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Parents group says Rihanna's video sends a disturbing message


Mike Coppola/2011 Getty Images

With yet another video about violence against women, it's not a stretch to question whether singer Rihanna is exploiting her own high-profile experience with domestic assault to sell records.

Now, her latest graphic video has prompted an outcry from several groups, including the Parents Television Council.

In 2009, Rihanna announced that she had broken up with her pop-star boyfriend Chris Brown, whose abuse had her showing up in public with bruises on her face. (As they recently announced, they are now following each other on Twitter.)

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She then produced a video for Love the Way You Lie with Eminem, in which Dominic Monaghan, the actor who played Charlie on Lost and actress Megan Fox go from kissing to beating each other up.

Then her S & M video, called faux porn by critics, was banned from YouTube (and 11 countries). A sample of the lyrics: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me."

In her latest video, Man Down, she depicts herself being raped, then shooting the guy who did it.

The Parents Television Council is criticizing Rihanna and questioning her message. (She's now reshooting the more controversial parts of the video.) "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," said Melissa Hansom, the direction of communications with the council.

"The message of the disturbing video could not be more off base."

But this also has to raise a quandary for parents: Do these videos go too far, or are they an opportunity to talk to your teenager on a level in which they might actually engage? That's Rihanna's argument: "U can't hide your kids from society, or they'll never learn how to adapt," she tweeted. "This is the REAL WORLD."

Maybe it's Rihanna's definition of the REAL WORLD that's bothering people. Most parents understand their teenagers need to be informed - but what's the video saying? If you get abused, don't go to the police and instead take revenge with violence of your own?

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From a parent's perspective, maybe the problem is that these videos have been so much more focused on the acts of violence than the emotional fallout for victims, and how they can get help. Most teenagers know what domestic violence looks like (especially the overt physical side that Rihanna is depicting). It's escaping it, or helping friends who are facing it, that's the hard part.

But will teenagers singing along to Rihanna's videos hear a message that helps on that front? Don't count on it.

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About the Author

Erin Anderssen writes about mental health, social policy and family issues. More

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