Eminem and Rihanna – combatting or normalising domestic violence?

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First off, watch the video:

This is the view of Ms Sady Doyle of Tiger Beatdown on Eminem/Rihanna’s ‘Love The Way You Lie’. She recorded a G-chat on the topic with her friend Amanda on her blog, raising, I think, the most important points here.

AMANDA: I am fucking pumped to be talking about how sexy domestic violence is! And catchy!

SADY: Indeed! With such movingly sung hooks, from actual domestic violence victims if at all possible.

AMANDA: Only the best.

SADY: This is the thing that kills me about the Eminem/Rihanna/Megan Fox collabo (ASIDE FROM THE FACT THAT IT COVERS LITERALLY ALL OF MY PURPORTED INTERESTS: The video would have to star, like, a sentient beatboxing bottle of bourbon to cover more bases for me)… the use of Rihanna to endow more Real-World-Relevance to the otherwise sad and hobbity scenario.

AMANDA: Yeah, I mean I think that her presence on the track is what really has confused things. Because otherwise it’s JUST ANOTHER EMINEM SONG GLORIFYING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. Except in the other ones, he would play the role of domestic violence victim as well by adopting his condescending lady voice! This one however is much more serious.

SADY: Right. And, I mean, it’s getting so much credit based on this Seriousness. What it reminds me of, honestly, is “Stan.” That song where, after years of recording ridiculous over-the-top fantasies of killing his wife and everyone close to her and stuffing her in a trunk and disposing of her body, there’s a song in which a fan of Eminem is like, “hey, that’s not a half-bad idea! For I too am an unstable lady-hating freak of nature!” And Eminem is like, “whoa. That is fucked up.” Except… he apparently doesn’t feel that way? Because right after he’s done recording the song where he feels all bad about his Accountability As An Artist, he goes back to the murder fantasies?

The song makes domestic violence look at the very least cool (using well-known actors with well-honed bodies who have teen appeal), and at the worst as though it’s just a “part of life”. Rihanna sings “That’s alright because I like the way it hurts”. That’s excellent. Women not only love rape, but being punched and set on fire too! It’s sexy!

AMANDA: And then the only thing we get from Rihanna is “I’m asking for it.” They’re both equally responsible for the relationship here—he sets her on fire, she loves it.

SADY: Ha, right. And, I mean, in some way, I like those lyrics? They’re interpretable in one way as “do it to me, you sexy degrader of my human worth.” But the other interpretation, the one that stuck out to me, was that so many women in these relationships are like, “I can’t leave! I love him!” Or, unbelievable as it may sound, “I can’t leave! I don’t know if I could do better!” That bit actually stands out as semi-real, the way she’s so unsure that she does NOT deserve to be plunged in the fires of Mount Shady that she’s actually convinced that she wants that on some level.

Rihanna’s actual experiences with Chris Brown only compound the troubling view of doomed romance that the song embodies. As Sady says, by using an actual victim who then says I love how you lie to me, and the violence is actually pretty edgy, and that’s cool, it sends a very sick kind of message to the 18 million people watching the Youtube video.

Eminem’s lyrics show a man wrestling with the usual ‘manly’ issues

I laid hands on her
I’ll never stoop so low again
I guess I don’t know my own strength

Man is angry. Man use violence to make him feel better.

Most men are not cavemen. Sadly this persona appears to tell young men “Hey, we all feel like this”. The solution? Count to ten? Sit down and think about why you are angry? Talk to your partner? What about

If she ever tries to fucking leave again
I’mma tie her to the bed
And set the house on fire

Of course! Why didn’t I think of that? Probably because it’s MFIF. Guys come up with all the best solutions.

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9 Responses to “Eminem and Rihanna – combatting or normalising domestic violence?”

  1. eurybe08 Says:

    I haven’t encounter any guys in my life who gets violent.

  2. rubytuesday1989 Says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who looked at this song/video askance, to say the least. o.O In my opinion, not only does this song/video normalize domestic violence, I would say that it goes so far as to glorify it. It just makes me feel absolutely sick on so many levels. Between the juxtaposition of sexual content with violence (in the video) and the lyrics which blame the woman for his violent behavior, I just want to shake everybody involved with the damn project.

