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August 13th, 2010
05:58 AM ET

"Eminem and Rihanna's New Video: Is Domestic Violence "The New Normal?"

Domestic violence is rampant in celebrity culture these days – notably the incidents involving “Two and a Half Men" star Charlie Sheen, actor/director Mel Gibson and musician Chris Brown. Yet despite the intense publicity surrounding their cases, some say these influential entertainers won't suffer much financially. And one of the most popular music videos is the controversial “Love the Way You Lie,” by rapper Eminem and pop star Rihanna - about a violent, passionate relationship.


Why would Rihanna, a victim of domestic violence at the hands of Brown, collaborate on such a video with a musician whose lyrics, critics say, are violent and offensive to women? "The message it sends, especially to young people that are largely going to be the audience, is this is normal," said Ayonna Johnson, Director of Legal Services for the Women's Resource Center to End Domestic violence in Decatur, Georgia. "It illustrated a sense of normalcy to a very abnormal dysfunction." Is domestic violence tolerated as the “new normal?”

Marjorie Gilberg, Executive Director of Break the Cycle, which works to end domestic violence among teens, also finds the video disturbing. "I hope that when kids see that video, that they are not interpreting it as a healthy type of relationship." Rihanna, who declined to speak to CNN, told Access Hollywood last month that she collaborated with Eminem on the song because they had both experienced "different ends of the table" of domestic violence. "He pretty much just broke down the cycle of domestic violence, and it's something that a lot of people don't have a lot of insight on...it's a really powerful song. And it touches a lot of people." Johnson worries about the mixed messages coming from popular culture about violence against women. She notes that in the video, "you've got if you leave me again, I'm going to kill you, then it shoots to the two parties peacefully lying in bed together as everything is okay. “ At the end, Eminem sings about tying the woman to the bed and setting the house on fire if she tries to leave. "It definitely has the ability to increase domestic violence...as well as the lethality piece." In the Gibson case, and even with Rihanna and Chris Brown, Johnson says, society still tends to blame the victim. "We're still not quite ready as a society to place responsibility and accountability where it lies - which is on the abuser." Gilberg agrees. "We have to make a decision as a society that we are not going to tolerate violence against women." Although she finds the "Love the Way You Lie" video troubling, Gilberg says it could be used as a teaching tool. "It has to be done where the adults that are around young people are willing to talk about the lyrics of the song and address what's going on and actually engage in a conversation about it."

When it comes to domestic violence, pop culture seems to be sending mixed messages. What do you think?


Filed under: Gut Check
soundoff (119 Responses)
  1. Tammy B

    @ Katie...I took the song exactly the same way you did, that it's NOT acceptable to commit any kind of abuse. Plus I did read a statement from Eminem that his intention was to show it was unacceptable. I liked the video and I think it brings awareness to the situation which goes on far too much.

    August 25, 2010 at 6:51 pm |
  2. Katie

    Hi, as a female that has been abused from a former spouse as a teenager at the time I really feel comfort with this song when I hear it, I honestly wish this song was out when it came time for me to leave him, I dont believe this brings glamour to abusive relationships one bit. I think this song opens the eyes that it's not ok actually. and I listen to it alot

