Given the current political climate in the USA, should Rihanna have instead released something similar to this video?
When Rihanna released her "Bitch Better Have My Money” video last week, it left most of us with our mouths open. She has built such a bold reputation that nothing really surprises us. But this video’s bacchanal of nudity and “implied” violence surpassed any wild expectations we have of Rihanna.
It even spawned a few blog posts about black women and feminism. Mia McKenzie of Black Girl Dangerous wrote, "I see a black woman putting her own well-being above the well-being of a white woman.”
Ain’t that the truth.
But there’s another video that communicates a similar message, and instead we see black women uniting to put their well-being above white women.
Emicida, or Leandro Roque de Oliveira, is a Brazilian MC whose “Boa Esperança” song examines centuries of oppression of black and poor people in Brazil. His video chooses to tell this story through empregados domésticos – domestic help that is a half step up from slavery. After slavery ended in 1888, black women became empregados domésticos. To this day, Brazil has the highest number of full-time maids in the world, certainly a legacy of slavery.
The “Boa Esperança” music video has enough similarities with “Bitch Better Have My Money" to make a direct comparison.
– Both videos take on the theme of revenge, one focusing on a maid staff that revolts against an oppressive rich family, while the other focuses on an accountant who owes Rihanna money.
– Both aren’t just videos, but rather short film masterpieces, produced and directed by some prestigious video/filmmakers. Kátia Lund (of "City of God") co-directed “Boa Esperança,” and the french directors group, Megaforce, directed “BBHMM.”
– Both videos involve a lot violence against white women (and white men).
– Both music videos were released at just about the same time – June 30 versus July 1.
I was tagged in a Facebook post in which an American professor, Thaddeus Gregory Blanchette, and his black Brazilian wife, Ana Paula Silva, argued that Rihanna’s video is just entertainment, but "Boa Esperança" is a powerful look at class and feminism.
Check out what Thaddeus (with the input of his wife) wrote on Facebook: "To the degree that I have any sympathy for either of the two, it is for the marginally less economically successful black woman member of the boojwahzee. But frankly? Seeing one fat cat use violence to get back at another (and let’s face it, Ri’s character is in no ways poor or even oppressed in this video, given the resources she can mobilize), for me is, at best, a popcorn chompin’ moment. Something along the lines of ‘Wow! Cool seeing them kill each other for a change!’ As is normally the case with these things, Brazilian musicians have already come up with a far more radical and visceral video: Emicida’s "Boa Esperança." When I watch this video and compare it to Rihanna’s in the context of the current round of the Great Debate between black and white North American feminists, I have to chuckle (in the sense of laughing to keep from crying). So this is what passes for "radical" these days in U.S. feminist discussions of race, sex and violence? Sisters and cousins, time to wake up and think about class for a bit, ‘tá?"
What do you think?