Media Analysis

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The song “Man Down” by Rihanna has been very controversial this year since the music video was released. The story line behind the song and music video is about this young women living in what seems like a lower class section of society. She was sexually assaulted by a man in an alleyway and in turn shot and killed him. The chorus demonstrates that the young women shot this man in a public area and she is now regretting her actions. She is feeling bad for taking this mans life and afraid of the punishment awaiting her. At first the music video comes across as potentially disturbing because in the very beginning it shows Rihanna shooting a man in the back of the head and blood everywhere. After viewing the video and lyrics through a sociological lens I noticed many themes that may have contributed to the deeper meaning of the song. This particular video brings up many themes of privilege and social control, specifically with violence in lower socioeconomic classes, demonstrated in African American culture.

In this music video there are many stereotypes that are supported and some that are challenged. First of all there is not a single white person in the video and the people that are represented are portrayed as stereotypical African Americans. Most noticeably is the area they are in is clearly a poor with cracked streets, graffiti all over the walls and holes in peoples windows. The men in the video are dressed in baseball caps and baggy clothing and the women are all wearing scandalous dresses and revealing tee shirts. The most important stereotype that is portrayed is the use of violence and weapons amongst African Americans.

The main premise of this song is about killing and violence. Multiple times throughout the music video a guns is presented and not only by the Rihanna, but by others as well. This demonstrates that in this lower class African American society it is acceptable and almost expected that people carry guns or a weapon of some kind and most importantly act in a violent manner. The article, “Working the Code” by Nikki Jones gives evidence of inner-city violence demonstrated through interviews with young men and women of all ages. The people in the inner cities, such as the ones portrayed in the music video, live by what is know as the code of the streets. The “code” creates a hyper-criminal society where everyone must learn how to fight to protect themselves (Jones, 107). The music video in this sense just supports the idea that there is an ongoing problem of violence in the inner-city areas creating a very negative image.

Lower class individuals are looked down upon and less privileged. They don’t have the opportunities that other people in our society receive, so this forces them to resort to violence. They fall into this so called “self fulfilling prophecy” where they are labeled as less privileged and criminal, therefore driving them into further acts of crime. People of less privilege are brought up much different than someone from a more privileged family; they learn to fend for themselves even if that means becoming violent. Unfortunately for African American’s in our society they are already seen as more criminal or deviant. According to the reading “Watching the Canary” by Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres; every African American has a thirty percent chance of spending some portion of their life under the supervision of the criminal justice system. African Americans, especially men, are targeted by the police, which only further limits their privilege and forces them into a life of violence and crime. In the music video is shows all these African American’s in the street trying to act tough. As Jackson Katz discussed in his video “Tough Guise” people, especially men, put on this act of being tough and violent to demonstrate their masculinity. It is also argued that every single person puts on these performances of “self” everyday. The self that is acted out is different for every social...
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