Rihanna’s fifth video from her pop powerhouse album “Loud” has been receiving a great deal of flack since its debut on BET last Tuesday.
Unlike her “S&M” video which was criticized for its celebration of kinky sex, Rihanna’s latest video, “Man Down,” is being chastised for another age-old vice: violence.
The video opens overlooking a train station in Jamaica with various people wandering about. Rihanna stands in an open second story window brandishing a handgun. She takes aim at a man holding a suitcase and fires. The man falls down dead and we’re quickly whisked away to the previous day leading up to the events of the murder. As it turns out, the dead guy was a man Rihanna met in a club the previous night who we can assume raped her after she refused his advances, based on what’s shown in the video.
Despite the fact that this is a fictional account of an arguably justified murder, not unlike anything depicted in countless movies and prime time television programs, the Parents Television Council among other watchdog groups have blasted the video for Rihanna’s violence, according to MTV.com. “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” says the PTC. Or perhaps it’s just a figurative fantasy story of how one might feel after being raped?
The problem here is that content supervising organizations like the PTC aren’t understanding the idea of pop stars playing characters in music videos. Rihanna doesn’t really help herself when she claims the video to be about female empowerment as she states on her Twitter account, but it’s still very clear that the video is a work of drama, not a vindication of violence.
The PTC’s issue is merely another episode in the “does the depiction of violence create violence?” argument. Is depicting violence in music videos taking it too far? Violence has been a mainstay in music videos for decades.
In 1989, Aerosmith released a video for their smash hit “Janie’s Got a Gun” which showed a sexually abused daughter shooting her incestuous father. Because the song is sung in the third person and depicts actors portraying the action, it’s considered acceptable, which restricts the music video as an artform. Is “Man Down” any more a “shoot-and-kill theme song” than “Janie’s Got a Gun” is? Judge for yourself.
Rihanna – “Man Down”
Aerosmith – “Janie’s Got a Gun”