Its had audiences seething at its depictions of shocking violence and nudity, with ‘misogynistic’ one of the labels used to describe Rihanna’s new video for single ‘Bitch Better Have My Money’. Taken from her eighth studio album, the video has aroused much debate about its content and aims, with many criticizing the singer to have on this occasion, gone too far.
A quick watch of the 7 minute-long video is enough to suggest that Rihanna has indeed pushed the boundaries, and that she means business when it comes to her particular brand of art. What must be said first and foremost is that this single (which very clearly refers to accountant Peter Gounis who lost Rihanna $9 million) sounds like one that a more current, male RnB/Hip Hop star would produce – it’s loud, aggressive and daring, it uses the word ‘bitch’ casually and it doesn’t sound like a traditionally female song. This alone is indicative of a new way of female expression within this genre – Rihanna’s bold stamp on a previously male-dominated music style.
And those nipples, which have thus far been covered up by many females in the limelight, are displayed provocatively but without sexual intent. While some complain that the showing of nipples is unnerving, disturbing and graphic, what we might miss is that when we see them, they alone are not definitive of the woman in question. In fact, they are shrouded by certainty, control and a fierceness far removed from the trappings of sexuality. The nipple has been covered for so long that when celebrities now decide to expose and ‘free’ it, we cannot understand it. Perhaps what Rihanna wants audiences to know is that there is no need to understand anymore, but just to accept it.
The BBHMM video also shows a disturbing episode of the accountant’s wife being kidnapped, trapped in a trunk and even swung naked from a rope, and while it raises concerns about misogyny and violence against women, could there be something strategic about Rihanna and her posse taking control in this way? Does it suggest that – if pushed enough – women too can be just as violent, just as aggressive, just as frightening and just as terror-inducing as men are? Is it a show of the female wrath that could – or does – surface beneath a patriarchal, male-inclining society? What happens when women are placed in positions of extreme and absolute power? Clearly, it sends everyone into meltdown. For those who immediately see the negative, wouldn’t it be odd for Rihanna, who herself suffered from domestic abuse, to perpetuate that misogyny and violence against women is okay? This is something we have to consider when approaching the video – that there is a chance that it could be entirely comical in its message.
It is undeniable that Rihanna’s new video is dark, dangerous and a recipe for controversy, but only in controversy do we begin to ask questions. With that in mind, perhaps the video is dangerous, but with the intention of challenging normalcy and showing women in a light that up till now, has never been considered for them.