Rihanna’s new video, “Man Down,” tells the story of a woman who is raped and then shoots the perpetrator. If I hadn’t watched the video I don’t know that I would have picked up on the message of the seemingly upbeat and catchy tune.

Just another example of popular media being used to promote themes of social justice. What do you think she is trying to say about this contentious topic though? Is the woman Rihanna portrays justified in shooting her attacker? (She doesn’t shoot him right away but rather goes back to her house, takes her gun and then tracks him down, making what could be a clear-cut case of self-defense more complex.)

This reminds me of a Huffingtonpost article I read about Jerome Ersland, a shop-owner who shot and killed a man who was attempting to rob his store. Ersland was put on trial for first-degree murder, with the prosecution alleging that he used undue force, and “went beyond the limits of self-defense,” when he shot 16-year old Antwun Parker in the head, chased away Parker’s accomplice, and then went back and shot Parker 5 more times, killing him. Ersland was convicted and awaits sentencing, in a case that has received a lot of attention. To complicate matters more, Esrland was white and Parker black, bringing the question of race into the equation.

So is Rihanna’s character justified in her killing? Was Ersland in his? How do you differentiate between self-defense and retribution?

One comment on “When does self-defense end and retribution begin?”

  1. Esther Brandon Says:

    I just watched the video, and I am also left with very similar questions. However, Rihanna didn’t have a gun or a means to defend herself after the attack. I believe the video suggests that she finds him as soon as she can… which may be grounds for a self-defense case?

    In the Ersland case, I think he did use undue force. The original shot would have ensured he would not have been able to attack or rob the store. Shooting Parker an additional 5 times, seems to me, to not have been necessary.