rethinking rihanna: #bbhmm’s racial rihvolution

It’s been condemned for its violence and nudity; but here’s 10 reasons why Rihanna might just have made the most important pop video of 2015…

by Rozan Ahmed
07 July 2015, 9:30am

Over 17 million views in five days is one thing. The most downloaded female in music's digital history is another thing. But this Bitch Better Have My Money (BBHM) video right here - this, is a whole other... thing.

My mind is blown by Rihanna's latest offering to the world, and it's not because of the fairly basic "revenge plot" storyline, or the generally excellent cinematic experience, or the many, many "yasssss" indicators.

The list of reasons behind my overall wow can be found in the stunningly tragic symbolism dotted throughout this potential masterpiece. It's got everyone, from frothing feminists and ratchet activists, to all kinds of regular citizens and long-word jargon loving "critics" talking about it. A lot. 

We're told Riri had a hand in the creative direction of BBHM's visual display. Should this be the case, then please, let's all give her a very slow clap. If it isn't, let's all give her a very slow clap anyway. Because it's her position, her presence, her undeniable "cannot help but lustfully stare at you" Cleopatra-esque energy that brought this example of televised revolution to the eyes of millions. 

1. First of all, let's talk about the societal issues raised in BBHMM
Does the video address economic inequality? The opening sequence absolutely left a stench of colonial odour didn't it? Thanks to the interiors of an overly decadent penthouse occupied by a quintessential white girl doing quintessentially "white girl" things. Couple that with Rihanna's ignored "rugged" follow-up (shade thrown in the elevator) and one can't help but consider a contemporary version of what used to be, or arguably, unfortunately, still is ("Fucked up my credit" and "Put me in debt"). 

2. Is the video some kind of inadvertent call for immediate reparations? Obviously. That barn scene was nothing short of a reversed Jim Crow. And before we hear more cries of how unbearably violent this was to watch then let me please say the words Django Unchained and 12 Years a Slave. Jim Crow in real life. Slavery in real life. And the very real forever paining horrors that took place? In real life? Exactly.

3. What about the idea of strength in self? Strength in unity? 
An empowered Black girl decides to go after what she deserves, even if it means humiliating a wealthy white woman, in all her enforced purity and projected sacredness. And supported by a colourful duo of an "equally disenfranchised Caucasian" and a bad-ass American Indian. But wait, is she Indian? The brown ambiguity about her could also suggest any or all "ethnic" groups evidently dissatisfied by their ill treatment, and place, in said scenario, or society. 

4. And what, in all WTFs was that random oil tanker appearance for?
Unless there's a message around corporate greed, the coveted corrupt fight for natural resources and its relationship to the weapons industry, I'm left completely flummoxed as to why an over sized industrial barge was used in this gun-toting oceanic segment, when it could have easily been your typically incorporated white sofa-filled luxury yacht.

She also shot her phone. Why? A sincere fuck you to the ultimate human distraction that has become the smart phone? 

5. The rage though. So much unadulterated, glorious rage
It was a tumultuously silent kind of anger at first, i.e. graciously kidnapping the victim and ironically placing her in a beautiful Goyard trunk. Locked in, she was, trapped in a luxurious box. Isn't creative symbolism just everything?

6. Before the rage reaches boiling point though…
It's momentarily and quite eerily halted by a graphic session of drugs and alcohol. A euphoric sense of intoxicated oneness. Dreamy, temporary, ideal and unreal. 

7. She ends up with her requested funds
But is she happily ever after? Or did the bloody bank notes draped over a sombre and exhausted looking naked body, somehow echo Baartmen's story of laying inside the same luxurious trap. The phrase "for the love of money is the root of all evil" springs to mind.

8. Who the "bitch" turned out to be...
Think about that. 

9. Nothing's a coincidence…
And timing is paramount. Have a think about that too.

10. Did Rihanna just visually revolutionise revolution?
Is she inciting revolt, or reflecting the times? Or both? Or am I being way, waa'aay too deep? I'll think about that. Because maybe, that's exactly what she wants us to do. Think.


Text Rozan Ahmed

Think Pieces
Bitch Better Have My Money