The Real Value of Rihanna’s "Man Down" Video

By Akiba Solomon | Colorlines

Nowadays, when I see the phrase “the controversy over” connected to a black pop culture moment, I tend to tune it out. Too often, the outcry smacks of Christian morality, bougie* respectability politics (“See, now this is what’s wrong with our community…”), and empty role model talk.

Plus, a lot of folks don’t closely watch or listen to what they’re critiquing.

Such is the case, I believe, with the video for Rihanna’s latest Loud single, “Man Down.” The video begins with a tense Rihanna perched in the upper balcony of a crowded train station. When she spots a tall man with a “buck 50” scar on his cheek (in this context, visual code for “badman” or gangsta) she shoots him in the back of the head then winces. Toward the end of the clip, we learn why the tearful singer “shot a man down, in Central Station, in front of a big old crowd”: Because the night before, at a sweaty dancehall, she sets physical limits with him and he retaliates by following her home and raping her.

Continue Reading @ Colorlines


About jennifer williams

Jennifer D. Williams is a writer and professor of English and Women's and Gender Studies. She has published in academic journals and online at, PopMatters, among other sites. Jennifer is currently working on a book that looks at black women's urban literature between the Depression and the civil rights era.

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