“That’s alright because I like the way it hurts”
Posted on August 6, 2010
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:
Hmmm. I dunno. I see what you’re saying Cath, but here’s an alternative view. (With the caveat that I have already confessed to Eminem fandom,being firmly in the ‘it’s knowing irony’ camp).
I think the problem with depicting men who commit domestic violence as monsters is that they aren’t – most of them can seem like quite nice guys.
And most will justify their behaviour in the exact terms used in that song – but I really love you, you just wind me up, I can’t help myself. And it will often seem very convincing to an outsider, who see the perp as just wronged by a cheating woman (cf Raoul Moat). The declarations of ‘love’ in the eminem part of the song are followed by escalating threats of violence. “I apologise even though I know it’s lies”. Which is actually quite often what will happen. Violent men frequently aren’t violent all the time – they can be pretty nice and then switch in an instant.
And the Rihanna part of the song I would also interpret as not to be taken literally – she is repeating the perpetrators view of events. And saying they’re dishonest. “I love the way you lie”.
Having said that, the level of subtlety of this interpretation is so great that it will be lost I suspect on the huge majority of those who take Marshall Mathers 100% seriously and think he MEANS all that stuff. And the video is shite, because it shows an equally matched fight between a muscular male and a slight female who never even gets her hair ruffled. In reality she’d be beaten up very nastily.
Ah that old old excuse ‘irony’ works a treat does it not! Well actually this misogynistic piece of women-hating masqerading as ‘entertainment’ is excusing/minimalising male accountability in respect of male violence committed against women and girls.
Most male perpetrators use the same old excuses and most male perpetrators are normal, respectable white men. They do not have horns or are ‘loners’ rather they are manipulative, cunning males who believe women and girls’ sole reason for existence is to serve men.
Eminen has earned huge sums proclaiming that all women are dehumanised beings and claiming male perpetrators are just misunderstood or had a ‘raw deal.’
As for why Rhianna wanted to be involved in this latest piece of women-hating rant I do not know. However, I’ll hazard a guess that Rhianna like most women does not have ‘free choice’ but is constrained by male supremacy.
Do not forget Rhianna is a singer and if she wants to retain her career and status she must abide by male supremacist rules and that means in this instance singing songs which proclaim women like being subjected to male violence. Not forgetting of course Eminen is a virulent woman-hater/holds women in contempt and for this he earns vast sums of money.
There is no ‘hidden meaning’ in this latest example of men indulging themselves in showing contempt/hatred for women – rather it is blatant misogyny and nothing else.
Would individuals attempt to ‘find the hidden meaning’ if Eminen was singing about his contempt and hatred for non-white males – I think not but then women are not human – never were and never will be as long as white male supremacy rules.
“However, I’ll hazard a guess that Rhianna like most women does not have ‘free choice’ but is constrained by male supremacy. ”
She had a choice- she just wanted to get paid, just like him.
honestly I think the video has worked its intended patriarchal purpose by getting folks to wonder what *Rihanna* was thinking.
It’s not about what Rihanna says or does. It’s about what Chris Brown did, and about what Eminem in saying here.
Take the focus OFF the women in these situations, real or video-depicted. Any commentary on female response to DV is victim blaming. When we all make that shift completely DV will die.
It’s not about Rihanna.
when I see this video and hear the song I feel depressed: I think of the young people who might well be suckered by the seductive power of these images, which basically eroticise, glamorise and normalise domestic violence, also the idea that the woman starts the fight. The whole thing reeks of fakery: it’s as if normality = acting 24/7 like you’re in a hollywood movie. Sick, imperialist, dehumanising junk. The music, if there is any, is so forgettable.
Getting a victim of domestic violence to sing “I like the way it hurts” over and over again makes Eminem a sick fuck, irony or not.
Is there any evidence that he’s no longer a wife-beater? Not from this song there isn’t.
Jay Z who has created Rihanna’s career is a good mate of Eminem. The two of them will be preforming together shortly. This is the story of two men colluding together to use a young woman to make money for themselves, and using the violence she has experienced as extra titillation.
For them to disguise it as sending “a message” about domestic violence is just more of an insult to domestic violence victims. I hope someone runs Eminem over. Ironically of course.
