The problem with “Man Down”, Rihanna’s new controversial music video

Superstar Rihanna just released a new video that has been hit with a wave a controversy. As you can see in the video above, “Man Down” the final minutes of the video  Rihanna is raped and she retaliates by murdering her rapist. Let me first say  this: I applaud Rihanna her team for crafting a beautifully shot video with a storyline, a message and a semi decent song. That doesn’t happen too often these days.

As soon as I saw this video,  I knew people would find this video controversial. I’m actually surprised about how long it took for people to react. I was expecting the video to be banned or heavily edited almost immediately after its release. The Parents Television Council describes the video as “a cold calculated execution of murder.” Funnily enough, they have nothing to say about the scene where Rihanna is attacked and raped. Rihanna responded on Twitter (of all places) with:

“Thank you for the amazing response on Man Down video. I love you guys, and I love that you GOT IT!!! Young girls/women all over the world…we are a lot of things! We’re strong, innocent, fun, flirtatious, vulnerable, and sometimes our innocence can cause us to be naïve! We always think it could NEVER be us, but in reality, it can happen to ANY of us! So ladies, be careful and listen to yo mama!”

and then later with this:

“I’m a 23 year old rockstar with NO KIDS! What’s up with everybody wantin me to be a parent? I’m just a girl, I can only be your/our voice! Cuz we all know how difficult/embarrassing it is to communicate touchy subject matters to anyone especially our parents! And this is why! Cuz we turn the other cheek! You can’t hide your kids from society, or they’ll never learn how to adapt! This is the REAL WORLD! The music industry isn’t exactly Parents R Us! We have the freedom to make art, LET US! It’s your job to make sure they don’t turn out like US”

I could pick apart almost every sentence of those statements but who has the time for that? We’ve seen this scenario time and time again in the music industry. An artist makes a video, some council screams “what about the children?!”, the Artist defends themselves with an unintelligent statement, the video gets banned in a few countries and we all go about our business.  Honestly if parents are looking for positive role models, they really shouldn’t bother to turn on the television and they really should not look to Rihanna to raise their kids. The real issue at hand is that the subject of  sexual assault has been overshadowed by this murder scene. I’m not trying to stay that murder isn’t heinous but sexual assault is a worldwide epidemic. A quick Google search of the terms “sexual assault statistics”  can prove that. In relation to this video many blogs discuss this murder scene and a select few discuss the sexual assault scene. Where are the parent councils discussing how to speak to their kids about sexual assault and thanking Rihanna for making this issue a bit more accessible to young girls?

While its commendable that Rihanna and her team made this video, I have to wonder why she  hasn’t she actively used her platform as a public figure to really bring awareness to this issue. As an abuse victim herself, why isn’t she the spokesperson for some sort organization? One minute she sings about whips, chains and the smell of sex and the next she’s the voice of abuse victims. Obviously it more complex than this but it seems that Rihanna is a role model when it is convenient to her.

I really wish that instead of focusing on the imagery of the video, people would focus on the underlining message. In North America one in four women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.  That is a terrifying statistic.


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