As the mom of two boys, part of my role is guiding two young men into the world of friendships and relationships. They will learn by watching, and thank God I have an amazing hubs to serve as a prime example. Unfortunately, they are also growing up in a world in which the media cards seemed stacked against healthy examples. I know parents have bemoaned influences around their kids, well, probably as long as there have been parents and kids. The difference now seems to be how truly out there the female stars are. It's not the scandal of a lone husband-swiping Elizabeth Taylor or burgeoning Madonna trading on sex appeal. It's EVERYwhere. And the most out there and nasally voiced of them all is Rihanna. And she drives me in-sane.
For those of you who don't know, or need a primer, Rihanna brought us that started-as-catchy-then-morphed-to-sensory-torture song "Umbrella" (-ella ella ella yeah ella). She also was in a car with her then-boyfriend, singer Chris Brown, when all hell broke loose. According to reports, they had a rocky relationship and each had hit the other before. In his car after an awards show one night, he pummeled her beautiful face. TMZ floated pics which you can Google if you choose. It was all over the news, and quite the talk of the young middle school set apparently at the time. Faced with the topic of domestic violence and a young son who has always gravitated to hip hop, we used it as a chance to talk about all the horrid parts of the situation. In conversations, we covered hitting girls (and NOT hitting), what to do when you start to get so angry you can't control yourself, and ways to handle it if you are hit by a girl. We used Rihanna as a teaching point because she was inescapable.
Rihanna next surfaced in our house, once again with the domestic violence topic, when she released the song "Love the Way You Lie" with Eminem. I'm not going to lie, I can't stand Eminem. Aside from the checkered past toward women, he always sounds so mean and angry and miserable. In that song, she sings the haunting line "Just gonna stand there and watch me burn, that's alright because I like the way it hurts." It's not metaphorical. They sing and rap about abusing each other, tying her to the bed, and setting the house on fire. What boggled me was Rihanna's choice to do the song BUT not do a single PSA I've been able to find about violence. I thought, "ok, it's awareness" and no, Son1 (then 12) you're not getting that on your iPod. Meghan Fox signed on to do the video with salary going to charity. A helpline appeared at the end. But, from Rihanna? (insert chirping crickets).... not a peep in her own words I could use to talk to my son about the horrifying things he was humming walking around the house.
I do not expect Rihanna to live every moment thinking about the effect her choices have on 13yr olds, but hey, it would be super nice if she did just once since she shows up at the Kids Choice awards. Hearing her say so little after releasing (and HEAVILY promoting) such a track was frustrating. When your kids and teens idolize these morons, and when dufuses like Snooki are plastered all over the place, you kind of lose your own mind discussing how unacceptable it all is. However, even in the "reality show" universe partying is one thing; violence is another. "When you treat people like that, there are consequences," was met with 12yo boy logic of, "yeah she showed him by making a cool song and being really famous so she's ok with it now." UGH. No, not the message I was going for. Back to the parental drawing board.
Over and over again, I hoped her nasally-auto-tuned voice would shimy its way back to Barbados and take that song that blared everywhere with her. In the trajectory of Top40 radio, I knew it would fade. Just as her song "Rude Boy" did, which had my sons singing "Rude boy, is ya man enough... is ya big enough? Is ya hard enough?" And it did fade, just in time for the song-fiasco in which we are now mired... and yet again, I say big thanks to Rihanna.
If you have a very well publicized romance laced with violence, would YOU of all people release a song about S&M? Does my 13 year old REALLY need to know what S&M is? You know I so love hearing my 11 year old Son2 walking around singing , "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but whips and chains excite me!" When I hoped the whole thing was way over their heads, Son2 chimed in with some confusion "So I guess she liked it when she got hit? That's what she's saying." Thanks Rihanna, on behalf of parents of young men who are your fans, and parents of the young girls who they will be dating and the good Lord willing, NOT treating so violently. Thanks for all the lovely conversations we get to have about it NOT being ok to hit, about it NOT being the norm for girls to like being whipped when with a guy (call me a prude). Please, just go away. You've had your 15 minutes and then some. The shock value worked and got you airplay, but it's getting old. You've made some money. Just go. Britney Spears just sang about threesomes with her parent-driving-to-soccer-cringe-inducing hit last year, so that's done. I shudder to think what you could possible sing about that would have greater shock value. Just please, go away.