Why is Rihanna Naked in All of Her Videos?
By Laura T.Rihanna is one of the most highly-sexualized pop artists of the last decade. She is closely followed, of course, by Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry and, most recently, Miley Cyrus. Oh, and EVERY OTHER American female pop star who ever existed.I actually really like Rihanna. I think she has an interesting voice, and some real talent under her pop star facade. It seems like everyone wants to be her. Hell, people: she is second to Madonna. Selena Gomez imitates her hip hop/reggae singing style in the opening bars of “Come and Get It,” and everyone knows that Miley is trying to copy her look in the “We Can’t Stop” video. Rihanna obviously has a little seniority on these ladies, and is the girl who went “there” first.
But why, please tell me: WHY does she have to get ABSOLUTELY NAKED in every single video she’s done since she became the “Good Girl Gone Bad” back in the aughts? Is her nakedness, somehow, a demonstration of her power, a middle finger to the haters? Or is it just a way for those who market her to strip her down to a weakened version of herself, this strange persona of a girl thrust into fame and manipulated by men?
Her new video for “Stay,” which is nominated for Best Female Video at this year’s VMA’s, literally begins with her taking off her clothes and slipping, fully nude, into a bathtub. Unfortunately, I’ve seen so many of her videos, that this is what I’ve come to expect now. But shouldn’t we leave a little bit of mystery? I mean, do the 14-year-olds absolutely have to see every single inch of her?
The premise of the VMA’s has always been pretty cool: rewarding musicians for putting stunning visuals to their work. The live performances are obviously legendary, recalling Gaga’s “Paparazzi” and Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” among so many others. A lot of artistry goes into making music videos, and the best ones usually feature the artist prominently and really tell their “story,” so to speak.
And on this level, I commend those who work on Rihanna’s videos. With “Stay,” they seem to be trying to show the artist to the world as herself, without any frills (or, uh, clothes). They’re trying to milk her “vulnerable female” persona for all it’s worth. But to be vulnerable as women, do we also have to be naked?
I wonder if, instead of vulnerability, her videos are representing female dis-empowerment at its most frightening: Rihanna as a hardened shell of a woman who is just doing what she’s told. As many of her lyrics from Good Girl Gone Bad confess: she doesn’t really want to be famous. She’s just being used by the execs for financial gain.
From “Question Existing”
Dear diary, and to all them
Entertaining is something I do for a living
It’s not who I am, I’d like to think that I’m pretty normal
I laugh, I get mad, I hurt, I think I suck sometimes
But when you’re in the spotlight, everything seems good Sometimes I feel like I have it worst ‘Cause I have to always keep my guard up I don’t know who to trust I don’t know who wants to date me for who I am Or who wants to be my friend for who I really am
In this way, every time I watch a Rihanna video, I see a woman dis-empowered, someone who is so fractured by her fame that she just doesn’t give enough of a shit anymore even to keep her clothes on. And that makes me really sad.
This woman is one of the hottest singers in the world, but she just gives away all of her power to men and to, specifically, the male gaze upon her body.
Rihanna’s videos are not only shameful, they’re a waste of opportunity, both for her and those marketing her. Why not use her massive popularity to turn her into a message of hope? Why not crawl out of the darkness and back into the light of real creativity, not pornography?
That’s what’s messed up here: she’s rubbing off on impressionable youngsters, reaching her long-nailed fingers into the hearts of little girls everywhere.
It’s a message of doom, but it’s one that should be heard.Let’s hope the VMA’s and music videos in general mature over the next few years, or we’re just going to get more and more raunchy for the sake of raunch, thereby dis-empowering our female artists and rubbing off on our kids. If you don’t believe me, check out Miley’s new VMA photo shoot gifs. Come on, girl. Put your braincells back on. And seriously, you’d better go and vote for your favorite videos to let everyone know what you think.
I’ll be interested to see if Rihanna does, indeed, take home the Best Female VMA on August 25. And if she does, I’ll be damned if they don’t continue to put out more of the same naked videos.