According to my Facebook feed, Seth Rogen and James Franco “won the Internet” today with “Bound 3,” their “crazy, amazing lampoon” of Kanye West’s “Bound 2” video. Other news outlets inform me that Rogen and Franco’s spoof is “outrageous,” a “hilarious parody” of West’s “(unintentionally) hilarious” video. “The co-stars of Pineapple Express and Freaks and Geeks have really outdone themselves this time,” writes the Daily Beast’s Marlow Stern, “It has to be seen to be believed.” E! Online’s Brett Malec has a similar take on the “hilarious parody clip,” noting: “There’s even a steamy kiss between the funnymen!”
Funnymen, in this case, is generous — unless “funny” is a category that has now expanded to encompass the insipid and the absolutely bloody obvious. As millions of people noticed prior to the release of the Rogen-Franco video, “Bound 2” is extravagant kitsch — you might even call West’s video, as many did, crazy, amazing, outrageous, and hilarious. A message at the beginning of the Rogen-Franco video explains that what follows is a “Shot. For. Shot.” remake of West’s original. In other words, it’s redundant — a parody of a self-parody. It’s not a joke; it’s the equivalent of a guy explicating the punch line of the “Why did the chicken cross the road?” joke for four minutes twenty seconds.
Or is the joke, rather, that “Bound 3” features two guys snuggling on a motorcycle, rather than, you know, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, a guy and a girl, as in the original? Are we that tickled, at this late date, by the spectacle of two men making out — by, as Spin’s Chris Martins put it, Rogen and Franco’s “excessive smooching and bro-noodling”?
The fact is, the only thing “Bound 3” added to “Bound 2” was Seth Rogen’s man-pelt — a sight, I grant you, which like the snow-crested mountain-scapes in the beginning of the “Bound 2” video, is sublime, in the Schopenhauerian sense of a spectacle whose terrifying grandeur chills your blood and causes your eyeballs to spring from their sockets and ricochet down the staircase like Spaldeens.
You can’t really blame Rogen and Franco for releasing this video. After all, they’re actors; by definition, their need for attention and affirmation is desperate and bottomless. (I mean: James Franco.) What’s depressing is the equal desperation with which we, the great unwashed, rise to the bait, or to be precise, the click-bait: stampeding to hail every new “parody video” as sidesplitting and “genius.” The truth is, parodies are now as commonplace as the objects of their parody; first comes the video, then, like clockwork, 72 hours later, the send-up. For some reason, we keep lavishing praise on these things just for existing. And we bestow bonus points on the parody if the parodists are well-known — because of course there’s nothing more charming than a bunch of famous people acting “goofy.”
As for the alleged “(unintentional) parody” of Kanye West’s original video: Are you kidding me? We’ve known Kanye West for a decade now, and every single bit of evidence points to the fact that he’s a total control freak auteur, an artist as fully in command of his effects as any in popular culture. I’m not sure I agree with my colleague Jerry Saltz that the “Bound 2” video is an example of the New Uncanny — mostly because I still can’t quite figure out just WTF the New Uncanny is. I do know, in addition to everything else, that Kanye West has an excellent sense of humor. He’s been writing funny lyrics for years; he gave us the best punch line of 2013. And by the way: Do you want to see a parody video of a Kanye West song starring hairy white guys? Try this one. Kanye West executive produced it, and released it himself, in 2007.