As E! Online so wonderfully put it, “Another day, another incendiary Rihanna video”.
The video in question has been widely covered across the marvellousness that is the interwebz, so I’ll keep the briefing short. (Or you can read more on my site).
Very basically, in Man Down, Rihanna executes the man who raped her. And the industry watchdogs are pissed. For various different reasons. It’s described as an “inexcusable, shock-only, shoot-and-kill theme song”. Which I think is going a little far, seeing as nobody’s actually bothered to listen to the lyrics and watch the video at the same time.
Tell you what, do that now and I’ll carry on after the jump…[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEhy-RXkNo0%5D
More interesting, I thought, was the Parents Television Council’s reaction, who believed that Rihanna had missed an opportunity to make an important statement on behalf of survivors of rape and abuse.
Their spokesperson said, “Rihanna’s personal story and status as a celebrity superstar provided a golden opportunity for the singer to send an important message to female victims of rape and domestic violence.
“Instead of telling victims they should seek help, Rihanna released a music video that gives retaliation in the form of premeditated murder the imprimatur of acceptability.”
Can we actually just stop for one second, please? We had this debate in the office this morning and I still feel very strongly about it. Does anybody actually, truly believe that Rihanna’s message is “Go forth into the world and kill your rapist?”
Yes, justice should be allowed to take its course – but a long, drawn-out court case hardly makes for a great music video. The shooting is dramatic – it’s supposed to be – but it’s the idea behind the video that is important.
The message, to me, is simple – you don’t have to be a victim. You don’t have to stay silent. Speak out, take action (and no, by “take action” I don’t mean go out and shoot your rapist). In South Africa so, so many rapes remain unreported. Women stay silent out of fear of retaliation and prejudice.
Why are we so upset by the shooting in the video? There is so much gratuitous violence on television and in other music videos, so why does this one get under our skin? Is it because we’ve been so over-exposed to the Rihanna/Chris Brown situation? We can’t seem to separate Rihanna the survivor from Rihanna the artist. Her personal history is so intimately tied to her career that it’s easy to make the jump and say that this is what Rihanna (Robyn, to her family) thinks should happen to rapists and abusers.
To me, the triumph of this video lies in the fact that it has people across the globe talking about the issue. It gets people thinking about rape, sexual abuse. It exposes flaws in the justice system. It’s provoked debate. And, as I’ve said before, if it gets just a handful of women to break their silence – then that’s enough for me.
As Rihanna tweeted, “Young girls/women all over the world…we are a lot of things! We’re strong innocent fun flirtatious vulnerable, and sometimes our innocence can cause us to be naïve! We always think it could NEVER be us, but in reality, it can happen to ANY of us!”
It can. And it does.