When I first watched Rihanna’s repulsive new video for her repulsive single, B***h Better Have My Money, it had only had a couple of million views. It was last Wednesday, in fact, shortly after Nick Grimshaw had mentioned it on his Radio 1 Breakfast Show.
Even Grimshaw seemed a little bit shocked — and he’s not exactly a prude. It had made him feel ‘proper’ sick, he said. Hmm, I thought to myself. Better check this one out.
Not out of some desperate, sad-sack desire to keep up with the young, you understand. But as the mother of a 12-year-old girl, I need to know about these things.
What was it General Monty said? ‘Time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted.’ Never were truer words spoken.
And since motherhood these days seems to involve fighting a losing battle against the endless stream of filthy, violent and downright misogynistic images being rained down on children’s heads from all variety of different media, I make it my mission to know about these things. Even at the detriment of what remains of my sanity.
So after I’d finished the school run, I made myself a cup of strong coffee and logged on to Vevo — the free-to-view, uncensored music video streaming channel used by most pop artists — to watch it.
Like I said, by then it had received ‘only’ a couple of million hits (a mere bagatelle in terms of the reach of a global ‘superstar’ such as Rihanna); but it didn’t take me long to realise it was going to get a lot more.
As I watched, I actually felt my pulse quicken in anger.
By the time it had finished, I wondered whether I ought not to report her to the police. Charges: pornography, incitement to violence, racial hatred.
Deep breath now: I shall try to describe it without completely ruining your Monday morning.
A rich, blonde, white woman with expensive hair and even more expensive breast implants is putting the finishing touches to her toilette.
She strolls through her beautiful apartment, scoops up her Pomeranian pooch, kisses her husband goodbye and steps into the lift.
As the doors close, we see Rihanna, styled like some sort of voodoo fashion victim in black lipstick and hallucinogenic eye make-up, pouting away ominously next to her in possession of a large trunk.
The doors open again, and the blonde is gone: beaten up, one assumes, and put inside the trunk. Rihanna is holding the dog.
From then on in, it’s like Grand Theft Auto, but without the gentle romance or subtlety.
Rihanna and her two female sidekicks (one a glacial blonde, the other held together mostly by studs and chains) humiliate and torture the white woman in a variety of sick-making ways.
She is, of course, immediately stripped naked, then trussed up in the foetal position in the back of their getaway car. Then she is dragged to a disused warehouse, where her costly hair-do swings upside down as she is strung up by her Louboutins from the ceiling.
Rihanna, meanwhile, affects to smoke marijuana, gesticulates incomprehensibly as though she were some genuine gangster (and not just a spoilt little rich popstar), blethering on in her dreary monotone about being owed some money by the ‘b***h’ of the title, who later, it transpires, is the wife of her accountant (the banality of her grievance being entirely lost on her: surely a stiff lawyer’s letter would have sufficed).
The gang move on to what looks like some kind of oil rig, where they paint lipstick on their (still naked) victim’s gag, sunbathe in a variety of impractical fur bikinis, wave guns around and generally loll about the place with their legs wide open.
(In fact, such is the frequency at which we get to view Rihanna’s gusset, I’m actually starting to wonder whether she might not have some kind of medical condition which prevents her from keeping her legs — as well as her stupid trap — shut.)
At various points, the singer phones the woman’s husband in an attempt to make him hand over a ransom — but sadly he seems more interested in taking advantage of the poor woman’s absence to live it up with a couple of call girls.
Increasingly frustrated at his unwillingness to pay up, Rihanna and her stooges progress to a motel, where a Sapphic sex party ensues, in which their victim is spread-eagled naked on a bed, plied with drugs, and the various participants take turns to wave their bodies in her face.
Eventually she wakes up, and tries to ask a passing policeman for help, only to be hit over the head with a glass, and then drowned in a swimming pool.
Having thus dispensed with her meal ticket, Rihanna returns to the scene of the kidnap armed with a chainsaw and various hunting knives and sets about torturing and dismembering the hapless accountant.
