A few weeks ago Kat Stacks, a woman known for hooking up with celebrities, was attacked. The official story was that she had been attacked for commenting negatively on the size of the rapper Bow Wow’s penis. At the news of her beating the Internet CHEERED. Twitter immediately went into a frenzy of slut-shaming. As usual. She was savagely beaten? But she insulted his dick! He raped someone? BUT HE PLAYS THAT SPORT WE LIKE. These people always crowd into the discourse, screaming “Nothing to see here!” at the top of their lungs when we attempt to discuss rape, or intimate partner violence, or stalking. Some of these people are women, which makes me want to randomly mash my keyboard like the kids do when they want to tell you they’ve just fuckin’ given up.
This is exactly what happened when Rihanna was attacked. Instead of focusing on Chris Brown’s behavior and what he did and how we could best go about scrubbing him from our collective memory, all the attention immediately went to her. What in the fuck is this chick’s deal? Why did she stand in front of PUNCHES? Why doesn’t she know those aren’t good for her FACE? Hasn’t Chris Brown been through ENOUGH? But Chris Brown never made a sincere apology for savagely beating Rihanna. He essentially issued a press release of an apology and jumped directly into trying to reform his image. And then he cried some fake tears and the Internet went “He’s back!” And I was like WHAT THE FUCK?
Internet, we need to have a conversation about comebacks. The following people WILL NEVER BE BACK:
- Michael Richards
- Ben Roethlisberger
- Mel Gibson
- Chris Brown
I never want to hear another fucking word from any of them. I don’t want to hear about their public redemption because there are too many talented people in this world for me to waste my time with human garbage. Or people who defend human garbage. Like Whoopi Goldberg, who has been on the longest campaign to get me to hate her this summer. And I don’t want to hate her! I don’t want to hate the woman who made Jumpin’ Jack Flash! But asking what the victim could have done differently is just the wrong thing to do.
A music video came out this week, one that deals with intimate partner violence. It begins with a close up of Rihanna’s face, with her fucking fierce hair and her 500$ dollar eye shadow. It cuts to Megan Fox sleeping with some skeezy dude on a dirty bed, which is EXACTLY what I’d be doing if I were Megan Fox. Then back to Rihanna. She’s singing in that gorgeous voice of hers, and for a moment I think “Maybe this won’t be so bad.” A few seconds later, the recording fails and “I Love The Way You Lie” turns into a rap song. By Eminem. Who is literally the last fucking person I want to hear singing about intimate partner violence.
To me, Eminem will always be ‘97 Bonnie and Clyde, his song about taking a trip to the lake with his daughter to dispose of her mother’s body. Eminem has spent his entire career depicting women as treacherous, disposable punching bags, and nothing he has ever done changes that. Especially that Elton John duet, because apparently there’s not a goddamn thing Elton John won’t do for money.
Eminem sings that rage feels like “a steel knife on my windpipe.” He compares hate to huffing paint. “Who’s that dude?” he asks before admitting he “laid hands on her.” “I guess I don’t know my own strength.” He’s distancing himself from his behavior after the fact. Making excuses. Promising to change. Exactly the way abusers do. While he’s doing this we see Megan Fox’s relationship with her boyfriend, played by Dominic Monaghan. (Yes, that is the same Dominic Monaghan who admitted he tried to taunt Fox into getting violent with him during the filming of this video! Why? He wanted a more realistic response! He wanted rage! This guy is method. He is the Stanislavski of douchebags.) Fox finds a phone number on his hand, and they start arguing. She punches him, he punches the wall, and then they kiss.
She leaves, he tracks her down and beats the guy she’s with. And she goes back to him. And she’s got beer! And then we go back to Rihanna, who of course knows a thing or two about dating violent assholes. So some of this video is about Rihanna commenting on her own personal experience with intimate partner violence. And part of it is Megan Fox donating her fee for the video to Sojourn House, a Los Angeles Women’s Shelter. Which is yet another reason to just absolutely love her. But it’s also about a music video shoot for a song about intimate partner violence where a male actor was allowed to abuse his female costar in the name of authenticity.
As the video progresses, the violence escalates. Eminem’s last line is “if she ever tries to fucking leave again, I’mma tie her to the bed and set the house on fire.” As he sings, Monaghan hits Fox, they are both consumed in the fire, and then they’re kissing again. I can’t even believe I have to say this, but a music video about Intimate Partner Violence shouldn’t be sexy. Which this video is, in places. This video is so very close to PROMOTING the thing it is supposed to be preventing. We have Eminem, who is singing about his relationship with his ex-wife. And we have Rihanna, whose only lines seem to be about STAYING in an abusive relationship, not getting the fuck out.
We have to include her thoughts on the song, because no matter how severely wrong this video is, she chose it to comment on her own abuse: “The way [Eminem] did it was so clever. He basically just broke down the cycle of domestic violence, and it’s something that a lot of people don’t have a lot of insight on. So this song is really a powerful song and touches a lot of people.”
I understand that it is possible to depict violent behavior and allow the audience to draw their own conclusions and that some people will watch this video and understand that at least from a marketing standpoint, it is supposed to be about how toxic abusive relationships are for those in them. But it also has lines like “maybe that’s what happens when a tornado meets a volcano,” and scenes of Fox and Monaghan sucking face, which teaches the same bullshit lessons about destructive, abusive relationships being “passionate.”
I knew people who listened to Eminem when I was younger, people who were survivors of domestic violence. Some of them could see their relationships or their parents’ relationships in his music. They would take their experiences and filter them through his albums, contextualizing the realities of their lives with his. But his music also normalized the experience, making it harder for them to imagine being with people who didn’t abuse them. This is the most mature and honest that Eminem has ever been about his own behavior, but he has still never acknowledged that his music might incite others to violence. He’s always stood behind the “for entertainment purposes only” disclaimer, cowardly hiding from his own culpability in creating a culture that accepts violence against women.
Should people be making music videos about intimate partner violence? Absolutely. Twenty years ago another music video about intimate partner violence came out, Garth Brooks’ “The Thunder Rolls.” CMT and TNN both refused to play it. We need media outlets to change the way they report abusive relationships, to stop using sensational and insensitive language in their reporting. We need videos that are more than simplistic revenge fantasies, like the Dixie Chick’s “Goodbye, Earl” or Martina Mcbride’s “Independence Day,” which ignore the fact that women who kill their abusers are almost always made an example of by the justice system, and place the onus on women to respond to violence with violence, and not onto a system which forces the abused to chose between jail and death. But what we don’t need is Eminem trying to convince us he has anything we need to hear about abusive relationships. He’s said enough.