“Mommy, what’s a ball gag?” If Rihanna has any underage fans left after “Rated R” scared most of them away, expect to have to answer that question after watching her new video for “S&M,” the latest single from "Loud."
Once you have a song with that as the title, you can’t really be surprised if there’s bondage, ball gags and rubber suits involved, can you? It may have been fun if Rihanna had gone and made the sweetest, purest video ever for a song about “sex in the air, I love the smell of it. Sticks and stones may break my bones/but chains and whips, they excite me," but instead she went for the obvious.
The broader, "high-brow" concept here is that her real S&M relationship is with the press. We see her behind plastic during a press conference, as headlines, presumably some of them real, about her “daddy issues” or her voice “crackling and popping” scroll by. The reporters are “gagged,” and she even gets Perez Hilton, whose 15 minutes of fame are soooo over, to parade around on all fours on a leash and pretend to pee on a fire hydrant. She's never involved with a man in the film, just the press, including a kiss on the taped lips of a female journalist. Way to puss out, Rihanna.
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By the time we get to where she’s dressed like a little girl and trussed up like a turkey and is thrusting around, it’s all gotten quite dreary, although we’re sure it will provide a big turn on to 13-year old boys. And don’t get me started on her performing oral sex on a banana. She basically pulls out every cliche, including licking ice cream, a strawberry with whipped cream, etc. That way, when anyone screams foul and that it’s another video where a woman is allowing herself to be totally exploited and is reduced to nothing but her sexuality, she can respond,”It’s a joke! I'm doing a parody! Don’t you get it?”
Guess what? I don’t. Leave the parodies to Weird Al. Maybe it’s because I just saw the documentary “Miss Representation” at the Sundance Film Festival that pulls together all the ways in which women are powerless and are valued only for our looks and sexuality, but this is just tiresome. Rihanna has a voice and if this is the way she wants to use it— as a sex kitten who wants to purr about how good she is at being bad—good for her. At least it’s well photographed and colorful, but it is also oh, so predictible. The video doesn’t push envelopes, it just pushes stereotypes.
What do you think?
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