The closing scenes see our heroine lying naked in her trunk, blood-spattered and cushioned by piles of cash.
A few housekeeping notes: this video has no age rating, is free to view and is unaffected by parental controls, whether activated at source by your broadband provider or on your computer.
It can be viewed on any mobile device over a phone network.
Typically, Rihanna’s fan base consists of young teenage girls, mostly of secondary school age (that is to say 11 and upwards), but she also — as anyone who has ever eavesdropped on a playground will know — appeals to primary school children, especially those with older siblings.
And yet this video contains, in no particular order, extreme violence, torture, drug-taking, guns, negative racial stereotyping (towards both black and white), sexual exploitation and murder.
Actually, sorry: not just contains, but also glorifies and justifies. After all, the man stole her money. What else is a poor girl to do?
Now I wonder, are you familiar with Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, the 1971 film based on Anthony Burgess’s 1962 dystopian novella?
For its time, it was a hugely culturally significant piece of cinema. It seemed to encapsulate what many thought was the breakdown of civilised society taking place within the wider world. It contained an unprecedented level of violence, which was linked to a number of so-called copycat cases. Eventually, Kubrick himself withdrew the film.
The sadistic brutality of Malcolm McDowell, darkly psychotic in the lead role of Alex, is at the heart of what makes the film so viscerally shocking. The sheer nastiness of it is almost unbearable, from coffee tables shaped as naked women on all-fours, to the twisted clownishness of the infamous rape scene.
What’s so frightening about it is the fact that Alex and his henchmen, his ‘Droogs’, are not so much immoral as amoral, wholly lacking in any kind of empathy or humanity — and as such no longer really human at all.
A Clockwork Orange was one of the first things that came to mind when I saw the video for B***h Better Have My Money. All the elements — amorality, inhumanity, violence and depravity as a hobby — are there, only with nudity and more designer clothes.
At least, though, Kubrick agonised over his creation. He understood the implications of the world he had represented so effectively in art.
He felt some sort of responsibility for the film, and for subsequent criminal actions that apparently arose from it. Rihanna, quite clearly, thinks it’s all some huge joke. What’s more, the Alex character is ultimately punished for his crimes.
Half a century on, and Rihanna, by contrast, is rewarded for hers. Not just in the video, but in real life. She is a global superstar adored by millions. So crime, according to what passes for the narrative of this video, does pay after all.
Because what other conclusion can we possibly draw? Certainly, if one happens to be an impressionable young person, who perhaps hasn’t quite understood the difference between right and wrong, the message would seem clear: if people don’t give you exactly what you want, then you’re perfectly within your rights to go on a drug-fuelled killing spree.
These are the sentiments that, in 2015, are deemed acceptable themes through which to promote a pop song to 12-year-olds.
As I write, the video is four days old and it has received almost 20 million hits.
If that is not mainstream culture, I don’t know what is. That’s 20 million times that woman has been strung up by her heels; 20 million times she’s been drowned in a pool; 20 million times that Rihanna has cut off the husband’s hands with a chainsaw.
Rihanna doesn’t have children. But I really hope that one day she does. Because perhaps then she will understand what it feels like, as a mother, to live in fear and helplessness.
Not just of the ordinary stuff — your child being mowed down by a drunken driver, or getting in with the wrong crowd, or being bullied at school — but of seeing their childhoods truncated by the kind of careless horror the singer glamorises, their innocence contaminated by the slickly packaged sewage she peddles in pursuit of money and fame.
Meanwhile, this video must surely bring us one step closer to the conclusion we should have drawn a decade ago. That, for all the many ways in which the internet improves our lives, there are many in which it also diminishes them.
What we are seeing here is not freedom of expression; it’s de-humanising trash. Such violent fantasies may exist in the mind, but if we allow them to roam freely across our culture, they become real.
A civilised society learns to censor such things for the greater good of all who live in it.
Without such boundaries, we are little more than savages. And Rihanna reminds us just how far we have fallen.
Drug-fuelled killing spree: Rihanna with her ‘victim’ and (inset) drenched in blood. – Daily Mail