Rihanna’s field day censored by Irish farmer

Filming of a risqué music video was interrupted by a devout 65-year-old, who insisted that the scantily-clad singer cover up. Was he right to object to the salacious scenes?

It was a sight Alan Graham was unlikely to forget. Surrounded by cameramen, a Bajan beauty was frolicking in his County Down field, dancing suggestively. As she began to remove her top it all got too much. The 65-year-old farmer leapt from his tractor, demanding that singer Rihanna, who was filming her latest pop video, get off his land.

‘If someone wants to borrow my field and things become inappropriate, then I say, “enough is enough”,’ he exclaimed.

Rihanna’s precise state of undress – whether she wore a bikini top or none at all – is hotly debated. The publicity, though, is par for the course for a superstar who seems to court and revel in controversy about her sexually provocative antics.

With lyrics like ‘sticks and stones may break my bones / but chains and whips excite me’, her single S&M was deemed inappropriate for radio. The video, which features the singer restrained behind cellophane, dragging a celebrity blogger on a leash, was judged to be pornographic.

Rihanna’s defenders describe the song as an ironic take on the tumultuous relationship between celebrity and media – and a positive portrayal of dominant females in a world saturated with images of passive women. This is an increasingly common claim by artists like Lady Gaga, who, in the name of art, regularly appears in nothing but strategically placed masking tape, or pieces of bacon.

Even Adele, widely praised as a beacon of integrity and real musical talent in a world of manufactured pre-packaged pop, says there’s no harm in some flesh if it fits with the music.

There seems no shortage, meanwhile, of music videos that show crowds of half-dressed women draped over male rappers. And, while S&M was being condemned, Chris Brown sailed to the top of the charts – unimpeded by his previous domestic violence convictions against ex-girlfriend Rihanna.

Empower or objectify?

Some say it’s empowering for women to use their sexuality in music videos. For many, the likes of Rihanna and Lady Gaga are a welcome addition to a scene that all too often portrays females as passive. Compared to music that celebrates the power of male rappers over ‘hos’, they say, these women refreshingly proclaim that they, too, have creative, assertive and sexual identities.

Others argue there’s nothing creative or empowering about shooting computer-generated fireworks from your breasts like Katy Perry. In many ways, some argue, these new female icons simply comply with their objectification – confirming, through their controversial stunts, that appearance and sex are the most important attributes of a female star.

You Decide

  1. Are today's music videos getting too raunchy?
  2. Does dressing provocatively empower or objectify women?

Activities

  1. Storyboard your own music video, to a track of your choice. Do you choose to embrace, or reject, today's conventions of what to expect in a video?
  2. Research the history of women's appearance in music videos, and create a slideshow to show how they have changed and developed. Are things 'fleshier' now?

Some People Say...

“If women want respect, they should dress modestly”

What do you think?

Q & A

Is there an official body that’s responsible for judging whether material is appropriate?
In the UK, the official body is Ofcom, the media regulator. It is responsible for upholding any complaints regarding media and press – and deciding how to respond to these by restricting what media organisations can do.
How have they acted against sexuality in the media?
Last year’s X-Factor final received a massive 2,868 complaints, mostly regarding a burlesque performance by Christina Aguilera. Ofcom launched an investigation, and later concluded that the performance, which was before the 9pm watershed, was ‘on the very margins’ of acceptability. Ofcom can impose restrictions and fines on shows which are deemed to be too offensive.

Word Watch

Bajan
A common shortening of the word 'Barbadian'. A Bajan is someone from Barbados.
Rihanna
A 23-year-old singer from Barbados, famous for her sexually explicit songs, bold red hair and distinctive voice. Hit singles include, Umbrella, released when she was 17, Rude Boy and Russian Roulette.
Ironic
Treating an issue in a way that does not take it entirely seriously, to make a wider point, or to mock it. Adopting a pose.
Adele
A British singer-songwriter, who achieved international renown for recent album 21. Tracks like Rolling in the Deep and Someone like You have given solace to the heartbroken everywhere.
Chris Brown
An R&B artist, most recently popular for his single Beautiful people with Benni Bennassi. Brown achieved his first number one at the age of 16, but notoriously assaulted ex-girlfriend Rihanna in 2008, leaving her with facial injuries that prevented her performing at the Grammies. He is currently under a restraining order.
Objectification
A common criticism of media depictions of women is that they 'objectify' females – treating them not as active, conscious and assertive human beings, but mere objects, only useful for looking at, and doing things to.

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