Rihanna during a performance for NBC's Grammy-winning artist Rihanna, who made headlines in 2009 after being beaten up by her then-boyfriend, singer Chris Brown, has infuriated anti-violence groups with the video for her latest single, "Man Down," in which a woman guns down the man who assaulted her.
The video, which debuted on BET earlier this week, opens with the red-headed R&B star grimly looking out from a darkened doorway, revolver in hand. She scans the crowd, raises her hand, and shoots once; a man walking by collapses, blood spurting from his head, as everyone else panics.
Watchdog groups, including The Parents Television Council, Industry Ears, and the Enough Is Enough Campaign, are condemning the video for encouraging victims of sexual assault or domestic abuse to retaliate with violence.
"'Man Down' is an inexcusable, shock-only, shoot-and-kill theme song," Paul Porter, co-founder of Industry Ears, said in a joint statement.
"Rihanna's personal story and status as a celebrity superstar provided a golden opportunity for the singer to send an important message to female victims of rape and domestic violence," Melissa Henson, director of communications and public education for the Parents Television Council, said in the same statement. "Instead of telling victims they should seek help, Rihanna released a music video that gives retaliation in the form of premeditated murder the imprimatur of acceptability. The message of the disturbing video could not be more off base."
Rihanna's fans defended her on Twitter, sending messages of admiration and support. "you opened the eyes of all women living under a dark cloud that needed a voice," tweeted one fan. "After seein the WHO statistic that 1 in four women will experience sexual abuse by their intimate partner @rihanna Man Down is clicking 2 me," tweeted another. "it's really ironic how women r always exploited n videos..we watch women b raped&murdered...now a woman flips the coin &look!!!!" another fan pointed out.
Rihanna responded to critics, tweeting "I'm a 23 year old rockstar with NO KIDS! What's up with everybody wantin me to be a parent? I'm just a girl, I can only be your/our voice!" and "The music industry isn't exactly Parents R Us! We have the freedom to make art, LET US! Its your job to make sure they dont turn out like US."
The reggae song isn't triumphant-in fact, the lyrics are full of regret-and the gore is limited to the 5-minute-long video's first 40 seconds. BET has refused to pull the video, saying that "Man Down" meets their standards and guidelines. Others seem to agree.
"She channels her anger at a rapist, which for a lot of women is empowering," entertainment expert Kelley Carter told Fox News. "I don't think that Rihanna is advocating murder, I do think that she is saying it's time for women to speak up and out against abuse targeted towards women."
Watch the video and decide for yourself:
What do you think? Does "Man Down" send young women the wrong message? Or have the watchdog groups missed the point?
Also on Shine:
- Age and Fame don't excuse Chris Brown or domestic violence
- Sexual Violence on college campuses: Vice President Biden weighs in
- The Rihanna rumors: Why must we blame the victim of alleged domestic violence?
- SlutWalk: Does the shock value undermine the message?
- Rihanna's most-fashionable red carpet looks