That Babyface video is pretty powerful. Actually made me cry and I don’t do that!
When I was young my mother used to lock us in our room and also gave us a key tied to a toy dog on a ribbon. I still have that toy by my bed.
There was no way that nobody could hear the violence in our house. Nobody ever did anything. My mother did report it once and the police didn’t do anything, and asking for help anywhere else always involved the risk of social services sweeping in and taking her children away. In fact my gran knew exactly what was happening and told my mother she had made her bed and had to put up with it. Never forgave the woman for saying that from her comfortable non-violent home.
And then of course I grew up and lived with violent men. What fun! Thanks by-standers.
Eminem is a horrible misogynist. 90% of his music is demeaning to the whole of womanhood. One of the many examples is his “Shake That”…this human being depicts women in profoundly immoral and disgusting ways.
This latest form of abomination hammers another nail in the coffin; his reputation is a disaster for us.
What kind of a world are my daughters growing into…
i wrote about this too, without having read a single other commentary or critique about it. that was thursday, and i am just reading other commentary on it now. anyway, literally as i was writing it, the song started playing, and i thought it was coming from my computer which was very embarassing, because i was in a public place, and thought i was very careful having put the speakers on mute! but no, the song was eminating from the cellphone of a 13 year old girl. it was her ringtone. and i doubt she even knows what “irony” is, let alone having applied it to this song, or to anything she sees in popculture on a daily basis.
what bothered me the most was how passive the female part was, and thats what i wrote about: she literally wouldnt mind if he killed her. thats okay! really, i dont mind! carry on! it reminds me of a fucking monty python skit actually, when you write it out like that, although i cant remember the exact one. someone is literally hacking one of them to bits, or beating them up or something, and the nice english gentleman victim is being hilariously good-natured about the whole thing. was that the intent here? REALLY? or as polly says, to show the perpetrators perspective? of a 100% passive victim? REALLY? i dont know abou that. because the perps know that their victims arent passive, and its because victims will almost always if not every single fucking time FIGHT BACK. when they are fighting for thier lives, they FIGHT BACK.
I don’t know whether Marshal Mathers is trying to be ‘ironic’ or not, and I have to say I’m not that interested in his intentions. Irony is a tricky tool to use. At worst, it is used to to privilege the people who are ‘smart’ enough to ‘understand’ the irony, and denigrates those who do not understand or who do understand but still dissent. Irony can produce/ can be the product of an us/ them mindset.
Whether it is intended to be ironic or not, at any rate, I’m not happy with it. I have never been happy with Eminem.
My first experience of Eminem was sitting in a room with a man who was playing his music in the background. I wasn’t paying much attention until I heard the line (something like) ‘I just wanted to rape the bitch and snatch her purse/ now I want to kill her’, and a chill ran down my spine. I brought this up with the man, and he didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong/ disturbing about this. I wondred what I had missed. I couldn’t work out why someone would want to sing that, or why a grown man would then want to say that it was okay to sing that.
Perhaps Mathers was being ironic, perhaps he was depicting a violent man of whom we were not meant to approve. If I knew he was, it might make me feel better about him (slightly), but not about the song, and it would not stop the chill down my spine or the sensation, however vague and fleeting, of terror.
This song greatly disturbs me. I have 14 and 11 year old girls. They, and their friends, sing this song with great gusto when it comes on the radio. When I protest and tell them how disturbing the lyrics are, they laugh and say “don’t take everything so seriously Mom!”. Ugh! It is serious! I was at a concert recently where they were playing some pop songs at intermission and this one came on and all the teens in the audience sang every word – especially the part about tying her to the bed and setting the house on fire – with great pleasure. I honestly don’t think they see the irony – I think it romanticizes/glorifies violence. “He loves her THAT much!!” – Aaaagggghhh!!!!!
Rap music about mindless violence has been polluting the minds of our youngsters for many a generation now. Sadly, the time has now come when they now no longer even realise it, and when such ‘artists’ (i use the term loosely) as Rhianna (who has most likely never sung a decent song in her life, yet still manages to gather a huge teenage female fanbase) are releasing tracks which they know perfectly well are going to be played, recited and listened to by teenagers who are going to pay precisely no attention to the deeper meaning of the lyrics and simply come to the conclusion that because their goddess Rhianna is singing about this stuff then it must be a normal and usual thing to happen and hey, it’s nothing to worry about!
