The scene opens with a flame-haired woman aiming a gun at a man in a crowded train station. She pulls the trigger, the bullet splatters out the back of the man's head, and she leaves him dead in a spreading pool of blood. So begins Rihanna's new music video for her latest single, "Man Down."
The storyline then flashes back to the previous day, and as the reggae-esque song plays and we see Rihanna in a variety of Jamaican-life scenes, it's eventually revealed that the gunshot victim was her rapist.
Is it a tale of brutal revenge, a warning against victimhood, or just artistic license? According to the Parents Television Council, the Enough is Enough campaign, and "entertainment think tank" Industry Ears, whatever the meaning behind the video, it should be pulled from the air. All of the groups have called on BET and its parent company Viacom to stop airing the video.
Give. Me. A. Break.
According to Paul Porter, co-founder of Industry Ears,
If Chris Brown shot a woman in his new video and BET premiered it, the world would stop.
As if this is an apples to apples comparison. Let's see, would people speak out against a video depicting a known violent abuser shooting a woman? Yes, and that's what makes it different than Rihanna's video.
Porter also said that in 30 years he had never witnessed "such a cold, calculated execution of murder in prime time."
I guess he's never watched any of those wildly popular CSI shows. Or 24. Or Grey's Anatomy. Or Criminal Minds. For crying out loud, it's time to realize that "prime time" and "family hour" aren't the same thing in every household. (Why does family hour involve sitting around watching TV, anyway?)
Melissa Henson, from the Parents Television Council:
Instead of telling victims they should seek help, Rihanna released a music video that gives retaliation in the form of premeditated murder the imprimatur of acceptability.
Ma'am, you can toss around fancy words like "imprimatur" all you want, but I'm pretty sure the video isn't telling people that vigilante justice is okay. I think it's saying that sometimes, when bad, scary shit happens to a person, it can eat them up until they strike out. It's saying that violence begets violence.
Take a look at some of the lyrics:
I didn't mean to end his life
I know it wasn't right
I cant even sleep at night
Cant get it off my mind
I didn't mean to lay him down
But its too late to turn back now
don't know what I was thinking
Now hes no longer living
So imma bout to leave town
Cause I didn't mean to hurt him
Coulda been somebodies son
And I took his heart when
I pulled out that gun
Rihanna herself said in Twitter messages to her fans that the theme of the video was female empowerment:
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 naive! We always think it could NEVER be us, but in reality, it can happen to ANY of us! So ladies be careful
I don't think that means she's endorsing fatal revenge, and I don't think the video should be pulled. I'm definitely not a fan of the song (gah, reggae), but I support her message. If this is her way of taking a stand against abuse—and she's certainly someone who knows what it feels like—I say more power to her.
Here's the video, take a look and judge for yourself:
What do you think? Do you agree that it should be banned from BET?
Image via YouTube