“Sticks and stones may break my bones,” [artist id="1940303"]Rihanna[/artist] sings in her latest single, “S&M,” “But chains and whips excite me.”
She even puts a little extra stank on the word “whips,” for added sass. And, sure, you could write those lines off as nothing more than the kiss-off to the chorus, but really, they’re so much more. For better or worse, they also represent Rihanna’s career as it stands right now: the bad girl who just wants to have fun while, at the same time, not dealing with the repercussions of said behavior.
In other words, she has apparently become a media martyr.
Or at least that’s the way she plays it in the brand-new “S&M” video, which, despite all the candy-colored kink, is really just another in a long line of videos that portray the pop star as a pariah, a target unjustly hounded by the mean-spirited media, raked over the coals and flogged for sport. Basically every pop star over the past three decades has, to some degree, made a clip like this — Michael Jackson’s epochal “Leave Me Alone,” Madonna’s “Human Nature,” Britney’s triumvirate of “Everytime,” “Womanizer” and “Circus” — and they usually play out in the same fashion: salacious headlines spin toward the camera, grotesque paparazzi pop flashbulbs, monstrous reporters jut their microphones with little regard for life or limb. The star can do little but duck and cover (or, in Britney’s case, drown herself in the bathtub). They are, without a doubt, the victims.
And while the “S&M” video does cover that familiar territory — the headlines, the garish “reporters,” Rihanna literally stuck to a wall, suffering the slings and arrows — it also breaks new ground in that Rihanna isn’t just getting flogged, she’s also doing the flogging. She is, in keeping with the subject of the song, both the dominated and the dominatrix, dishing out punishment to those members of the media who have hurt her (of course, being Rihanna, she does it in the most playful way possible; it’s not exactly a stretch to call “S&M” the nicest sadomasochistic video in history). She sprinkles them in pink popcorn, kisses them and basically teases them with her white whip. Even when she has Perez Hilton on a leash, she still takes a moment to tickle his belly. It’s as if she’s attempting to kill her detractors with kindness.
It’s a novel approach, and it will be interesting to see how the media respond. They could (and probably will) simply focus on the more sensational aspects of the “S&M” video — the leather, the kink, the fact that the song is called “S&M” — or they could dig a bit deeper, perhaps realize that they’ve treated Rihanna a bit unfairly (especially in the wake of the Chris Brown assault) and move on. Of course, the latter probably won’t happen, but you’ve got to give RiRi credit for trying to push things forward by addressing the past. It’s how the pop-star mind operates: eternally the victim, even when they’re the ones doling out the punishment.
What did you think of the “S&M” video? Share your reviews in the comments!