the sexism and misogynistic nature of the artist with the song, stating, “These are the jaded thoughts of a superstar, one whose overexposure to everything has left him unable to feel anything,” but that the song “stands out as a love song — a dark, twisted fantasy of a love song, perhaps, but one that’s beautiful in its own way.” Numerous other publications praised West for returning to his roots and creating a dynamic album.
The problem at hand is not just the music, but the celebration of a man who claimed, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” and stole the stage from Taylor Swift after she won a Video Music Award in 2009 so he could praise Beyoncé. He has made a fool of himself again and again, and there seems to be little to no real consequence.
When the aliens come, thousands of years from now, and they locate the artists and music of this generation, sadly, Kanye West will most likely be evaluated. And I’d like to believe that the higher forms of advanced life will look at us and wonder why such dark, violent and dumb music was celebrated and watched and listened to repeatedly.
We live in a culture that has decided that immorally unredeemable art is excusable, but that the real war is against global warming and cigarette smoking. In a society more concerned with environmental pollution, we have forgotten about what conservative Dennis Prager has called “soul pollution.”
We can do better. And we must do better. Our culture’s soul is at stake.