Guest Post: Rihanna’s “Man Down”—Revenge is a Dish Best Served in Cold Blood.

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.

—Katie Blush.

Related: “Chains & Whips Excite Me”, Take 2.

“Chains & Whips Excite Me…”: The Underlying Message in Music Videos.

Rihanna’s “S&M”: Is it Really So Much Worse Than Her Other Stuff?

Picture Perfect.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Rihanna Shoots Her Rapist in Her New Video.

[Fox News] Rihanna’s Murder of Rapist in “Man Down” Video: Empowering or Dangerous?

Images via YouTube.

2 thoughts on “Guest Post: Rihanna’s “Man Down”—Revenge is a Dish Best Served in Cold Blood.

  1. Thanks for your contribution to the blog, Katie.
    You write that Rihanna is a role model, whether she likes it or not, because she appears on the cover of gossip mags, and should conduct herself in a way that reflects this.
    Firstly, I don’t think being on the cover of a gossip rag is role-model-making/exclusive. In fact, most celebs who are on the cover of tabloids are anything but. Take Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, for example. Even someone like Kim Kardashian, who spoke out about her previous abusive relationship, and rising above her sex tape scandal, could be seen as a role model by some. I’m not entirely sure I agree with that statement, but if rising above makes you a role model, then Rihanna is the poster girl for dumping Chris Brown’s wife-beating sorry ass and coming out the other end stronger for it.
    So while I do think Rihanna is a role model in that sense, I don’t agree that she should conduct herself in the manner of the role model you perceive her to be.
    Sure, “S&M” may not be the smartest way to assert your independence and power over a man who beat you (you can read my take on that in the links at the end of the post), but Rihanna the person and Rihanna the performer are two different aspects, that just happen to be embodied by the same person.
    “Man Down”, however, is a better, stronger take on man-on-woman violence. So often our justice system fails when it comes to rape and domestic violence, so perhaps some women are forced to take matters into their own hands when they feel the law hasn’t delivered their preferred outcome: the right one, which is rapists and wife-beaters being put away.
    What about all the music videos accompanying the songs of male performers, who talk about smackin’ their bitch, fuckin’ the police and poppin’ it like it’s hot? Eminem constantly makes reference to the murderous tendencies he feels towards his mother, and hitting his wife, which actually happened. And Kanye West’s “Monster” video, which features dead and decapitated models in lingerie. Some might argue that these are just fantasies. I would argue that so is “Man Down”.
    You and I have both never been sexually assaulted, so we really don’t know how a victim might feel. Whether they’d take the moral high road as you seem to be advocating in your piece, or if they would want to see their assailant punished, whatever it took. Here are a couple of links that I think you might find interesting, which deal with the flipside of your argument:

  2. Pingback: Magazines: Unfortunately, Rihanna IS an Influential Person, That’s What Makes the Whole Chris Brown Situation That Much Worse. « The Early Bird Catches the Worm

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