Snap Judgment: Kanye West's 'Flashing Lights' video
Where to begin with Kanye’s daring new video? Directed by Spike Jonze, “Flashing Lights” is yet another fantastic voyage into the darkest depths of the rapper’s royally complicated psyche. It’s more of a short film than a traditional music video, really; one blogger has described it as “Eminem’s ‘Stan’ meets Fatal Attraction,” which is fair enough. Watch it below, then click through to the jump, where I’ll go all Gabriel-Byrne-in-In-Treatment on Yeezy and try to parse this thing’s hidden subtexts.
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Huh?! Let’s review: The video opens on a shot of a beat-up car in an empty desert. A statuesque woman gets out of the car,walks a few yards, strips down to her lingerie, and sets her doffed clothes on fire. She then goes back to the car and pops the trunk to reveal a bound-and-gagged Kanye. She kisses his tied-up face briefly, withdraws an enormous shovel, and viciously stabs it into the trunk over and over again — but the camera has panned away at this point, so we can’t see what effect this is having on poor Ye. And then it just ends, mid-song!
It’s definitely a lot more out there than any other promotional material you’re likely to see from a multi-platinum pop star this year. For that reason alone, it’s a very compelling viewing experience. But what does it all mean? I’m tempted to read the off-screen victimization of Kanye’s body as some sort of metaphoric self-punishment for the standard rap-video objectification of the female character’s body in those opening shots — a vivid way of turning the tables on a cliché. Then again, this isn’t the first time Kanye’s played with images of his own violent martyrdom. Or could his in-trunk demise be some sort of dream-logic flashback to his near-fatal car crash?
Then again, maybe it’s just a meaningless stunt to try to stir upsome controversy. Any of you interested in helping me parse this strange little clip, or am I just overthinking this?