From Garth Brooks to Rihanna

If there’s one thing that is sure to send folks into a tizzy in popular music, it’s a song/video in which a woman kills an abusive man. Apoplexy from Garth Brooks’ “The Thunder Rolls” through “Independence Day” and “Good-bye Earl” to Rihanna’s new video.

It’s funny to me the pearl-clutching that can still find traction over the fantasy of killing the man who done you wrong. As if killing a gal, for any old reason, isn’t also an ancient musical trope.

Funny that this one still has traction.

But what’s funnier, and I wonder if y’all have any thoughts on why this is, is that Miranda Lambert is never caught up in this. Is it because the dude in “Gunpowder and Lead” isn’t dead yet? There’s still space to imagine that he gets home and is able to finish beating the shit out of her before she kills him?

I find the absence of that song peculiar in these discussions, but I think–this is my theory anyway–it’s because the moment of that song–as she and her abuser are both about home, both about to finish what his stint in jail interrupted–doesn’t give room for sanctimony. It’s easy to pearl clutch once the dude is dead–“Oh, how terrible that Rihanna made a video in which a man [who rapes her character]  is gunned down!” “Oh, how terrible that Garth Brooks sings about a woman who kills her [abusive] husband!” “Oh, it’s the end of the world that The Dixie Chicks make light of a woman and her friend murdering her [abusive] husband!” But when you’re in that moment before the confrontation–where you know as well as the singer that only one of them is going to come out standing–it’s harder to object.

It’s interesting anyway.

6 thoughts on “From Garth Brooks to Rihanna

  1. I don’t remember any uproar or pearl clutching over “The Thunder Rolls.” And the ruckus I do remember over “Goodbye Earl” seemed to focus on the fact that the song was humorous. You know, “you’re not supposed to make jokes about domestic violence” kind of thing.

    That said, you have to realize that so many of these tizzies are wholly manufactured PR ploys. They are conceived by publicists (and sometimes management), orchestrated, timed and delivered to generate maximum exposure for artists in a world where consumers are bombarded by hundreds of messages competing for their attention every day.

  2. Well, there was a minor uproar over Miranda Lambert when she did that song. But she was only a minor presence at that time, herself. The other folks you mention were/are huge stars at the top of their games when they did the songs.

    The thing with Rihanna, though, is that everyone knows that she has been abused. So, you know, some people are going to wonder how far she means it….

  3. Many people enjoy listening to these get even type songs. No one should suffer mental and physical abuse but unfortunately there are many in relationships that are bad. Obviously this is not the best way to handle these situations but I think it does bring the problem to light.

  4. Ms. Coble, I personally care about Nick Cave. And he musically kills off women regularly, or on every album at least, and on the one you mentioned has some murderous women as well. But he’s still pretty far out of the mainstream.

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