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Rihanna recently made headlines for her controversial new music video for her song, “Man Down.” The video opens with a shot of Rihanna hiding above a crowd in a train station, appearing nervous yet determined. She spots a man, pulls the trigger, and leaves. Then the song begins.
At first, the plot is unclear as most of the video involves Rihanna walking around a small Caribbean community, playing with children and kissing the elderly on the cheek. This is the video that’s been making everyone furious?
Near the end of the song, she is dancing at a party and spots the man who she will eventually shoot. He approaches her and is very persistently groping her. She then pushes him away multiple times and she finally leaves the party alone, but does not realize that he is following her. When she does turn around, he pushes her into an isolated area and she tries to escape, but it does not work. The song fades out with him leaving the scene with his shirt ripped and Rihanna is crying on the floor, implying that she has been raped.
The final shot is Rihanna searching frantically through her drawers in her home, until she finally pulls out a gun.
The outrage that has followed the release of this video is due to the fact that Rihanna has had a very public history of domestic abuse from singer Chris Brown. He was seen beating her in a car, and then photos were released of Rihanna’s face, swollen and bruised.
Melissa Henson, director of communications and public education for the Parents Television Council, said in a press release that: 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.” Additionally, the PTC is calling for television stations BET and MTV to ban the video.
On June 1, Rihanna responded to the criticism by tweeting, “I’m a 23 year old rockstar with NO KIDS! What’s up with everybody wantin me to be a parent?” She went on to say, “U can’t hide your kids from society, or they’ll never learn how to adapt! This is the REAL WORLD!”
Though she got a restraining order from Brown, Rihanna has never been an avid spokesperson for domestic abuse, and has received a lot of criticism for not speaking out about the issue. Additionally, her previous single “S&M” includes the line “sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me.”
It is very confused how this song received virtually no outrage (aside from the video being quietly banned from many television stations), but Rihanna taking revenge on someone who hurt her is creating such a strong divide among the public.
On the one hand, women who look up to Rihanna may take this as encouragement to take revenge on those who have hurt her. On the other hand, the anger festering within victims of abuse is often bottled up, and ignored.
This video could also be an artistic expression of those feelings that Rihanna held inside during the period of time. Even the lyrics “I didn’t mean to end his life, I know it wasn’t right” are far better than other songs on the radio, which are also about murder and other not-so-friendly themes.
While Rihanna could probably use a better PR team, there are far worse music videos featuring misogynistic themes, and vulgar lyrics that the PTC could spend time criticizing, instead of this one.