I dont know how much sense that made to anybody else but in a nutshell: Can’t stand either of them!
jimmy i think you’re being a bit simplistic here.
firstly, there is a strand in rap music that is violent and unpleasant. this is very strongly commercial gangsta rap, where record companies have nicely packaged a violent and miogyinistic message because they can sell it to [white, middle class??] kids who want to rebel against mum.
but to call all rap this is stupid. there is a lot of hip hop (including, who’d know, women hip hop artists) who have a strong social message that is really liberating and exciting. Mos Def, Roots Manuva, MF Doom, Vadim, Missy Elliott even, Kid Sister, to name a few. just listen to missy elliott extolling the virtues of women’s sexual pleasure and tell me that it’s poisoning young minds! she is the only artist i know (except, maybe, early madonna and bjork) who so boldy sings/raps about her body and enjoying sex for her own pleasure.
also – rhianna is an amazing singer!
unfortunately, Missy Elliott aside, these musicians don’t get the same commercial success, precisely because the things they rap about aren’t easily packaged and sold. unfortunately, eminem rapping about beating up women is seen as sale-able. this is the problem, not hip hop itself.
Forgive me if I was a little vague there. I intended to specify ‘rap music about mindless violence’, predominently ‘gangsta rap’ (and of course Eminem, who has most thoughtfully brought the worst elements of this genre upon the ears of mainstream listeners), rather than the genre as a whole; As you said, there are plenty of rap artists who do carry strong social messages in their music. Not that i’m a particular fan, being more into thrash metal!
cool! as i’m sure you appreciate, lots of commentators tend to paint hip hop as a single entity, hence my leaping to its defence! (as i am sure they also do with thrash metal…)
When I was travelling home this morning, the family from hell who were sharing my train carriage with me decided to pacify their screaming toddler by playing him this song. Very loudly.
I expect he’ll know all the words and be able to sing along to it by xmas….
Adults understand what this song means…however my 14 year old cousin has been worshiping the song on FB and listening to it over and over. Who knows if teens believe it is ok to feel love along with pain or abuse, considering it normal. Hey the song has a great beat. I wish the message was more clear. Teens don’t always understand irony and the fact that he is tying her to the bed and setting her on fire and she “likes the way it hurts” sends the wrong message to kids.
Thanks for this post. I was doing some quick research for an essay I’m writing for my blog and yours popped up. I think you covered the basis and still tried to offer wiggle room. Certain dysfunctional behavior is not worthy of such generosity. I’ll be sure to link.
This is for Polly: It’s Alright Because I Like The Way It Does Hurt
By D.K. Milgrim-Heath©2011
It’s alright because I like the way it does hurt-
Are lyrics to a song S&M’s one’s thing any healthy female way to flirt?
Have you ever been abused physically was this something did you did really enjoy?
No enjoyment -I was date raped at age nineteen by a fraternity boy.
So I know first hand really what I’m talking about-
Men committing domestic violence might seem kind sometimes when they’re out.
My husband was this way a 2-way control freak personality in private I do know those ropes-
For a nice kind guy (unless your mind’s twisted as well) there are no hopes.
I’m a mother of 3 grown children who were once naïve and small they were-
Rihanna’s (and others like her) music gives my stomach great indigestion this I don’t prefer.
The epitome of music lyrics alluding to violence/porn of all kinds-
Does warp the next generation of all once innocent children’s minds.
Does one being a parent have other points of a different view?
Are many of Rihanna’s listeners parents (?????) but I think not but are you.
Do you don’t want your child (ren) listening to song lyrics of promoting violence/porn?
Teaching them it’s the only way to live so mentally twisted and torn.
Don’t get me wrong lyrics were not all good in the ‘60’s/70’s 80’s as well-
They were similar but now they’re promoted for corruption’s more so now can’t you tell?
It’s all about making the most $$$$ in the music industry-
What sells best these days are sex, violence and porn for the most money.
My children are all in the arts (musician/writer and actor) leading a clean life they’ve lead-
They’ve NEVER NEEDED SEX, VIOLENCE OR PORN in their respective fields to get ahead.