You might have heard of late about Eminem's new song, "Love the Way You Lie". Top of the charts for the last five weeks, the song presents rap star Eminem as a guy who cannot seem to break the cycle of violence with the woman he loves -- not unfamiliar territory for the singer, who spent the early days of his career making money off of songs about killing his former wife and her mother.
The lyrics offers quite a complex take on a man in this situation, so much so that commentators are wondering whether he isn't undermining the song's point. As the argument goes, we should despise this man, but instead we end up wanting to give him a hug.
I've posted the video for the song, which stars Megan Fox and Dominic Monaghan as the couple, below. See what you think.
The fact that Eminem mostly lets us into the man's head, and not the woman's, is a problem. Rihanna, he singer of the refrain, is herself a victim of domestic abuse in the recent past. Yet singing the thoughts of the abused partner she's given just a short hook with little depth. And she is made to seem weirdly turned on by her situation.
But look closely: this isn't a video about domestic abuse as much as it is about those scary, self-destructive death spirals within which some couples torture themselves. The video opens with Megan Fox literally playing with fire -- in relationship films as in exorcisms, never a good sign. When the violence begins, she's the one who makes the first move, and any number of similar moves after that, too.
Eminem leaves the man ultimately responsible; having just apologized, Eminem's final lyrics are "if she ever tries to leave again, I'm gonna tie her to the bed and set this house on fire." (I know he's playing a character, but seriously, I'm still not inviting him to my Christmas party.) But along the way both the man and woman play roles in the nightmare that has become their relationship.
Does Eminem intend to say this is what all domestic abuse is like? If so, nice try. I know the mother of your kids drove you crazy, bro, but threatening to kill her (and her mom) -- it was never justified. Sorry. Thanks for playing.
But frankly, I don't think that's what he's doing. It's a portrayal of the haunted compulsions lurking within so many bad relationships. And as that, I'd say it's not only compelling, it might, dare I say it, help people.
Those looking for a savagely witty parody might check out the newest from Key of Awesome:
Jim McDermott, SJ