    August 23, 2010 at 10:28 pm |
  3. nayzeeb

    Where you (CNN) went wrong was contacting counselors. I am a survivor of domestic violence, and have been involved with some domestic violence centers that are run by what I call "men Nazi's" women who hate men and will do and say anything that will go against them getting money for their chapter. Who you should have talked to is us victims and survivors. This video show's EXACTLY what it is like in some domestic violence households. We (the victim) learn early on to "fake" great sex to avoid further abuse. The last verse is very powerful in not only the words but the facial expressions on the man.. he's all cute cuddly smiles, but in an instant that changes to "the look" and that is when she starts running to the bathroom.
    The video also doesn't show reciprocal affection and abuse. WE (the victim) will reciprocate ANYTHING to not get abused again.. even cuddling. Are we not allowed to hit back? Are we not allowed to fight back? That is reciprocal abuse? It also did NOT show normalcy to an abnormal situation. This is told from the abusers point of view. This IS normal behavior to the ABUSER. This shows exactly what the abuser thinks when they are in a controlling abusive relationship. That's what's so powerful about this, is the "normalcy" of the relationship from the abusers point of view. Also, I don't know what teens the counselor was talking to, but I have also talked to many in my area about this song, and they all think the same. That this is NOT normal, nor would they put themselves in this situation. This song gets the word out to teenagers that would normally not even listen to anyone but Eminem or Rihanna. While there is a lot of teen abuse, there is a lot of adult abuse. It should be talked about loud and clear, whether it's in song or protest.

    August 23, 2010 at 11:13 am |
  4. T. Weiss

    Are you people for real? When did Eminem's make a career change from hip hop artist to social worker? When did Rhianna? Whatever other boxes you want to put them in, however else you think they need to be categorized, these two people are ultimately artists and have the artistic license to express themselves however they see fit. Still, I would like to point out that if you read the lyrics of the song, if you "actually pay attention," (as was suggested on the CNN blurb this morning) you would find that the song is about how much guilt an abuser feels, and how he knows what he's doing is wrong, and unhealthy, and he can't control himself, and neither can she because she still comes back.

    No, it isn't an after school special, but it is honest.

    If our 13 year old daughters grow up to think that domestic violence is normal, or healthy, or expected it won't be because of Eminem and Rhianna. This song is effluvia in the tidal force of a teenager's life, and it will normalize abuse for anyone- just like no song about the terrors of domestic abuse could teach every victim how to walk away from his or her abuser, or every abuser how to grow beyond his or her destructive patterns.

    Use your brains people. I'm disappointed in CNN for giving air time to such a shoddy report.

    August 23, 2010 at 11:02 am |
  5. Mike H

    The video absolutely sends a bad message about domestic violence. Here's the kicker though. . .these artists have a responsiblity level of zero when it comes to their "jobs" related to sending messages. They can send a message that it's okay to cannibalize litte babies, resurrect Hitler's regime, or to free Charles Manson. It continues to amaze me that society places parameters on entertainers and sports figures when it comes to their art or behavior.

    August 23, 2010 at 10:42 am |
  6. Ahriehl

    * Love is patient, Love is kind. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never Fails.
    1 Corinthians 13:4,7,8.

    I was a child of an abusive family, I watched the same things go on, and i have also been the abused, I still have these issues in my life.

    Love is patient : My mother stayed with my step father, they got passed the violence from working hard together because they love each other.

    Love is kind : Love is not always kind, but it is love that saves us when we are truly loving and being loved. I'm not saying stay with a man or woman if they are beating you to a bloody mess and raping you and making you feel like you arent work the air you breathe. Im just saying depending on the severity it might not be worth leaving if there is a chance, a REAL CHANCE things can improve, but when it does get so bad and you know in your gut that its time to run, by all means get the hell outta dodge before its too late. And dont stay if you dont have the mentality to deal with it.

    Love always protects : My husband is the only one I will trust with my life, because I know he would never let anything happen to me that is with in his power. He has issues he cannot help on his own, that is no fault of his own. Not everyone is born with money, or is fortunate enough to gain money to support their illnesses, prayer doesn't work nor has it ever protected either of us from harm, and yet Gods love is suppose to be the ultimate love. But I know because my husband loves me I can trust and believe that it is that love for me that will keep him from destroying me, or letting anything or anyone else harm me.
    And yes I may be ignorant or maybe even stupid, but no I am not naive.

    Love always trusts : Wrong again. I can say I love my husband with all of my heart, and because of things of my past I dont trust anyone. I am always waiting for something to happen, for him to not be faithful, because of things my ex's have done. But that has nothing to do at all with weather I love him or not.

