All who know me, know that I love to dance. Put on a song with a good beat that is repeatedly played on a commercial radio station and I am one of the first on the dancefloor. I really enjoyed Rihanna’s earlier work (“Umbrella” and “Please Don’t Stop the Music” come to mind), but her endeavour of recent into an edgier, (dare I say?) overly-sexualised style is worrisome to me.
Let me state that Rihanna, whether she wishes to be or not, is a role model. Anyone who graces the cover of a gossip magazine or whose songs are played on child-friendly radio stations are role models, and should be aware of it. Paparazzi and gossip mags have been around for a long time now and anyone who ventures into the world of Hollywood or reaches household name-status, must be aware that every inch of their life will be scrutinised by the critics and idolised by the young. So when Rihanna comes out with songs such as “S&M” and “California King Bed”, she is exploiting her body and over-exposing the young to sexuality and sending bad messages.
A recent discussion with Scarlett brought Ri-Ri’s newest clip, “Man Down”, and un-role model-like behaviour, to my attention. Scarlett described the clip to me by stating that it related to Rihanna being raped and then her seeking justice by killing him. I was also aware that the clip begins with her hiding, watching him, shooting him then flashing back to the previous day and to a scene that implies rape.
While this is a brief description of the clip, and I have since watched it and read the lyrics, I am outraged that Rihanna would openly promote such revenge. Yes, rapists should be brought to justice, but there is a legal system put in place to deal with such criminals*. Removing the idea of rape from the equation, Ri-Ri is advocating vengeance, which is not appropriate behaviour to uphold with young and impressionable fans watching on.
“An eye for eye”, “two wrongs make a right’” and “tit for tat”, should not be taught to children. Revenge is an notion of “equality of suffering”, forcing pain and anguish on someone to the same, if not greater, extent than one originally experienced. It is not a virtuous quality to have and should not be treated as such.
As a role model, Rihanna should be promoting good qualities to have: heart, faith, strong will. Rather than glamorise payback, she should advocate loving thy neighbour. Revenge is a way of saying you are not secure in your ability to grow, and learn from life’s hardships.
Yet Rihanna repeatedly conducts inappropriate behaviour for her fans to idolise. Sure, many stars are in a similar boat in that they bare their naked bodies for camera phones, stumble intoxicated out of clubs and adhere to dangerous diets, but the meaning in Rhianna’s songs is just as damaging to those easily influenced: her young fans.
*I do not wish to belittle the intense agony and disgust one must feel after they have been raped. I am lucky to never have been in this situation and hope I never am, but I can only imagine that your thoughts are not clear, you are incredibly distraught, and the death of your attacker might seem like the only answer.
Images via YouTube.