Today I came across an article on CNN regarding Rihanna’s new music video, Man Down.
For those of you who haven’t seen the video it basically involves a young woman getting revenge on a man who sexually assaulted her by shooting him. I won’t go into the details of the video as I want everyone to come to their own conclusions and opinions. Nevertheless, there are some negative reactions to the video. According to the CNN article, groups Enough is Enough, Parent’s Television Council, and Industry Ears collectively describe the video as “inexcusable”. The reason? The graphic nature and violence portrayed in the video. I will concede that BET should have used better discretion before airing the video as in putting up a disclaimer, warning everyone of the graphic nature of the video. This is only my guess as I was not able to see the video when it first aired. Despite, this concession, I personally think that the negative reaction to video is blown way out of proportion.
One of the groups, criticizing video, Industry Ears states that their general goal is “finding solutions to disparities in media that negatively impact individuals and communities.” Granted, violence and misogyny do permeate the airwaves. And yes, groups like Industry Ears, Parent’s Television Council, and Enough is Enough are doing society a great service with their efforts. However, I believe their criticisms miss the aim of the video, which is albeit, controversial but nonetheless necessary in my opinion. At it’s core, the video brings to the fore the societal evils of rape and sexual assault. Rape in of itself is a terrible crime, that makes anyone uncomfortable. It is one of those unspeakable things we never talk about. But like the 800 pound gorilla in the room, we know it exists. At times, I think rape is even taboo to talk about. In my opinion that silence can be dangerous if not completely detrimental to society.
I believe the reaction of the video’s protagonist in shooting and killing her attacker, characterizes the emotional distress experienced by women dealing with the aftermath of rape or sexual assault. While groups such as Enough is Enough may claim that the shooting scene in the video is much too much, they seem to be remarkably silent on the video’s intent, which, in my opinion is to spread awareness about sexual assault and violence against women in general. I get the fact that watching someone get shot on a cable television program is somewhat morally reprehensible. But if you’re going to criticize this video we should also lump it together with shows like CSI, and Law and Order SVU, and even Private Practice, where one of the show’s characters was raped. In other words, I do not believe that Rihanna’s music video is any more violent or any more controversial than what we see on television on a daily basis.
Despite all of Rihanna’s shortcomings (we all got skeletons in our closet) I honestly believe she should be commended for taking such a brave step by bringing an uncomfortable subject to the foreground. Instead of people criticizing the video, claiming that it is morally reprehensible, shameful, and damaging to the psyche of our children, they should be reasonable by seeing the video for what it is, which is basically a public service announcement regarding the dangers of sexual assault. Besides, if parents are worried about what their kids are watching on television, they should probably show some responsibility and cut off the damn television. Parents concerned about violence and sex and television should do what they were meant to do, be parents. Too many people in this country want someone or something else to do something for them. It’s time to step up to the plate and actually be more involved in your child’s life. Alas. Forgive me for the segue.
In sum, the video, in my opinion should stimulate an intelligent and heartfelt conversation regarding sexual violence. The video in of itself is a debate, which brings up issues ranging from sexual promiscuity, the prospect of contracting and spreading STDs, and taking responsibility for actions that could potentially lead to sexually violent situations. In other words, there is more to the video that meets the eye. And if we as people could only separate our sense of moral self-righteousness from reason then maybe we as a nation could actually begin to tackle other controversial subjects such as xenophobia, sexism, and religious misunderstanding.