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Eminem and Rihanna Collaborate to Address Domestic Violence

August 9, 2010

(Warning: NSFW) ...so is it gratuitous and irresponsible, or brave and necessarily explosive? Eminem's new track featuring Rihanna, "Love the Way You Lie," has received intense media attention over its accompanying music video.  Since its debut last Thursday, "Love the Way You Lie" has been viewed almost 18 million times on YouTube. The video's graphic depiction of domestic violence and and stars Megan Fox and Dominic Monaghan make it, for better or for worse, a hot button topic. Fox and Monaghan play a couple whose tempers are likened to "what happens when a tornado meets a volcano;" in other words, they fight. A lot. They get jealous, they push each other around and against walls, they kiss, they make up, they smash bottles over heads, tear at each other, and sob. They abuse each other and themselves, again and again, until they and everything around them literally burns to the ground while Eminem and Rihanna dance outside. It is no coincidence that Rihanna's lines in the video should remind you of her highly publicized assault at the hands of her then-boyfriend, singer Chris Brown:

"Just gonna stand there and watch me burn-- but that's alright, because I like the way it hurts. Just gonna stand there and hear me cry, but that's alright, because I love the way you lie."
Rihanna explained her motivations for being in the video to Access Hollywood, saying, "It’s something that [Eminem and I have] both experienced on different sides, different ends of the table...it was authentic and it was real, it was believable for us to do a record like that, and it’s also something that needed to be done.” Rihanna has certainly made an effort since she unwittingly became the spokesperson for domestic violence to use that platform to give a voice to abused young women who, she told Glamour in 2009, "represent a voice that really isn't being heard." Megan Fox, who plays the woman, has also sought to help abused women by donating her salary for "Love the Way You Lie" to the Sojourn House, which gives battered women and their children resources to rebuild their lives. By contrast, Eminem has never claimed to champion the cause of unheard, abused women, and in fact has often been identified as a perpetrator of domestic violence. While staging a similar "comeback" tour to the one he is staging now in 2008, Eminem told Esquire, "I'm a T-shirt guy now. But wifebeaters won't go out of style, not as long as bitches keep mouthing off." Eminem's problematic relationship with women is also apparent in his popular music video for the song "Stan," which ends with Eminem's alter ego putting his pregnant girlfriend in the trunk of his car and driving off a bridge. Precedents such as these immediately problematize Eminem's goal of shedding light on both sides of domestic violence, especially as only the male voice (Eminem's verses) describes an inherent contradiction in his feelings, or a hint of  three-dimensionality: "High off of love, drunk from my hate/It's like I'm huffing paint and I love it/ the more I suffer, I suffocate." The woman's only voice (Rihanna's lines) does nothing but profess to love the abusive relationship-- she likes the way it hurts. Many other media outlets have explored the implications of "Love the Way You Lie" so far, including Entertainment Weekly (which worries about violence excess), MTV (which consults Monaghan and an expert in domestic violence prevention), CNN (which concentrates on Rihanna's role) and Jezebel (which says the video shows "no winners"). Take a look at the video and the lyrics (located here) and let us know-- what do you think? Does this video glorify or expose domestic violence? Leave a comment below.

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