The video for Rihanna’s latest single “Bitch Better Have My Money” off of her upcoming album “R8” is a lot of things. It’s creative, violent, unpredictable, disturbing, over-the-top and, like most things Rihanna does, highly controversial.
The premise of the video itself echoes the direct sentiment of the song while bringing to life all of the underlying vulgarities in the song’s message by placing Rihanna as the lead among a group of women who kidnap and torture her wealthy accountant’s pampered girlfriend after he fails to–you guessed it–pay Rihanna her money in a timely fashion. While the video definitely won’t leave anyone feeling all warm and fuzzy inside by any stretch, it’s safe to assume that most watched it without much of a take away that lasted beyond the 7-minute viewing period. Among the trending topics in response to the video on the day it premiered were the fact that Rihanna directed the video herself, remained fashionable while playing the role of a severely disgruntled murderous female vixen, took things a little too far with the graphic visuals to bring the storyline to life, and even “kidnapped” a group of her biggest fans to take them to a secret location for an exclusive first-look at the video courtesy of Tidal.
However, one writer has offered a look at the mini-thriller from a feminist perspective, heavily criticizing Rihanna for perpetuating woman-on-woman abuse throughout the video. In a nutshell, journalist Barbara Ellen is less-than-enthused with Ms. Fenty and her choice to so violently handle another female in the same fashion that misogynistic, abusive men often handle women on-screen and in real life and writing it off as nothing more than art. While some feminists might see the video as an ode to the death of gender roles and welcome the presence of Rihanna’s “take no sh*t” attitude, that’s certainly not the case for Barbara.
Here’s an excerpt from her article for The Guardian:
The main issue here is surely: misogyny, who’s allowed to do it? And the only answer can be: nobody. It’s even difficult to excuse it on the grounds of artistic expression, given how crude is the video.
By contrast, BBHMM’s plot (I’m angry with an accountant so I’m gonna kill his chick) has no nuance no artistry. Moreover, just because, in Rihanna’s musical sphere and beyond, there are misogynistic male artists, this doesn’t automatically give her the same “privileges”. Not only is reversing gender roles very pat and tired, BBHMM doesn’t even follow through properly.
Is a video so important? Of course. Pop culture is one of the most powerful mediums we possess for talking to each other; part of the ongoing conversation in explaining ourselves to each other. Certainly, it’s not good enough to say that Rihanna is a globally successful artist calling the shots in a male-dominated industry that (yay!) is feminist enough. I’m sure we’re all feminist-enough on our lazy days, but since when did that mean that you get to craft a woman-hating, sub-snuff video, and that’s fine because the visuals are great and you’re a bestselling artist, mwah, mwah?
Does citing artistic licence excuse misogyny in a video? As a well-known victim of domestic violence, maybe – astonishingly – Rihanna doesn’t give a flying one about other females? This is her choice. Men aren’t asked to make pro-male decisions every single moment of their lives. Still, as co-director, Rihanna can’t pretend this video was forced upon her. BBHMM raises issues not only of race (the plot did not require specifically white victims), class (the wealth signifiers of the female victim dehumanise her in time for her death), but also of blatant female-on-female hatred. At least it proves how it definitely ain’t any prettier (or more forgivable) than the male-on-female version.
So, speak on it Clutchettes! Is this woman digging a little too deep to make a case for why Rihanna’s BBHMM video highlights everything wrong with it from a white feminist standpoint? Or does she make a point that all women should be able relate to and agree with regardless of their skin color? Watch the video below and let us know what you think.