A week ago today, Vevo dropped the most controversial music video the Internet’s seen in a minute: Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money,” directed by Yas Queen RiRi herself. I’ma offer up my unbridled support for this mini masterpiece in a second, but FIRST, let me give you a run-down of the video and a taste of some of the heat it’s generated:
Comic book-like swag ridiculous, ghoulish garb delicious—the badass, Tarantino-like aesthetic of this video had me rolling for all 7 minutes, so do yourself a favor and hop on YouTube to check it out immediately after you finish reading. BBHMM—side note, this acronym is… everything—opens with still footage of a lavish Goyard trunk sitting in the middle of some lush greenery (cue Garden of Eden vibes). A pair of motionless legs jut out from the trunk, their owner hidden from view.
The scene shifts to the subject of most of the video’s controversy: the rich white wife of the rich white accountant (the latter otherwise known as “The Bitch”) who—you guessed it!—owes RiRi HER MONEY.
Dressed in her perfectly feminine, innocent ivory toilette and self-satisfied grin, Wifey touches up her makeup and showers her neck in diamonds before kissing The Bitch on her way out of the house and into the elevator, where pissed off, crimson-lipped, conspicuously androgynous Rihanna—who’s just lugged aforementioned Goyard trunk out of her baaad blue 1960s convertible—awaits.
The *whimsical* 1940s elevator music cuts, the bad bitch’s anthem turns up, and the elevator opens to Rihanna standing alone—Wifey’s chichi Pomeranian now in her arm, and Wifey (presumably) k/o’d in her trunk. Then, Rihanna and her crew of Multicultural Mutineers—all looking fabulously androgynous and, yes, the posse includes at least one white girl—speed into daylight with (a now stripped naked, handcuffed, and gagged) Wifey curled up in the backseat. RiRi proceeds to swing Wifey from a pendulum in an abandoned warehouse like a butcher playing with her product, subtly swiveling her head to dodge the white meat while she takes a call (lqtm).
The *ladies* then board a freight-boat-turned-bad-bitch-yacht (cue slave ship vibes—more on that imagery, which outraged BBHMM reviewers have neglected to touch, in a minute). Sitting pretty atop the ship, Rihanna gets her fuckin’ freak on under the American flag.
Bitch better have my money, indeed—cuz this is the new America, biiiiitch: est. 2015. The Mutineers lounge—RiRi shooting shit ‘n’ shit—silencing/blinding Wifey with duct tape/blindfold, complete with a painted pair of closed lips and eyes wide shut.
Move to a dingy motel, where the Mutineers throw Wifey a little party. Asses in her face and curlers in her hair, the bad bitches feed Wifey bottle shots and let her hit the bong, and Wifey doesn’t seem to mind. Meanwhile, a ruthless RiRi tries to get in touch with The Bitch (I’m guessing for ransom money/the money that ya girl is OWED), who’s too busy reveling in Wifey’s absence with a coupla side pieces to pick up.
Fast forward to The Bitch’s estate, where Rihanna’s laid out a bevy of torture tools in front of the tied up cheater and his unscathed wife—sorry, @TheBitch: bitch didn’t get her money, and today’s payday (uh-ohhh). Roundtrip back to the Garden of Eden (The Bitch’s backyard), where we meet the owner of those legzzz: a blunt-smoking RiRi, drenched in blood and cash. The video ends with a short clip of solemnly strutting RiRi’s blood-bathed face. Whaddayaknow, bitch got her money.
Alright alright alriiiiight. What we have here is a boss ass Black woman in charge, putting her own needs (to get her fuckin’ MONEY) before those of a willfully obtuse, blissfully ignorant white woman. There’s no doubt BBHMM is ripe with images of sexual(ized) violence, but I push back haaaard against the criticisms of (mainstream white) “feminists” who are up in arms about this video being acutely misogynistic. Rihanna—an unapologetically ambitious Black HBIC…ya, I know we don’t like to see those—directs a vivid revenge FANTASY—inspired by the real report of her ex-accountant, Peter Gounis of Berdon LLP, cheating her out of $9 million back in ’09—where sexism and racism are are indicted simultaneously.
It’s called “intersectionality,” y’all, and it’s not Rihanna’s fault you don’t know what that is—she recognizes (and experiences) the two-pronged oppression of her Black womanhood, and she gives zero fucks if you’re too slow to realize that, despite popular criticisms, this video ABSOLUTELY screams (a less palatable version of white) #girlpower. If you’re too pridefully indignant to notice, allow me to point out that the two (white) men who appear during these 7 minutes play subliminal, victimized roles—one a butchered accountant, the other a duped sheriff (whom Rihanna dismisses with her girlish gaze when he shows up to surveil the kidnapping scene). #Girlpower, indeed.
In a shocking turn of events, BBHMM successfully pissed some people off. Among ‘em is “concerned parent” Sarah Vine for Daily Mail, who—in her
utterly reductive oh-so-feminist rant—shits on BBHMM; “By the time it had finished,” Vine writes, “I wondered whether I ought not to report her to the police. Charges: pornography, incitement to violence, racial hatred.” HA! Oh my, Ms. Vine…“call the police?” “RACIAL HATRED?” Pleeease tell me I don’t have to have a conversation with you (and your daughter) about how reverse racism IS NOT A THING, ma’am. Also, Rihanna is 27-years-old and NOT responsible for your 11-year-old being tainted by the violence that she has complete creative license, at this point in her grown-ass career, to depict. ALSO, BBHMM opens with the explicit warning of language, nudity, and violence—it’s your job, all ye outraged mothers—to keep this content from muddying your children’s eyes. ALSO, Vine, Wifey gets “plied with drugs?” Bitch, please. We both know she enjoyed that hit of MARIJUANA (omg!!!!!!!!!) just as much as the next uptight banker’s wife would.
In short, Vine & co. are super salty about the “unsuspecting victim” (Wifey) getting pawned in RiRi’s money mission—poor, rich white lady, I know, I know. To be clear, I’m not sanctioning violence against women of ANY race, sexuality, class, or creed, and I really don’t think Rihanna is, either; what we’re both saying, I think, is that white women have been complicit in (sexual[ized]) violence against Black women throughout this nation’s short history, and Rihanna’s (successfully) tryna reclaim some of that power that #TeamWifey has robbed from her. And the video culminates with her tearing The Bitch (problem número uno) up—not Wifey.
Finally, I’d like to go back to the boat, the American flag, and a detail I’ve yet to mention: RiRi’s beret. There’s no doubt that the “yacht”—conspicuously labeled “Catalina Freight Line”—is, effectively, a shout out to slave ships. And the trunk? A shout out, methinks, to the holes in which human bodies were shoved in said ships before being sold into slavery in the New World. This is RiRi’s New World, see? And it’s one where a multicultural crew of bad bitches take what’s theirs while their boss smokes a blunt—flipping stereotypes about weeeeed-smoking, criminal Black people the fuck off—atop HER ship, under HER American Flag. This is 2015, y’all—Rihanna’s just letting us know what’s up. Oh, and the beret she wears in the elevator scene? Certainly a shout out to the Black Panthers, who famously wore black berets (and black leather pants much like RiRi’s). Rihanna chills in the trunk—dripping with The Bitch’s blood and looking like a goddam newborn baby—baptizing us along with her into the *New* New World as she brings us, full circle, back to Paradise.
‘Cept this Garden ain’t Adam’s, and it ain’t Eve’s.