A Troubling Song About Abuse

Just gonna stand there and watch me burn

Well that’s all right because I like the way it hurts

Just gonna stand there and hear me cry

Well that’s all right because I love the way you lie

I love the way you lie. The song is called Love The Way You Lie. The writer of the song, Eminem, is one of the most popular artists in the world. Eminem doesn’t have hits. He has megahits. So this collaboration with pop singer Rihanna has raised a few red flags and more than a few eyebrows.

Eminem was famously involved in a tumultuous and abusive relationship with his twice ex-wife, Kim. And Rihanna knows a thing or two about hurt – the photos of her broken face were splashed all over the Internet after her then-boyfriend, singer Chris Brown, brutalized her. Two sides of the coin.

The song is a Top 40 chart topper, which means a lot of young ears are listening to it and a lot of young minds are being influenced by it.

What, exactly, are they absorbing?

I can’t tell you what it really is, I can only tell you what it feels like

And right now it’s a steel knife in my windpipe

I can’t breathe but I still fight while I can fight

As long as the wrong feels right it’s like I’m in flight

High off her love, drunk from my hate, it’s like I’m huffin’ paint

And I love it the more I suffer, I suffocate

And right before I’m about to drown, she resuscitates me, she f**kin’ hates me

Anyone who’s been through the destructive cycle of abuse will recognize the pattern: love, passion, hate, hurt, fear, confusion, hope and despair. Repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

And I love it, “wait, where you goin’?”

“I’m leavin’you,” “no you ain’t come back”

We’re runnin’right back, here we go again

I have read opinions in mainstream media and on blogs both praising the song and condemning it. I am amazed at its honesty. The depiction of the abusive relationship is personal, brutal and pulls no punches.

And to survivors of domestic violence, as well as those who work with them, the dynamics are all too familiar. The pattern clear. There’s dominance, there’s control. There’s remorse as well, but this is no preachy moralistic track. It’s a snapshot. It’s a look inside a violent relationship, and it’s realistic.

So insane, cause when it’s goin’ good it’s goin’ great

I’m superman with the wind in his back, she’s Lois Lane

And when it’s bad, it’s awful:

Now you’re in each other’s face spewin’venom in your words when you spit em

You push pull each other’s hair

Scratch claw hit em throw em down pin em

So lost in the moments when you’re in em

It’s the face that’s the culprit, controls you both

Like many abusers he vows to stop. He acknowledges the pattern. But he also makes excuses for himself, and even blames her for his loss of control:

But your temper’s just as bad as mine is, you’re the same as me

When it comes to love you’re just as blinded

He may say it’s his fault, but rationalizes the violence. It’s love, he says. It’s passion.

Baby please come back, it wasn’t you, baby it was me

Maybe our relationship isn’t as crazy as it seems

Maybe that’s what happens when a tornado meets a volcano

All I know is I love you too much to walk away though

And although he feels remorse:

Don’t you hear sincerity in my voice when I talk?

Told you this is my fault, look me in the eyeball

And says he’ll never do it again …

Next time I’m pissed I’ll aim my fist at the drywall

Next time there won’t be no next time

The chilling conclusion of the song speaks for itself.

I apologize even though I know it’s lies

I’m tired of the games I just want her back

And here’s the gut kick. The bottom line is that violence escalates. In the end, someone may die.

I know I’m a liar if she ever tries to f**kin’ leave again

I’ma tie her to the bed and set this house on fire

In the video, Megan Fox and Dominic Monaghan play the lovers and they are, of course, incredibly beautiful and sexy. The fear I have is that young women and men will romanticize the violence, imagine that it is somehow acceptable or inevitable because of the intensity of the emotions. But I can’t fault the video or the song. It’s an honest depiction and it is an artist’s vision. At least it makes you think.

I just hope the kids will come around to see the truth in the song: It may look sexy, it may look hot.

But the reality is, if it hurts, it’s not love at all.

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