When I first heard Eminem and Rihanna’s “Love the Way You Lie”, I was impressed. The lyrics of the song, which depict the cyclical nature of domestic violence, were gripping, raw, and touched me in a way that few songs rarely do. Each verse cycles through the violent argument, the apologetic pleas for forgiveness, and the promises given to the victim to keep her from leaving. I was pleased to see attention brought to the issue of domestic violence and saw the song as a strong teaching tool… but all that changed once I saw the music video.
I am not surprised at how violent the video for the song turned out to be; that’s not the problem I have. My concern is that the video glamorizes domestic violence instead of showing it as what it really is… a living nightmare. In one scene, the abuser strikes the victim and pushes her against the wall. Rather than show the victim struggling to get away or lying helpless, the couple is then shown transitioning from the fight to the bedroom, kissing passionately as if the violence was a form of foreplay.
Working for a Domestic Violence agency, I have witnessed how difficult it is to escape a violent relationship and understand the long-term effects of such a traumatic situation. While this helps me to identify that the video wrongly romanticizes intimate partner abuse, the majority of people who watch the video don’t have the ability to distinguish between what is reality and what is solely for shock and entertainment value.
Viewers of the video are impressionable teenage kids just beginning to enter the dating world and young adults learning how to form healthy, serious relationships. The only way that will be possible is if we stop sending them mixed messages. Domestic violence is real. It is not sexy, it is not mysterious, it is not remotely pleasurable. It is painful, it is consuming, and unfortunately many times it is inescapable. While I applaud the attempt of both Eminem and Rihanna to shed light on domestic abuse, I am afraid the video only hurts the cause.
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They say that any publicity is good publicity, but in your opinion, is this the kind of attention we want to draw to domestic violence? Should we be thanking Eminem and Rihanna for shining light on the subject, or is their work doing more harm than good?