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Bill Lamb

Rihanna's "Hard" Video - Trivializing and Glamorizing War?

By December 18, 2009

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Where is Anthony Mandler, director of over 10 Rihanna videos, when we need him? Rihanna's video for the hit single "Hard" was directed by Melina. I must confess that I do fail to understand the point of Rihanna humping the gun turret of a pink tank dressed in Mickey Mouse ears. It seems pains were taken to make the setting look like Afghanistan or Iraq with the other actors looking as close to real military personnel as possible. Then we have the star of the show strutting around in panties and naked breasts with black electrical tape over nipples and elsewhere treating a tank as a sex toy. Does Def Jam, Rihanna's label, need to be reminded that this comes on the heels of sadly sending off an additional 30,000 troops from our country to real war? In my mind this is one of the most tasteless, offensive moves by a major pop artist in recent memory. Take a look at the video below if you wish, and let us know what you think.

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Photo courtesy Def Jam


December 18, 2009 at 1:40 pm
(1) Matt says:

Wow. Aggressive review. Guess that’s your opinion, but a bit ridiculous. I’m not a fan of the video (and think the Mickey Mouse ears are hilarious and weird) but 1) you took a music review and made it political and 2) she is obviously wearing a top that has electrical tape across the nipples to give the appearance she’s nude. Maybe you don’t see a difference in the two, but i think the second makes a stronger (and less sexual) statement.

November 27, 2011 at 10:21 am
(2) diman hey says:

rihanna is a pudo

December 19, 2009 at 4:11 am
(3) Alex says:

I would have to agree with Matt. While it is definately not my favorite Rihanna music video, I was expecting a lot worse by what you wrote in your review. I think the main point of the video was for Rihanna to “play” the role of being tough and hard, and while it wasn’t always portrayed in the most tasteful way i think she got her point across. And I did not see her treating the pink remotely close to a sex toy. Yes it was sexual but I was expecting something that would be a little more unacceptable. I agree with 95% of what you usually write on your reviews, but I think you got a little carried away on this one. However I will still continue to be a devoted reader and love reading your articles and reviews!!!

December 19, 2009 at 1:03 pm
(4) Evan says:

I’m a huge fan of Anthony Mandler and while I think if he had done this video, it would have had a lot more “bite” to it, I wasn’t disappointed by Melina’s work either. Both director’s have a certain style, and at times it seems very similar but I do think Mandler would have added more depth to this video.

December 20, 2009 at 12:56 pm
(5) Elizabeth says:

Agreed on all points. I was horrified by her video…mindless, tasteless and her timing could not be worse. 30,000 more troops were recently called. Explosions….pink tanks…Arabic writing on the walls. Soldiers are losing their lives as we speak and more on the way. She’s an idiot. So insensitive.

December 21, 2009 at 9:25 am
(6) So Trashy says:

I agree with the Review.

Rihanna and her silly music are tasteless!!!

Could she cover her breasts for at least 1 second?

December 24, 2009 at 3:37 pm
(7) jr says:

you didn’t get it. period.

This is a video commenting on gender roles.
its about putting rihanna in the role of a man/power.

its not about glamorizing war

December 24, 2009 at 4:30 pm
(8) Bill Lamb says:

Rihanna’s own comments on the video to MTV News

“It’s couture-military. Everything is surrounded by the whole idea of something military. We have tanks, we have troops, we’ve got helicopters, we’ve got explosions… Tight gear, lot’s of cute outfits, lot’s of bullets. Crazy.”

Perhaps she doesn’t “get” her own video?

January 9, 2010 at 2:04 pm
(9) Reality Check says:

It’s a sad day for women worldwide when a half-naked woman contorting around like a stripper on a pink tank and wearing a helmet with Mickey Mouse ears makes millions! 99% of the performance is showing @ss. Very sad and a step back for women everywhere!

January 11, 2010 at 10:55 am
(10) DIANA says:

Rhianna is satanic all her songs from umberella are all satanic. . She messed up and i dnt give a crap what u think people are so blind to see do ur bluddy research dont listen to her music…. She rather be here lukin fly with her wordly possions thinkin tht she gonna be fine after her death nahhhh ..

January 20, 2010 at 11:18 pm
(11) Serenity says:

I totally agree with the article and if she wanted to cross genders, she should have just dressed up like a man for goodness sakes!!! All of the mainstream artists (at least the majority) are all using subliminal messages and demonic forces including Rhianna. It’s sad but true. I did my research and I did look at the video simply for that. (volume on mute) and I’m curious about the Mickey Mouse ears now. I’m trying to find the affiliation with that. Guard your minds n souls people we are truly living in the last days JESUS IS SURELY COMING SOON!!!

January 23, 2010 at 1:27 pm
(12) Jo Reid says:


February 10, 2010 at 8:44 pm
(13) imogen says:

I absolutely agree with the article.

I didnt quite understand the first comment something about commenting on political matters…the article is simply commenting on the fact she’s making war look like a glamerous film scene, its distastefull concidering the number of troups that have died.

I 100% guarantee anyone who disagrees with this wouldnt if they had lost someone in these wars…

and as for her wanting to show a gender swich, she looks half naked and straddles a gun…nice one rihannah…that just sums up how women are concidered sex objects in our culture

February 11, 2010 at 1:59 pm
(14) AK says:

If it matter any, she’s not actually American. And I actually love the aesthetic of the video.