  3. snooj Says:

    As an artist (mostly as a painter), I felt the need to comment. I see more the issue where people are trying to emulate what they see or hear in art forms when they shouldn’t, than a sexist one.

    Of course, domestic violence is a terrible thing and I wish more help was available for those found trapped in it. However, singing about it in a glorifying manner doesn’t mean the singers, nor any of the staff who worked on this song, believe in it or are telling people it is in fact great. I may paint a kid jumping off a building and flying, but that doesn’t mean I want kids to try that! My art is not a guideline on how to live your life, it’s just something I felt like painting at the time.

    If people look to any form of media, in particular music, TV, and movies, and try to copy it, there’s a problem. At least, that’s how I view this issue. I don’t really think it’s the singers’ responbilities to make sure kids and other people prone to copying this kind of behavior doesn’t listen to their song.

    Now, if both Rihanna and Eminem agree with the viewpoint of their song… I’d be troubled.

    • clockworklolita Says:

      I agree with you. Just because somebody creates a piece of art that shows something bad doesn’t mean they (necessarily) condone it.

      In the lyrics, yeah, the male character does blame the female character for his violence towards her – but just because it’s the view expressed by one of the main characters in the song doesn’t mean that we’re meant to agree with the view, think that he’s right in thinking it, or that we’re meant to sympathise with him. There are loads of other art works that have similarly unsympathetic protagonists. Just look at the book ‘Lolita’ – it’s written from the POV of a paedophile/hebephile, but just because Nabokov didn’t pepper the book with author’s notes every two sentences saying “this is bad, Humbert is an assface, don’t copy his actions” doesn’t mean that he was trying to glorify paedophilia.

      Art isn’t meant to (always) show a perfect world, and it bugs me when people expect it to :/

      (I could, of course, very well be wrong in assuming that Eminem and Rihanna don’t personally condone domestic abuse. These are just my views.)

      • mollyannice Says:

        I think that the singers were both being very sarcastic about how good domestic viloence is. Just from sone of the facial movements in Rihanna and the tone of the singers. This is what Eminem is known for when he is rapping his sarcasm. However, not everyone will pick up on the sarcasm and they will see it as a romance story. Which is sad.

  4. scrivener212 Says:

    I think, I hope, when people listen to this, they will get that these people are in sick relationships that will get one person killed and the other person jailed. No matter how great it looks and how one person likes it, there’s no way to pretty up “I’ma tie her to the bed/and set the house on fire.” That’s a recipe for homicide, no matter how good the backbeat is.

    It makes me sick. How many guys does Marshall teach it’s manly to batter? What was Rihanna *thinking*? That the extra kvell of knowing she was a victim of battery would put the song over the top on the charts? Are the betting pool operators running a calendar for the next time she shows up at the emergency room?

    Did no one close to her scream, “Are you taking crazy pills?”

  5. mfif Says:

    scrivener – the sad thing is they probably told her she was being brave.

  6. perivates Says:

    I think that anyone who considers this song with even the most minimal level of analysis would be able to recognize the very blunt message that being in a relationship such as the one portrayed here is the emotional equivalent of setting yourself on fire. I think it’s pretty clear that they aren’t trying to glorify domestic abuse, but rather show how much of an utter mess it makes of both people in the relationship.

  7. knavemurdok Says:

    Good to know that more then 10 years later, Eminem can still rack cup the controversy.
    I don’t think that Eminem is trying to say that domestic violence is good, or acceptable, or even normal. In fact this severely brutal film treatment of the subject seems to suggest he’s trying to convey the opposite. He’s saying that it happens, and that it’s terrible, and that we do a disservice to our fellow man and woman to turn this blind eye to it.
    Eminem is a storyteller, and as a storyteller, he gets cast as the villain most of the time. The video portrays the situation, and it is awful. Granted it’s shot beautifully, and adorned with visual parallels and motifs, but I didn’t get the message this this situation is something to be aspired to.
    Take as a comparison, the movie “Heaven and Earth”.
    Very in your face and blunt about the Vietnam war, beautifully shot and acted with dozens of memorable scenes.
    But did it glorify the Vietnam war, and make it look like a good thing?
    Certainly not.
    I feel similarly about this music video.

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