June 7, 2011

Category: Grooves, Videos

Rihanna’s “Man Down”

Reading actress Gabrielle Union’s tweets this morning about her attempt to kill her rapist at the tender age of 19 bought Rihanna’s video for “Man Down” right back to center and in living color for me. Please don’t let the beautiful rural Jamaican backdrop, pulsating beats, or Riri’s rude gyal rumpapapums fool ya, “Man Down” is about rape and more specifically, the very real and possible psychological fallout from such a crime. Rihanna, I feel, should be applauded for giving this subject a platform to be discussed and also for simply keeping it real. Let’s face it, not every person who is sexually assaulted (women and men) seeks out or has access to therapy or counseling and live happily ever after. And let’s not front, we know not every rapist gets his due and serves jail time for their offenses (ahem Dominique Strauss-Kahn and *cough* the two NYC police officers that were charged with raping a very drunk woman whom they “home visited” THREE times). Gabrielle’s tweets move the action beyond the soundstage to flesh and blood-shedding reality:

“Saw ‘Man Down’ by @rihanna. Every victim/survivor of rape is unique, including how they THINK they’d like justice 2 be handed out. Durin my rape I tried 2 shoot my rapist, bt I missed. Over the yrs I realized tht killin my rapist wouldve added insult 2 injury. The DESIRE 2 kill someone whose abused/raped u is understandable, bt unless its self defense n the moment 2 save ur life, just ADDS 2 ur troubles #mandown. I repeat SELF DEFENSE 2 save urself/protect urself, I’m ALL 4. Otherwise victim/survivor takin justice N2 ur own hands w/ violence=MO trouble 4 U!! #mandown video did a GREAT job of getting the ENTIRE world TALKING abt RAPE. I hope tht it leads 2 HEALING & PREVENTS RAPE.”

I loved “Man Down” immediately for its reggae tinged windin’ grind groove. The video just has me going harder for this joint and for Ri because it affirms young women’s desire and right to be sensual and sexy and to shake our grove thang on the dancefloor cuz we love ourselves that much and because we can. But some folks don’t share my enthusiasm. The Parents’ Television Council was outraged that BET would show a video that promotes violence and not show alternatives like counseling as a solution. I have two questions for them: Where the hell were they when Nelly was running Visa cards through the booty cracks of Black women in his music video for “Tip Drill”? And two: Where in the video or lyrics do you hear Rihanna celebrating murder? You would think Riri broke out into the electric slide after shooting her assailant. The song is a remorseful, contemplative rumination on taking back the night. Boom Bye Bye it is not.

Former BET exec and PTC rep, Paul Porter, stated, “In my 30 years of viewing BET, I have never witnessed such a cold, calculated execution of murder in primetime. If Chris Brown shot a woman in his new video and BET premiered it, the world would stop.”

Really Paul? Is there no murder in BET’s primetime series American Gangster? And check it, let me take this point about Chris Brown a step further: What if Chris Brown in real life, in his real rented sports car beat the living ish outta his real life girlfriend and then left her for dead, unconscious and fled the scene, then what would BET, Viacom or the PTC do? Yeah right, not a dayum thing– nary a peep from any of them.

Truth is Rihanna is a victim of domestic abuse and she is also an artist who gets paid to entertain (just like Farrah Fawcett did before her in “Burning Bed”) and she made this point crystal clear last week when she defended “Man Down”: “This is the REAL WORLD!… The music industry isn’t exactly Parents R Us! We have the freedom to make art, LET US!” And besides people, if you’re going to go after Rihanna for “Man Down” then you better go after Bob Marley for his “I Shot The Sheriff” too. Until then, man-up and kill the noise!

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