February 13, 2010 at 2:42 am
(15) Rational says:

Wow.. I would never think someone can connect a Bajun singers video with an American war so easily but imagination is powerful huh? I guess I don’t take music that seriously. Musicians aren’t politicians. If parents would PARENT and not let famous strangers raise there kids they wouldn’t have so much influence anyways. Videos are shot a month or two in advanced so I’m sure she didn’t mean to hurt your feelings with her unthoughtful release of her video that she edited & shipped herself..Oh no..that would be the record companies job. I wish people would think with their minds & not with their hearts. The songs called Hard as in manly. Whats something thats masculine?? The military. What do they do? Fight wars and protect people. Oh Like in the Middle East right now? Yeah..Boom concept done.. Video shot.. she didn’t call in political advisors who told her about the surge n she just went F it I got the pink tank already. Please people think rationally with these things. YOU give celebrities power with this over sensationalist bs… Oh and as for the way shes dressed. Its her body. You have the right to an opinion but how you feel and want to display your body differs from the next person and you would be stupid to say one person determines how a insanely large group is perceived

February 16, 2010 at 8:09 am
(16) cristina says:

cldn’t agree more wit Bill Lamb. that video was tasteless. a complete waste of effort, resources, and time.
war is war. get it rite ppl.

August 31, 2010 at 7:50 pm
(17) Liz says:

I absolutely despise this video. As a veteran of our nation’s military, a female at that, this is embarrasing and thoughtless. If she really thinks war is a joke maybe she should join the military and risk her life in the situation she simulated as “cool.” She needs to stop pretending thousands of our men and women aren’t dying to protect ignorant people like her. To be a woman serving is hard enough, there’s plenty to prove. To have one dress as what people are already convinced of is insulting.

October 14, 2010 at 10:05 am
(18) graja24u says:

I well understand it. I can help with the question decision. Together we can come to a right answer.

gry zrecznosciowe
| nowe gry

June 17, 2011 at 9:56 pm
(19) Bob says:

I just watched the video… from Baghdad, Iraq. Mr. Lamb, have you ever seen one of those old pin-up girl posters from the 40′s, where they are wearing some skimpy version of a military uniform? Do you consider that offensive? Also, Mr. Lamb, if you think any pains were taken to make anything in the video look realistic, then you obviously haven’t seen an actual soldier or Marine lately. That was a military-themed fantasy video in which uniforms and weapons from many different countries and time periods were used. Are we so sensitive that we can’t even make art which derives its images from military themes anymore?
Also, when people are that sensitive about offending military members, even when it pertains to a video as harmless and comic-bookish as this one, it smacks of insincerity. You want everyone to know that you support the troops, I got it. Thanks a million. When we get offended by something, we’ll let you know, I promise. But we really don’t need your feigned indignation to protect us from the big bad world of attractive R&B singers. You’d do us a bit more credit if you assumed we had somewhat thicker skin than that. If you want to get offended about every little piece of pop culture that references the military in anything but cheesy, fawning, Toby-Keith-style worship, I’m sure there’s a recruiter near you. But something tells me that you might not be “Hard” enough for that particular line of work.

June 22, 2011 at 12:16 pm
(20) Dan says:

I have to agree with Bob on this one. Basically, lighten the f**k up, people. The video says absolutely nothing disrespectful towards our own military personnel. It’s merely a trite, 3-5 minute pop culture art piece meant to entertain. There is clearly no Rage Against the Machine-type anti-government message being shoved down our throats. The song has absolutely nothing to do with our military, nor does the concept of the video. I think our soldiers have other things to worry about right now than what Rihanna is wearing or doing in her music videos. If anything, she gave some lonely guys out there in the Middle East a nice little motivational gift by way of some innocent “T & A” visuals (straight guys love that stuff, you know), as well as a reminder of what they’re fighting for: the freedom to pretty much do and say whatever the hell we want here in America, within the limits of the law, which includes making trite pop music and strutting around with tape over your nipples, if you damn well please. This country is way to hypersensitive and quick to scream offensive about silly things like this. While she may be a foreigner from Barbados, Rihanna is not a threat to our national security.

July 20, 2011 at 8:36 pm
(21) Her says:

Seriously the song is good. But i totally agree with the article because she crossed a line. It’s not because she became a famous pop star that she has the right to play with such important subjects. War doesn’t just kill troups but also people. It’s not fair. And getting dressed like that, with all the things that are in her video (the meaningless writings, th minnie cask.. )seem very simple to me: she doesn’t get what she’s doing or she really knows and just keeps on playing with it. She wants to create a fuss around her that’s all. And music nowadays is often about crossing lines and provoking people on many fields.

September 11, 2012 at 11:31 pm
(22) Medusa says:

I am writing my coursework on how popular music conveys dominant ideologies to the people in guise of trifle, short lived art from. This is one of the most powerful ways by which the hegemony is executed as, in the famous popular cultural critic Adorno’s words, “Unhidden, they would provoke resistance.” “Hard” is one of the texts I chose because of its explicit reference to war and it is overtly propagandist. I have been reading as many authentic reviews as possible on this text and i think this is the only sensible review that I have come across. And I also I am feeling extremely happy seeing the comments as quite a many have agreed with the review defying the Frankfurt school’s take-on about the audience that it consume pop music thoughtlessly. Thanks a lot, Mr. Lamb.

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