In many ways, Rihanna's career has been defined by the horrifying domestic violence she suffered at the hands of ex-boyfriend Chris Brown. Every public appearance, every outfit, every lyric, every tweet has been taken as a reference-intentionally or not-to her past relationship and her stance on being of a victim of such an attack.
In her new video, "We Found Love", Rihanna more directly expresses her feelings about her ex and, like she's hinted at in the past, it's complicated.
"No one will ever understand how much it hurts," says the voice-over (read by model Agyness Deyn) as the video flashes images of Rihanna with a Brown lookalike right down to the peroxide hair. "You feel hopeless like nothing can save you and when its over and it's gone you almost wish you could have all that bad stuff back so that you can have the good."
The video then intercuts scenes of the singer making out with pseudo-Brown with scenes where they're fighting in a car. At one point in the driver's seat, he grabs her face roughly. Later the flashes between scenes speed up, turning gruesome as Rihanna vomits on a street corner and is grabbed in a ransacked apartment by her ankles. Over all that, a dance-pop chorus repeats "We found love in a hopeless place."
If this isn't about her relationship with Brown, who brutally attacked her in his car in 2009, she'd have everyone fooled. Since the incident, she'd been criticized for publicly forgiving her ex and taking a backseat while Brown forged a triumphant career despite his terrifying rap sheet.
This video again ignites critics who see it as a tribute to her relationship with Brown and another attempt to explain away his actions as part and parcel of tumultuous romance. Certainly, the car scene rewrites history is a softer light, compared to actual evidence of extreme violence depicted in the police reports.
But as much influence Rihanna has on a cultural level, she's also a woman who's been victimized by a man. It's her story. Shouldn't she be able to tell it how she likes?
What do you think? Is Rihanna romanticizing domestic violence by turning the attack into a sexually-charged, instantly viral music video? Is she explaining away her attacker's actions all over again? Or is she giving voice to her own experience, even if it's not what everyone wants to hear?
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