Next time? There won’t be no next time
I apologize, even though I know it’s lies
— From “Love the Way You Lie,” by Eminem, featuring Rihanna
It’s been a long time since MuchMusic was new and I was glued to the tube for the new-wave British invasion: Tears for Fears, Crowded House, Culture Club and Howard Jones.
Those were simple, gentler days, and while several artists were edgy even then, delivering hard-hitting political and philosophical messages, they were still exploring video as a means of getting the message out.
That’s all changed. Today, you don’t even need to be a musician to be a video star. All you need is a concept or a gimmick, a video camera and a computer for uploading your masterpiece to YouTube.
I don’t like to waste too much time trolling through the kaleidoscope of humanity represented on YouTube.
But when our kids tell us there’s something we should see, we usually comply, as they tend to have the typical teens’ spider sense for discovering things on the web that are innovative, hilariously inane or thought-provoking.
Recently, our daughter asked us to watch a new video from Eminem and Rihanna, for the song “Love the Way You Lie.”
Now, Eminem hasn’t always been the best role model.
But this video has had more than 24 million hits so far, according to Christopher Berenger’s blog on the website Associated Content, and I can see why. It’s a riveting video and a compelling song, but what’s much more interesting is the message.
It focuses an unblinking eye on the issue of domestic violence and unhealthy relationships, and features actors Dominic Monaghan and Megan Fox.
Don’t watch it if you can’t handle harsh language, violence or sexual imagery.
Do watch it if you want to see what kids are taking notice of these days, and the message being sent.
Here’s part of one verse:
You swore you’ve never hit ’em
Never do nothing to hurt ’em
Now you're in each other’s face
The video has been condemned by some critics for glamourizing violence, alcohol abuse and codependence. You can see that point. The actors are scantily clad, buffed up and overtly sexual.
And an ultra-lip-glossed, sexy, snarling Rihanna practically salivates as she sings the provocative chorus:
Just gonna stand there
And watch me burn
But that’s alright
Because I like
The way it hurts
Writing on the Huffington Post website, blogger Randy Susan Meyers writes: “After watching Eminem’s ‘Love the Way You Lie’ video, I wonder if it’s meant to warn women away from bad boys, or if the message tells us to be more understanding girlfriends, and thus rescue our tortured, battering boyfriends. … Too many young men and women will find this all spectacularly sexy. The women are beautiful, even while being choked. The men are tortured by their rage, longing for love and peace.”
Whether you ultimately believe the video glorifies abuse or shines fresh light on a difficult topic — or a bit of both — it will get the conversation started. -
But take another look. There’s nothing romantic about the relationship being played out on the screen, between the shoplifted Russian vodka and the dingy apartment where Fox’s character spits in Monaghan’s character’s face. She punches him in the head and he punches a hole in the wall.
There’s nothing sexy about rage, about threats of harm.
The characters burn with desire, yet they risk being destroyed through the incendiary nature of the relationship.
I tend to agree more with Berenger’s view on the Associated Content website:
“‘Love the Way You Lie’ is yet another opportunity to explore the darker side of relationships and question the values we see reflected in the entertainment industry — that violence is at times justifiable or even sympathetic.”
And, as one commenter to Berenger’s blog aptly noted:
“I love the way parents in this country feel the best way to ‘protect’ their children is by denying that a problem as prolific as domestic violence exists. Maybe that’s why daughters/sons keep quiet when it happens to them. Music doesn’t create these problems, it merely illustrates what already exists. It’s not pretty, so why should Eminem’s lyrics/videos be pretty? Fix the problem, not the people who choose to talk about it.”
In our house, we have talked to the kids about unhealthy relationships — where there is an imbalance, with one person’s needs put ahead of the other’s, or with one person taking too much and giving too little.
We have also talked about how friends don’t hurt friends, and how important it is to be true to yourself.
Clichés, perhaps. But if you think those types of conversations are pointless and you have kids of appropriate viewing age who you think are not being reached by traditional awareness campaigns about violence and relationships, Eminem and Rihanna might just be the place to start.
Whether you ultimately believe the video glorifies abuse or shines fresh light on a difficult topic — or a bit of both — it will get the conversation started.
Either way, it will make you feel uncomfortable.
And in this case? That’s a healthy reaction.
Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s story editor. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.