So Rihanna‘s video for her explosive R8 single “Bitch Better Have My Money”, or BBHMM, was released yesterday anndddddd we’re still waiting on whether or not passionate feminists will vent a word or two about the imagery of a woman kidnapped and tortured in the name of supply and demand of the moolah.
Already, Moze Halperin of Flavorwire has accused the clip of the “glamorization of psychological and physical torture” including sexual humiliation. Most online publications have taken the calmer route in just declaring the obvious that it is as violent and flamboyant as was promised and maybe for SEO purposes, have all deemed it NSFW:
E! News: “The video ends with a nude and bloody Rihanna spread across a trunk full of cash. It’s all pretty gruesome.”
Rolling Stone: “In it, she takes the song’s lyrics literally as she attempts — and later succeeds — in getting her money through torture and extreme violence.”
PopSugar: “Do not watch this if you don’t like tales of revenge and poolside fun. All the rest of you, this is the best video ever.”
PopSugar gave us the I-can’t-help-it-I’m-a-fan-girl review.
TIME: “The new video does not disappoint.”
Even Pitchfork spared us another one of their impressive yet dense analyzations and in a brief paragraph said: “She’s killing people who cross her.” (Besides, they already went to the depths of critical thinking in talking about the audio itself).
As Rihanna’s directorial debut (she partnered with Megaforce, her co-direct0r), the singer capriciously plays with the concepts of right vs. wrong when it comes to handling and going after what is constitutionally yours and has been frustratingly delayed.
Whether “it” is a promotion of sorts, respect, or straight-up cash, the video’s malicious means of turning the tables is essentially packaged as dark humor and campy. The video for the track, we knew was set to own its demonic ways, is also potentially offensive because Rihanna uses a woman to get her abrasive message across. Did the singer violate the ethics of girl code here? Or, was it just business?
The role of the kidnapped woman is the weary return of the distressed damsel but does the rhetoric feel less repulsive, or overlooked because a woman is leading the corruption? Is our visceral reaction while watching “BBHMM” less threatening and more “bad-ass” of Rihanna naturally? Everything about “Bitch Better Have My Money” is controversial. From its lyrics (that Huffington Post Entertainment managed to stretch were a potential nod to America still owing reparations for slavery) to now its video, where in the middle of the clip, during a motel scene, the victim is suddenly semi-coherent and is force-fed vodka and laughing with her kidnappers. What is this? Straw Dogs?
Cinematically, they are a lot of references that can be (indirectly) found as the video runs like a female-run version of A Clockwork Orange meets Reservoir Dogs (the former being especially notorious for its violence on women) and under-lyings of Kill Bill (as far as Uma Thurman‘s character The Bride’s purpose for her violent spree). And like these films, you can acknowledge the artistic attributes and bravery to be erratic and sudden on the surface, but will feminists allow Rihanna to get away with tying up a woman from the ceilings, rafters-style, swinging nearly unconsciously, completely topless and looking like an embarrassing blow-up sex doll ornament?
Zeba Blay, for Huffington Post Women, also noticed the uncomfortable juxtaposition of whether BBHMM was just high-strung feminism for a new generation or once able to step out of our “Rihanna is so cool” mind frame was undoubtedly unethical.
It all sounds pretty terrible, and I can’t pretend that my first reaction wasn’t one of extreme discomfort with the depiction of violence and sexualized violence in the video itself, and the reaction some people, especially women, had to it — reveling in its imagery, talking about how awesome it would be if Rihanna kidnapped them. The celebration and applause of a black woman from viewers of the video was beautiful to see, and yet one can’t shake how incredibly triggering some of the imagery in this video might be — how ultimately, it’s a cool looking video, but also pretty messed up.
How feminist loyalists will feel about “Bitch Better Have My Money” will be determined in the days to come as research will be made and quotes pulled out on what happens when women turn their backs on sisterhood and morals in the worst, literally worst way, possible. But again, it may be plausible to ask if a woman should feel compelled to accept or continue supporting cordiality amongst women when she’s already been routinely disrespected in a belittling situation.
Watch below to revel in how Princess Riri acts out what happens when you become the apprentice to Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen from the TV adaptation co-stars in the video) and behaves like an individual like Dexter.
And yes kids, the second dawn of Eric Roberts in music videos may be upon as he plays a hopeless cop in “BBHHM.”