Rhianna’s “Man Down:” Pop Music, Revenge, and Violence Against Women
Recently pop star Rihanna released the music video for her new reggae-inspired hit “Man Down.” In this video, Rihanna’s character struggles with her decision to murder a man who rapes her. Unsurprisingly, this video has already been the target of controversy. Many critics believe that “Man Down” should be immediately banned for promoting unnecessary retaliatory violence. These critics are concerned that instead of using her celebrity to encourage victims of rape and sexual assault against women to seek help, Rhianna is encouraging victims to perpetuate further acts of unnecessary violence. Rhianna has also been accused of trying to profit from a sexualized display of violence against women. Meanwhile, other viewers welcome the video as a critical protest in a music culture where rape and violence against women are often glorified and celebrated. How many times have you turned on the radio and heard lyrics about beating up or having sex with “bitches” and “hoes?” While Rhianna’s fans hopefully do not condone murdering perpetrators, they compliment “Man Down” for stimulating dialogue about rape, an issue that is often silenced and/or ignored in popular culture.
Rihanna herself is a survivor of domestic violence. Rihanna’s personal story and celebrity status further complicate the controversy over “Man Down.” Sharing one’s story is often an empowering act for survivors of gender violence. Should any celebrity, especially a celebrity who is in the process of healing, be asked to censor herself when addressing such a sensitive, personal issue? Why is a victim like Rhianna the target of controversy, when other violent, murderous images can be seen all over mainstream media? Is violence in the media ever justifiable? What do you think? Sound off below!