It's very hard being a pop star of colour, especially if the "colour" is Black, due to White privilege and racism. No, don't laugh! It's true! ...At least if you're a pop star.
While the likes of Madonna and Miley Cyrus can always give their careers a little pep boost of controversy by appealing to subracist sensibilities and the misplaced chivalry of their audiences, coloured popsters like Rihanna are forced to fall back solely on their booties, often in an almost reductionist manner. Yup, to keep within the magic ring they have to increasingly play the HO to the max.
This is clearly the message that leaps out at us from Rihanna's latest video, whose title escapes me. In fact, all I remember is the bling and "how dat bitch shake dat t'ing." The entire content of the video consists of two basic elements sex and money in condensed and almost rarefied forms, with room for absolutely nothing else between.
Everything you see is either hole or moolah. We see Chanel jewelry, mink coats trailed in the sewage, golden thrones, and plenty of confetti from the Federal Reserve (conFeddy?), and then we see poor little Rihanna showing how many tricks she can turn by presenting us with a variety of poses and lip licks that suggest she is merely three orifices held together by an intermediate biomorphic mass.
In fact, in the atmosphere that the video strives for so strenuously, three orifices seem rather paltry and insufficient. Didn't the Whore of Babylon have rather more than that? And why is she wearing sunglasses if she's in an ill-lit skank den with dodgy plumbing at 4am in the morning? Is it to hide the reconstructive surgery she's having to insert two more vaginas into her eye sockets? Probably not, but this is essentially the logic of what she's doing: sex as a form of total war ("total whore"), or Pimp Fascism!
If Rihanna could come up with some flirt, wit, and tease like Lady Gaga or Miley, then she wouldn't have to spend her whole time imitating a desensitized piece of pole-travelling meat, but that's actually much less of an option for Black divas. To stay mega they have to subscribe to the expediencies of Pimp Fascism, tirelessly working their booties like any crack whore, often to the extent that they become desexualized caricatures of sexuality.
The music industry won't admit it, but in subterranean ways it reflects the great unstated racism of "post-racial" America. It knows which side its bread is peanut-buttered on, and, in this case, Rihanna is the spread.
5th October, 2013