The Glamorization of Violence

by Julie Meredith, Safe Harbor Volunteer & Communications Director

This morning, I was flipping through radio stations in the car on my way to Safe Harbor.  During my short drive to work, I heard the lyrics of the Eminem/Rhianna hit single “Love the Way you Lie”:

“I’m tired of the games, I just want her back, I know I’m a liar
If she ever tries to leave again,
I’m gonna tie her to the bed and set the house on fire…”

I listened to the lyrics of Bruno Mars’ “Grenade”:

“Black, black, black & blue – beat me ‘til I’m numb
Tell the devil I said ‘hey’ when you get back to where you’re from
Mad Women, bad women, that’s just what you are,
You smile in my face then rip the brakes out of my car…
But, I’d catch a grenade for you,
Throw my hand on a blade for you
Jump in front of a train for you
You know I’d do anything for you.
I’ll go through all this pain
Take a bullet straight through my brain
Oh yes, I would die for you, baby
But, you won’t do the same…”

And finally, I heard Rhianna singing the lyrics of her Number 1 hit single, “S&M”:

“Sticks and stones my break my bones, but whips & chains excite me.
I like it, like it…”

Pop song lyrics and music videos seem to be depicting relationship violence as glamorous and exciting.  They portray domestic/dating abuse as a game, something that keeps a relationship interesting and passionate.  Rhianna claims that whips and chains “excite” her.  Bruno Mars is ready to “catch a grenade” and “throw his hand on a blade” for someone who “beats me ‘til I’m numb”.  And, Eminem threatens to tie his girlfriend to the bed & set the house on fire if she ever tries to leave again.

Each morning, I turn on the local news as I get ready for work.  Last week, the news anchors reported the story of a man who smothered his girlfriend with a plastic bag and then set their trailer home on fire, her body inside of it.  I remember thinking how similar this story sounded to Eminem’s song lyrics.  And, there was nothing glamorous about it. 

Almost a year ago, the story of Yeardley Love’s murder flooded the national headlines – a beautiful UVA lacrosse player who was killed by her dating partner after he slammed her head repeatedly into the concrete wall of her dorm room.  This story was horrifying and tragic, far from exciting or passionate.

In the United States, one out of every 4 women report that they have been physically abused by a partner or spouse.  This statistic does not include the myriad of victims who never report their abuse.  Stories of domestic violence don’t tend to make it to the headlines until the violence ends in a homicide or tragic death.  But, at Safe Harbor, we hear these stories every day – on our crisis line, in the shelter, through counseling sessions and support groups, as we provide education and outreach in our high schools and throughout our community.  There are many words that I would use to describe the stories of abuse that we hear – these stories are ugly, tragic, frightening, and heart-breaking.  But, they are never glamorous or exciting or fun.

What does it say about our society today, that pop songs glamorizing relationship abuse are hitting the top of the charts and becoming #1 hit singles?  Are we still blind to the reality of this issue?  Or, is domestic violence an issue that our society is simply willing to tolerate?  As I listen to these songs, I can’t help but wonder what they are teaching us and our young people about what we deserve in our relationships with others.  I wonder when this glamorization of violence will end and when our society will recognize the realities of domestic abuse.

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