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?