Piece of Me

Lux Alptraum and others have written better critiques than I could of Rihanna’s appropriation of S&M for her video for the song of the same name. I will say, though, that I actually found the video reasonably effective as commentary on the relationship between the Hollywood gossip press and the stars they cover:

Putting ball gags in reporters’ mouths isn’t a terribly subtle choice, but it’s also clear from the reporters continued scribbling in their notebooks that they aren’t silenced at all, just participating in the game they’re both playing. And I dug the odd riffs on the old-school newsroom towards the end, the desks of All the Presidents Men gone 80s-sherbert-colored and covered in latex. I think it’s telling that during the bridge, where she’s singing about the pleasure of her interactions, her body is covered in newsprint and she’s vamping like an old-school Playboy bunny.

Obviously there are situations where the paparazzi get wildly out of control, and I find stars’ courting of tabloids personally weird if professionally explicable. But there are negotiations and compromises and an outwardly inexplicable relationship at stake. It may not be incredibly respectful of S&M practices to employ them this way, but I think the video perhaps shows more respect for those practices than a simple aestheticization and coopting of them.