A Different Take: The Eminem/Rihanna Video

I have come to the realization that I have some rather unpopular (or at the very least, widely unspoken) opinions about the video. Not all of you are going to agree with me, but I encourage you to give this post a read through and at least hear me out. I am writing these words as an educated music industry professional, an artist, a media literate feminist and perhaps most importantly, as someone who has personally experienced abuse.

Is this video perfect? No. Am I supportive of Eminem's past as an abuser? God no. Sure, more could have been done to directly assert the issue of domestic violence, but let us not forget, this is an expression of the human experience through art. I'm almost never one to 'pull the art card' and offer it as an excuse for others to create limitless, potentially offensive work, but in this case, I believe the art card is relevant. Some so-called 'art' does go too far, but in my opinion, this was not one of those pieces. I am in no way coming out and claiming that there aren't things I would change about the video or song, but I am here to offer another perspective – one that hasn't really been talked about as much by bloggers, advocates and activists.

Here goes nothing...

On the night that Chris Brown brutally beat his girlfriend Rihanna, they had been scheduled to perform at the GRAMMY Awards. I know this because I was there. I worked for The Recording Academy. Rumors were flying left and right - what had happened to Rihanna?! Did they get in a car accident? Was she sick? Before too long, hints of the truth began surfacing and soon enough, the world was informed of what had really happened.

I think this was a courageous step in Rihanna's healing process after experiencing a very public, very terrifying relationship. I don't agree with those who say she glamorizes abuse in this video. I do not agree that she shouldn't have been involved in the project. I believe the pain in her eyes as she sings the lyrics is real –and that many are too quick to discount her experience with abuse just because she's famous or is choosing to speak out about the issue through her form of art whilst making money on it. If you want to defend victims, don't stop short of defending Rihanna.

Rihanna's character sings: 'Just gonna stand there and watch me burn, but that's all right because I like the way it hurts. Just gonna stand there and watch me cry. Well, that's all right because I love the way you lie... I love the way you lie.' Upon first hearing the song on the radio, it didn't take me long before realizing what she was really saying. Rihanna was hurting enough on her own that she'd lead herself to believe the abuse wasn't that bad and had learned to co-exist with it – to see it as a normal part of a relationship. It's a twisted, dark road, which often leads to a clouding of reality. No one loves being lied to, but they might get used to it just enough to confuse pain with what it means to be truly loved. Rihanna has taken her own experience and used it to play the role of a woman who admits that she feels trapped in a painful relationship. She is publicly admitting that the chaos and violence she's experienced on the outside was actually a direct manifestation of the pain tormenting her on the inside.

Let's think about that one again for a moment... 'Rihanna is publicly admitting that the chaos and violence she's experienced on the outside was actually a direct manifestation of the pain tormenting her on the inside.'

Does that not sound familiar? Many people who lack self-esteem, support or hope turn to unsafe, destructive coping behaviors in a desperate search for a way to deal with their internal struggles. Addictions and self-destructive behaviors are examples of internal pain surfacing. That does NOT mean what they're doing to themselves (or what others are doing to them) is right, but at the very least, it offers us a glimpse as to why it becomes a downward spiral and why the abuse often continues to cycle over and over.


Why are we blaming and demonizing Rihanna for admitting to and portraying her struggle? The makers of this video could've shown any stage of an abusive relationship – before, during or after – but they chose to get right in the thick of things and show the darkest, most difficult parts of what it's like to desperately love someone who hurts you. They chose to attempt to put this kind of emotional entrapment into a series of images and sounds. This is not a public service announcement – it is a piece of disturbing, but all too true art left for us to experience and interpret. It is meant to show those who have never experienced domestic abuse what kind of hell it is for those who have and to reach out to those who know that pain all too well.


When we walk through the halls of a museum viewing famous art pieces, some of which depict scenes of rape, war, injustice, abuse and more, do we expect to see an artist's note added to the corner of the canvas explaining why the issue being portrayed is wrong? No. So, why do we expect that here? From beginning to end, this is a canvas in motion. It is a moment in time being depicted for us to experience. If we're to criticize Eminem and Rihanna for something, blame them for not partnering with a domestic violence organization to spread awareness or for not doing a series of press interviews discussing the severity of the issue, but don't blame them for MAKING the video.


Many have said that this video glorifies, even sexifies abuse, and in some ways, that point could be legitimately argued. We are shown a lesser-known side of domestic violence in which the intensity displayed between two people is almost more reminiscent of a sadomasochistic tug-of-war than a classic example of what we've come to know of as an abusive relationship. There are moments in the video where we, as viewers, have a hard time deciphering whether we are witnessing a moment of love and desire or a moment of anger and violence. In the throes of passion, the couple hits and pushes each other around, only to violently collide, kissing and grabbing for one another. Maybe some people are just afraid or unwilling to admit that this type of abuse exists? Perhaps there's an angle of truth in this video that people are afraid to admit noticing? Is it so taboo that we can't talk about it openly and civilly?


Sometimes, sex is one part of a destructive, unhealthy relationship. Sometimes it's one of the reasons people are confused by the pain and fear they are experiencing, not unlike other forms of abuse. How could it be THAT bad if it can feel this good? Just like the seemingly innocent moment in the video where the abuser brings a stuffed animal to his victim as a hollow apology, intimacy is also part of the equation.


Some people fall victim to abuse as depicted in this video.They are some of the same people who find themselves simultaneously captivated and terrified by their controlling abuser. It is an imprisonment of the heart, body and mind... the need to be wanted... to be desired... to be loved so intensely that it hurts. It isn't healthy, but it exists. In my opinion, this video speaks to those people. It reaches out and tells them to take notice. That the abuse they are experiencing isn't taboo, but it definitely isn't right.


The video begins and ends with the same scene – a couple peacefully sleeping side by side. In all of the torment and chaos, it shows that even the most dangerous and risky of relationships can seem normal. We ARE taught abuse is wrong in one of the very FIRST images we are shown in wihch the lead female character, played by Megan Fox, is literally playing with fire in her hands. Despite a relationship's good times – the quiet times – the relationships neither worth it nor safe.

I, for one, hope that the video comforts and empowers those in abusive relationships by reminding them that they are not alone in their suffering and that it isn't right.

(VIDEO) 'Love the Way You Lie' - Eminem & Rihanna ->




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