On Eminem and Domestic Violence

August 11, 2010
Gerald O'Malley, DO

Eminem's new song is disturbing and not easy to listen to, but as art it has merit. But not the video: If Eminem was truly smart or courageous he would not have allowed his music to be corrupted or himself to be used by the makers of this soft-core Hollywood porn.

There is a remarkable song playing on heavy rotation this summer. Since my kids discovered the top 40 hits station on the satellite radio, I’ve heard the song several times a day and it got my attention because it’s not the typical top 40 pop song. The song is “Love the Way You Lie” by Eminem, a sullen and talented rap/hip-hop artist from Detroit. 

The song is startling because it’s about beating up your girlfriend (or spouse). The lyrics are arresting - here is a sample:

Here we go again
It's so insane
Cause when it's going good
It's going great
I'm Superman
With the wind at his back
She's Lois Lane
But when it's bad
It's awful
I feel so ashamed
I snap
Who's that dude
I don't even know his name
I laid hands on her
I'll never stoop so low again
I guess I don't know my own strength

And later in the song:

You swore you'd never hit 'em
Never do nothing to hurt 'em
Now you're in each other's face
Spewing venom
And these words
When you spit 'em
You push
Pull each other's hair
Scratch, claw, bit 'em
Throw 'em down
Pin 'em
So lost in the moments
When you're in 'em
It's the rage that took over
It controls you both

The chorus is sung by another artist, a young female named Rihanna who was famously and savagely beaten by her former boyfriend Chris Brown, an R&B/hip-hop artist. The unauthorized release of the photos of Rihanna after the beating effectively and appropriately ended Mr. Brown’s career (he pled guilty to felony assault and was sentenced to community service or some such nonsense).

I think it was courageous for Rihanna to participate in this project and re-open what must be a very painful wound. She is a very popular artist and certainly didn’t need to expose herself in this way. She is more than just a pretty face and her career bears watching.

As arresting and terrifying as the lyrics of the song are, the delivery is what makes it so memorable. Eminem spits the words out like a snake spitting venom and you can tell that despite his posturing and actions, the singer reserves his greatest hatred for himself and the shameful, cowardly violence that he enacts on a woman.

Eminem has reportedly been involved in several episodes of violence against women and the song has the feel of a confession. It is disturbing and not easy to listen to, but as art it has merit.

I watched the video of the song when it premiered on August 5th and I felt nauseated. The video stars the squirrel-faced actress Megan Fox and Rihanna in their underwear running around in a house on fire and it makes domestic violence seem…cool. The actresses have had their hair and makeup carefully choreographed and the violence that is portrayed is cartoonish and insulting. There is absolutely nothing redeeming about this disgusting little video which glamorizes violence against women.

It reminded me of the ridiculous Ozzie and Harriet portrayal of American life in the 1950’s – no relation to or reflection of reality. I can guarantee that there is some impressionable jackass out there with no heroic or appropriate male role models who will watch this video repeatedly and begin to consider “Gee, it seems like Megan Fox and Rihanna kind of like being smacked around and beaten.”

If Eminem was truly smart or courageous he would not have allowed his music to be corrupted or himself to be used by the makers of this soft-core Hollywood porn. He should have convinced the producers of the video to portray the real consequences of domestic violence - the broken bones and lacerations and cracked teeth and brain bleeding. He would have interviewed my patient whose husband forced a hot curling iron in her mouth repeatedly. He would have shown the terrified children that stand in the corner of the ER watching their mother cry while I staple her split-open scalp shut and the police drag her bloodied, screaming, drunken boyfriend away in handcuffs.