I’ve seen it, you’ve probably seen it- but do any of us actually like it?
Yes I’m talking about Rihanna’s ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ video. And, unfortunately, she’s just won a space in my female pop artist ‘bin’ next to Miley Cyrus and Cheryl Cole. I vowed never to watch another Rihanna video again, after baring witness to her humping a golden chair in the ‘Pour It Up’ video (thanks, Dan Peters). But it wasn’t until I read an excellent article in The Telegraph about it which intrigued me to undergo the 7 minutes of visual and audial trauma.
So what’s wrong with this video? The answer is everything. And I’ll give you everything in several terms- cringeworthy lyrics, kidnap and BDSM with subtle hints of racism… not exactly the recipe to a hit record. But how could we possibly take a mediocre record straight to the top of YouTube’s hit list? Oh, I know!- by filming an outrageous video that frankly, would make Hitler cry.
Before I descend into a whirlwind of emotion about this video, I’ll give you the basic principles. The ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’ appears to be an act of revenge on an accountant (based on the real one who nearly bankrupted her in 2008). Rihanna proceeds not just to take direct revenge on him (by carving him like a Sunday roast turkey joint); but also his blonde wife who is strung up and tortured whilst topless in what seems to be an extreme take on BDSM.
So let’s start with the basics, I’m not saying that if someone bankrupted me, I’d throw flowers at them… but chopping them up seems a little extreme, doesn’t it? Needless to say, this kind of violence is nothing new in the music video world. Not to mention that the systematic destruction of the male accountant has very little screen time in the 7 minute duration of this video, in comparison with the torture of the blonde woman. But quite frankly, this isn’t enough to shock the Generation Y, who have been exposed to more violent media platforms as kids, than outdoor bike rides in the fresh countryside.
Regrettably, the main focus is upon the accountant’s wife, who is first stripped to her bare skin in a scene which has been compared to much of Quentin Tarantino’s film output, depicting women as victims of sexual violence. But when your fan-base stretches from the impressionable age of 13 upwards, I cannot help but lay claim to Rihanna’s apparent lack of responsibility, here. Now, I’m all for freeing the nipple, but nudity isn’t the issue, here. It’s the context in which nudity is being expressed. Nudity is not being expressed as an act of freewill or liberation here, and there’s no doubt that a male sitting behind a computer somewhere in the world, is going to find this very arousing. Have we been exposed to so much porn and violent footage, that we desire to push the boundaries even further, to satisfy our needs? I definitely haven’t.
In fact, the non consensual nature of the whole video, is the basis on which I find great fault with it. The gang of women aren’t ripping the blonde’s clothes off and nutting her on the head with a glass bottle because she asked them too; it’s a deliberate and brutal act of violence which left me clenching my eyelids tightly together. I highly doubt that being force-fed alcohol and drugs was on her list of sexual desires, either.
Now racism is a topic which I tend to leave out of my posts. Perhaps I’m afraid of having an opinion on a taboo subject which evokes such feelings of bitterness between humans. But I have to make a point; that the woman being tortured is white. She is a stark contrast to Rihanna in all respects: a tribute to Reese Witherspoon’s character from Legally Blonde with her light hair, fair skin with a small dog in tow… as opposed to Rihanna’s brunette locks, Caribbean heritage and punchy style. And I cannot help but think that if Rihanna was white and the victim was black, this might be brought to people’s attention. Now, I’m fully aware of my culture’s history of oppressing black men and women. I am not proud of it either. But, two wrongs do not make a right, and if this is an ice cold serving of revenge some 180 years after the slave trade was abolished, then I don’t think this is justified.
But irrespective of the victim’s skin colour, Rihanna’s biggest sin is the taking down of a woman, by another woman. The white woman is depicted as defenceless, subordinate and more importantly, voiceless (she is gagged with sticky tape) whilst Rihanna is sunning herself on her private yacht. This has to be the ultimate insult to feminism/ equality (whichever one you’re going for). But as much as I am no longer a fan of Rihanna’s, she isn’t stupid. I’m sure she’d have anticipated, even provoked the reactions of her music video before it even reached my poor, scorched retinas.
The final question then is, is a highly acclaimed music artist such as Rihanna, justified in producing a video such as this? Does her success give her the freedom to promote themes of sex, violence and misogyny, even if they’re not sincerely meant? One thing’s for sure, she’s certainly made a point of her power and success. But should she retire and enjoy her fortune, or improve the quality of her lyrical output so she doesn’t have to compensate it with another controversial video? Because as for watching her next porn movie with the lyrical deafenings of “moolah moolah- ay – ay, brap- brap”, it’s a no from me.