Being a victim does not, as she herself has often hoped wouldn’t be how people judged her, make her weak. It makes her human. A woman who, no matter what, did not deserve the horrific beating her boyfriend committed in 2009.
In the four years since that fateful event, the public has reacted to the couple’s on- and off-relationship in ways that run the gamut of emotions, from puzzled to disheartened to angry to celebratory. The couple’s response to the world’s thoughts about their relationship were put on display on Unapologetic’s “Nobody’s Business,” where the young lovers harmonized together, “You’ll always be mine/Sing it to the world/You’ll always be my boy/You’ll always be my girl/It ain’t nobody business/Ain’t nobody business/But mine and my baby’s.”
Wishful thinking, indeed. In reality, it’s everybody’s business because they’re superstars.
Chris was hauled into court yesterday to face a judge after word spread he hadn’t properly fulfilled his community service. The same community service he received as a part of “paying his debt to society” for beating Riri in 2009. In that LA courtroom, a blank-faced Rihanna sat in the front row to show her support for the man she’s been unable to shake.
As a woman, I empathize with her and agree with her assertion that it “ain’t nobody’s business” but, as a pop culture writer, it’s hard to turn away from the social responsibility that comes with her celebrity, whether she chooses to accept it or not. Admittedly, there’s an unfair expectation placed on Rihanna by critics, feminists and the media that has to do with race and who society deems worthy of victimhood. The flipside of the coin is while Chris and Riri see boasting their relationship status as them just living their lives, we interpret the constant Instagram photos, subtweets about one another and collaborative songs as their middle finger to the world. And that’s cool, but they can’t expect us to remain silent or pretend we don’t see what’s going on.
My frustration with Rihanna (although I recognize she’s a victim and has a right to love whom she loves) is twofold: Fame comes with responsibility and she’s being made a fool of. Rihanna can do interview after interview and say she’s not a role model, but she is. Being a role model isn’t something she chooses; rather, it chose her because of her profession. Impressionable girls look to her to form their ideas on fashion, what’s cool, morality, sexuality and yes, love. Her actions send the message to women that this—a man beating you to a pulp, dissing you on a song, then making a video of being in love with two women—is true love. If Rihanna is too young to understand true love is devoid of abuse, how will youth looking at her as their idol be able to? They won’t and that is dangerous.
On the latter point, Rihanna looks like she has the starring role in Why Do Fools Fall In Love.
Rihanna opened up to Oprah about feeling like she had to save Chris from the world because he was rightfully criticized by the public for his actions. She is still operating out of a “savior” mode all while neglecting what’s best for herself. Supporting him in court is only the latest effort. Call me crazy but a man who beats you, shows very little remorse, then suggests you’re a “ho” in a song, finally admitting to loving you and another woman, just doesn’t deserve the public support of showing up with him to a court hearing. But since she chooses to do so her actions beg the question: Where’s the reciprocity? What has Chris done to support her that hasn’t been remotely self-serving?
It bears mentioning again that Rihanna is not weak. She’s a woman, like many others, who doesn’t recognize her power. Once she realizes all she’s giving and how little return she’s getting in her investment, we can only hope she’ll walk away. Her epiphany will be one of epic magnitudes. Her story hasn’t been completely written. She just needs little more time to soil the ink on the pages.
[Photos: Getty Images, Splash News Online]