Celebrity PR Highlight: Eminem & Rihanna

I came across Jocelyn Noveck’s article via Twitter and had to take a look at some of the points she highlighted about Rihanna and Eminem’s song, “Love The Way You Lie.”

The controversy this song has stirred focuses on the lyrics and official music video and whether or not the they are portraying a “positive” perception of domestic violence and how it will influence listeners. In light of Rihanna’s 2009 domestic violence lawsuit with then-boyfriend Chris Brown, critics question whether or not the pop star really thought about her role in the song and her position as a female role model.

From my understanding of the lyrics, the song is about a physically abusive relationship. The two argue, fight, the boyfriend has struck the girlfriend in the past, they break up and then get back together—the cycle continues. As someone who has witnessed domestic violence, I can honestly say that this circle of leave and come back is how it goes. By making a song about it, Eminem really is shining light an issue that is plaguing the nation but remains in the dark due to the fact that most women will not report the abuse. The fact that Eminem has admitted to being in an abusive relationship with his ex-wife makes him a credible abuser/victim to present the topic to the general public, and if the intention was to raise awareness of how domestic violence escalates, I find the concept supportable.

rihanna-domestic-abuseSome of the conflict stems from the line, “I love the way it hurts” from Rihanna’s chorus. Critics speculate that this could be perceived as her promoting the negative idea that women actually like being physically abused.

The fact that these words are coming from an artist who recently encountered domestic abuse and never made a public stand against domestic violence or attempted to promote the awareness of battered women only feeds into the speculation. It could be said that, one could liken Rihanna to women who remain silent and fail to take actions to prevent further abuse due to the fact that it was widely published that she didn’t want to press charges against Chris Brown until her friends and label made her do so.

Honestly, there are a few negative lines, but it is a song by Eminem. If the lyrics weren’t walking a thin line between danger, insanity, and karmic justice, I don’t think it would be an Eminem song. His ability to blatantly highlight the darkest truths and sell it has been one of his highest selling points when it comes to the Rap industry.

For this song, I feel that Rihanna was a good choice due to her vocals and past experience as well as the timeliness of the song’s release. The song releasing so close after her domestic violence case allowed it to quickly jump to the No. 1 spot on iTunes for over a month. The message and the manner in which it is presented is positive for her current “bad girl” image and suggests that even though she went through this hurtful experience, she is still pursuing her career and the fans support her.

The video producers could have done more to clarify that the song isn’t promoting domestic violence by including small message at the end of the video directing viewers to the National Domestic Violence hotline or by add a scene where lead female seeks help. Even if they still wanted to pursue the burning building ending, I think that adding the additional scene would have appeased critics to some extent and would at least offer an argumentative point in their favor. Overall, the video was pretty well-done in its simplicity and ability to engage. Rihanna’s red hair was a striking match to her blood red nails, and the male lead almost looked like Eminem, which often tricked the mind into wondering who the boyfriend referred to in the song actually was—the actor or Eminem?

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Yasheaka Oakley Owens

Yasheaka Oakley Owens is the owner of YOakleyPR, a woman-owned small business that provides public relations, social media, and online marketing support services to small businesses and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey and Delaware.

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  • You have a good point. “But I love him…” is a common excuse in cases of domestic violence, but it shouldn’t be a reason to tolerate physical or verbal abuse from your loved one.

  • There is an underlying message in the song, but critics have flipped it the way they see fit. “But I love him” is a line heard in every relationship whenever friends and family try to step in, not just when someone is being physically abused.