As the confounding controversy over Rihanna’s “Man Down” video rages on, the director of her video has now stepped out to defend the video, which shows Rihanna shooting her attacker in a busy train station the night after she’s sexually assaulted.
“The fact that there’s an argument to ban this because this will make girls retaliate from abuse with murder is skipping over the point,” Anthony Mandler told The Hollywood Reporter. “We obviously have a huge issue with abuse to deal with as a country.”
Mandler calls the outcry about the video “knee-jerk” reaction, and reminisces about a bygone era when other bands used their music videos to weigh in on similarly thorny issues, like Aerosmith did when it tackled incest and rape in “Janie’s Got a Gun,” and Soul Asylum addressed missing children with “Runaway Train.”
Something about Rihanna’s video has touched a nerve though, prompting parents’ groups and former BET programmers to criticize what they call the video’s “inexcusable” content. Earlier this week Akiba Solomon explained what the video is really about:
I wish these critics would pay attention to what Rihanna is actually telling us. It’s a story of how predators use rape to disempower precocious, body confident young women.
For most of the video, Rihanna is prancing through her ‘hood in her Saturday best. Her broad smile and knowing glances tell us that she feels safe enough to cuddle with the elders, play with the pretty little brown girls and boys, and flirt at a spot where local bad boys brandish pistols. Later, at the party, she—like everybody else—delights in the erotic glory of the wind and the everyday genius of dancehall group routines.
In other words, she’s a cool girl in a poor-but-cool world—until someone rapes that sense of security out of her. Then she literally has to leave town. Her home.