Trigger Warning

If you’ve been asleep for the last couple of weeks (or, like me, away on holiday), you might have missed the news that Eminem has a new single out. With Rihanna. About domestic abuse.

And you might also have missed the debate that the song, Love The Way You Lie, has provoked across the blogosphere and beyond.

Well fear not. ‘Cos I’m about to wade into/rehash some of the debate with my own take on it here, and not just on the song, but also on the official music video that’s just been released online.

So to kick things off, here it is:

Powerful stuff isn’t it? By which I mean, it certainly provokes a response in the viewer. In my case though, I suspect it’s not quite the response that was intended.

Because no matter how many times I watch this film (and I’ve watched it almost on a loop now for the best part of a day in a desperate bid to find the big important meaning that a lot of people have been ascribing to it), my reaction is always the same, and that’s: “What the fucking fuck was Rihanna thinking of getting involved with this misogynist piece of shit?”

The song that is, not Eminem. Although having said that…..

My biggest issue with it is that so much of this “story” is told from the perpetrator’s point of view. We get to hear how awful being such a violent abusive bastard is for him, and how ashamed it makes him feel to be such a vile, despicable human being. And what with me being such a man-hating femnazi and all, I have to say my reaction to that level of self-pitying whining from a perpetrator of domestic violence is always going to be “Well boo fucking hoo mate, now shut the fuck up and let’s hear how the victim feels.” The problem here of course is that we don’t. We only get to hear, very briefly in the chorus, how much she enjoys it.

Here’s Rihanna’s contribution:

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
I love the way you lie
I love the way you lie

I do get what people have been saying about how the song encapsulates the cycle of violence inherent in abusive relationships and so on and so forth. However if, as some commenters have been arguing, this song is supposed to be about awareness raising and sending out important messages regarding domestic violence, then I’m sorry but I think it completely fails on both counts. Well okay, maybe not completely – the very fact that  it’s provoked a debate is by itself evidence that it’s managed to achieve something, so I’m happy to give it credit for that at least.

Another part of the problem of course is that both of the artists involved here have baggage of their own when it comes to this issue: Rihanna as a victim/survivor of domestic violence, and Emimen as a perpetrator. And yet despite both of them having been through this and having managed to come out the other side, there’s nothing here in either the song or the video to suggest that it’s in any way possible for the situation to change, for the victim to find a way out, or for the perpetrator to change his behaviour. There’s no hope, no redemption, no aspiration, just more of the same until ultimately he ends up destroying them both.

If she ever tries to fucking leave again
I’mma tie her to the bed
And set the house on fire

I know others have argued that this is just a song, and that we shouldn’t read too much into it or get too involved in trying to analyse it as a piece of social commentary or whatever, but frankly I don’t think it’s that straightforward. I think the very fact that Rihanna was invited to take part in this says an awful lot, although I’m still undecided as to what that is. I’m not sure for example if it says that Eminem was trying to make an important point (in which case, as I’ve said, I think he’s failed), or whether it says that Eminem is cynically exploiting a controversial issue in order to make a name for himself and sell as many records as he can. I suspect the latter.

Kudos to Megan Fox though, for donating her fee for appearing in the video to a DV charity. Maybe if Eminem does the same and donates all the monies he earns from the song to charity I might feel a bit differently about it, but somehow I can’t see that happening.

Numerous artists have managed to cover domestic violence in ways that neither glamorise it nor attempt to titillate the viewer: unfortunately Eminem isn’t one of them. Have a look at these for example (trigger warning still applies)

And last but by no means least: