Love the Way You Lie: What's Eminem Trying To Say?

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Eminem flirted with pop-culture irrelevance the past few years, then in one stroke resuscitated his career with his latest album, Recovery. But after returning to the top of the charts with the relatively innocuous gospel-tinged first single Not Afraid, the artist is again courting controversy with the video for his second single Love the Way You Lie. Featuring singer Rihanna, it showcases a domestic-violence dispute between a liquor-addled couple. And while the mere presence of Chris Brown's ex-girlfriend seems to lend credence to the belief that this is a "message" video, some critics aren't so sure if Eminem is really trying to make a statement.

Here's a snapshot of reactions after the music video's debut:

  • Captures the Reality of Romantic Mutual Annihilation while eschewing a public service announcement against domestic violence, observes Tracy Clark-Flory at Salon. "Ultimately, when analyzing the potential impact of this video, the most important thing to remember is that teenagers are savvy at recognizing, and tossing out, morality lessons that are merely tacked onto a tale that is otherwise designed to be erotic."
  • Subtle, Eminem Is Not "Which makes Rihanna’s participation in such an explicitly violent song all the more hard to understand," says Sara Libby at True/Slant. "Rihanna certainly isn’t obligated to forever use her music as a platform from which to speak out against abuse. There has to be a happy medium, however, between advocating for women and participating in a song in which one is getting beaten to death."
  • It's Not a Great Message to be sending to adolescents, writes Randy Susan Meyers at The Huffington Post. Specifically, she singles out this Rihanna lyric: "Just gonna stand there and watch me burn / that's alright because I like the way it hurts." And concludes:"This is not the authentic gift to give our girls. Not when you read the grim statistics in Domestic Violence Fatalities and Homicides/Fatality Review."
  • The Backstories Add to the Emotional Punch of the music video, offers Jozen Cummings at Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy blog. "Co-star Rihanna suffered a beating at the hands of her former boyfriend Chris Brown in 2009, and Eminem has long documented his tempestuous relationship with his ex-wife Kim in his music." And the "event video" collaboration certainly drew attention.
  • It Clearly Builds Awareness "but at the same time, the song doesn't clearly condemn violence against women or intimate partner violence," hedges Rose Afriyie at "If the old adage is true that the first step in solving any problem is admitting that you have one, this song seems to fail at clearly identifying that what we are observing is dysfunctional violence."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.