    Love always Hopes : I love my husband and I always hope and stay with him because of that hope that things will get better and we can get the help we need.

    Love always perseveres : to persist (as in an undertaking) in spite of difficulties. I think that says it all for this one.

    Love never fails : Love is an emotion as strong as hate, and many things can be born from it. Love has caused people to murder, get into fights defending the ones we love, fight with the ones we love be it arguing or otherwise...Isnt it funny how love and hate are so similar in the things you will do for either one? Love can fall victim to hate and in those cases love has failed.

    Love is what we make of it... Not all men feel great after pushing a woman around. People are so blind to the facts of things that relate to violence. Men and women black out when they reach a certain point, that is a condition, just another example of how all violent situations are not the same. Its not like every violent situation is born from someone just waking up one day and saying hey im gonna beat the hell outta this person today just cause it makes me feel powerful. There are many different reasons why these things happen. Maybe instead of harping about it, maybe people should do the research, learn the facts, and not judge everyone and every violent situation the same.

    August 16, 2010 at 7:54 pm |
  7. Ahriehl

    I happen to love the song, it hits home on so many levels it makes my head spin. I didn't even know this song existed until I saw it on the news today. Violence has always been there and this song does not say its ok to continue to live that kind of life. But unless you have walked a mile in someones shoes that has been through it, who are you to judge anyone, be it the aggressor or the victim when you have no idea what each individual is going through.

    Council is not always available to people who want it or need it. In my case, I love my husband and I believe he loves me, and we both want council for our marriage as well as one on one, because we don't qualify for Medical Assistance, we can't afford medical coverage. We tried to use one of the outreaches to get into a mental health facility locally for out patient services, and I was the only one they would see and qualify on their financial program. My husband went in for his eval and was turned away to go to another place that doesn't have the financial aid needed to keep him in the program. So how do you get the help you need, when you still love the one your with and have emotional and mental issues that keep you from getting along to the degree of what people call normal?

    I dont know what this song really means to them when they made it, but to me it touches on the violence, and Rhianna's verse again to me says she'll stay there and fight the pain to be with the one she loves no matter what.
    To me these lyrics are these two trying to rationalize what is going on between them. They love each other, they hate each other, but in the end they feel like maybe they only have each other, and that maybe its worth it to them to go through the fire and hell to make it work, even if its not perfect all of the time. Maybe they dont want to start over, or are afraid no one will understand what is on their hearts, or why they put themselves through this.

    Seriously, There is always someone out there who will judge and blame you for letting it happen. No violent relationship is the same, there are those that keep getting their buttons pushed that causes them to lash out. I see so many people out there saying they didn't think they deserved better. I'm not sure its about deserving better, I think its about wanting better, needing better. There is obviously something there that made you go be with this someone who supposedly turned out to be a bad egg in the beginning.

    Everyone has a dark side, not everyone knows how to control it, not everyone has the money to go learn how to control it. Not everyone is willing to throw away that feeling they have to trade it in for a new toy. A lot of people who end up in these kinds of relationships have a shadowed past, mental issues, emotional issues. Why do you think people go to get anger management classes? Love is not always lilies and roses. That seems more like a cop out so when things get tough, it becomes a scapegoat, and an excuse to leave. Yeah there are some people out there who have never experienced a violent relationship, or they found someone who didn't have mental, emotional, anger issues. Good for them, be thankful. But when you fall in love with someone, and they are not perfect, it isnt always easy to walk away.

    August 16, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
  8. thomas tl

    In a word: REVOLTING!

    August 16, 2010 at 4:32 pm |
  9. Michael Canzoneri

    there is nothing wrong with this video. eminem is amazing and you guys are just jealous so you try to find something wrong with him. you haters need to just leave him alone. this is real life. he lived a miserable life. just leave him alone

    August 16, 2010 at 12:12 pm |
  10. Sally

    I have been in a abusive relationship and i dont think music has anything to do with it. The Family is to Blame for this persons actions. It was seen somewhere in the family and never corrected.

    August 16, 2010 at 11:59 am |
  11. Fatih - Detroit`

    I had to see the video because of all the buzz. I didn't view it as much about domestic violence per se, as I did about the relationship, you know the one relationship I'm sure everyone has had in their lifetime that is all passion, no sense/fire and ice/water and oil. Can't stay but cannot leave. Eminem once again has ingeniously made us think and talk.

    August 15, 2010 at 10:24 pm |
  12. Jessica Q

    I feel that this song is to show how hard it is to break away from a life that you one may be use to or even addicted to. This song say" I love the way you lie" and that is exactly what an abuser does.

    August 15, 2010 at 6:13 pm |
  13. Amanda

    Eminem has always been famous for his "outspoken" music. So all these comments is not surprising. Come on people the song is all about what happens in real life....its promoting nothing, it influences nothing, because its already out there.....ugh just open your eyes!!

    August 15, 2010 at 6:08 pm |
  14. parker

    i think instead of jumping to conclusion and start determining for your self's what the video means, ask Eminem and Rihanna them self's means, i'm sure they know

    August 15, 2010 at 6:07 pm |
  15. Jared

    Eminem has always rapped about his real life. I believe in "Love The Way You Lie" he tells his side from his marriage with his ex-wife and Rihanna raps about her side of being the victim of abuse. You are getting two things out of the song. One side is the abuser which is Eminem's side and the other side being the victim of abuse which is Rihanna's part. I think people take things way out of proportion now-a-days. Music and movie's do not play a role in murders, abusive relationships, or drug usage. Everybody in the world is different, people have different ideas about life and different opinions about things. I believe violence is brought up by what the person see's in their everyday life, away from computer's, television's and music. I also believe news and media also play a major role in violence. News and media point out the so called "bad" things celebrities do. Which I think they need to look at average living people and not just celebrities. This being said I personally believe its the news stations and media coverages that play the major role in violence by always bring out the "bad" side of people which I believe is just that person's lifestyle, it's their everyday life. People don't understand that. Let music be music, television be television, movies be movies and stop with saying that it play's roles in violence because it really does not play that role. Music is something to listen to to get away from their person life and learn about the person that's singing. People may be able to relate to some of the things that are in music. I can relate to Eminem on addiction. I've been addicted to drugs but I've been able to stop using and now I am drug free. The media just needs to stick to news rather than celebrities and musicians and stop saying violence is brought up through music and television because it is really the lifestyle of the person and their everday life away from music and television.

    August 15, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
  16. Autumn

    It's real. It's what real people go through everyday. People just wanna pretend it's depicting something unreal but it's reality. Deal with it!!!!

    August 15, 2010 at 4:47 pm |
  17. Pringe

    I think domestic violence stems from immature and ego thinking,,gratification NOW..And not taking the mature step,to control,,anger hormone horniness. This video does NOTHING for the hormone crapp,just GLAMORIZES the hot make up sex,,enough sexual suggestions that MAKE UP sex is the best,,put the and with get my sex release,,and away we go...Our young girls are getting the WRONG message,and we need them to step up to a HIGH level of loving them self first,so they don't think this is ALL I can have,,I don't want to be alone,this is better than NOBODY!! That's the message we need to convey to our young beautiful ladies of tomorrow..THEY DON'T NEED THE PENIS HEAD TO BELITTLE THEM....EVER

    August 15, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
  18. Rebecca

    I think it's just a song. People always wanna turn something that is nothing into something big. It's so ridiculous. Always gotta have drama in the world. Grow up.

    August 15, 2010 at 4:04 pm |
  19. newfiegirl

    But for this song we all know domestic violence is alive and well but it was tucked under a rug and not mentioned. I like their approach to this hush hush subject, at least now if its out in the open it will be talked about and ways will be found to help not hush. Good for Rihanna and Eminem. If more people did this maybe we could help stop the violence and make people more aware.

    August 15, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
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