Adaptation is difficult to get right. You must honor the original intent of the underlying work while enhancing that work in a new retelling. Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie” is a perfect example of how two adaptations of the song have failed miserably as music videos. The first culprit is an amateur YouTube video with 2.8 million viewings so far — and the second absconder is: Eminem himself.
“Love the Way You Lie” is a brutal song about domestic abuse. The lyric is sharp and lacerating. Everything is bare and aching. The first adaptation from page to song is outstanding. The energy of the song matches the viciousness of the printed lyric.
The second adaptation — from song to music video — is where everything falls apart for “Love the Way You Lie.” It is difficult to visually match the cruelty of the lyric without losing the wrath; and if you make the video less exciting than the song, you have no reason to make the video.
Let imagination linger. Don’t let a poor video adaptation become the defining malingerer of the work.
In this amateur adaptation of “Love the Way You Lie” — we are faced with a group of kids who create a terrible lip-sync video that completely misunderstands the meaning and the intention of the song:
Why sugarcoat the song with the smiles and the friendly rapping and singing? There’s an immediate disconnect there that does not honor the lyric.
It gets worse — actually unbearable — when the girl in the song chooses to sing part of the male’s rap —
Now you’re getting fucking sick
Of looking at ’em
You swore you’ve never hit ’em
Never do nothing to hurt ’em
Now you’re in each other’s face
And these words
When you spit ’em
Pull each other’s hair
Scratch, claw, bit ’em
Throw ’em down
— and in that wrongful interpretation of the song, she becomes her own, smiling, abuser. It’s all her fault.
Instead of the song being about a man beating up a woman — these kids have reinvented the meaning by making the woman an abuser as well and, in the end, she is deserving of the burning she earns.
That video is a massive mistake in every light and thought — and yet it has almost three million viewings. Are the watchers incredulous, or are they just feeling comforted by this cotton candy version of a song about killing your lover?
If the song isn’t about a crazy lover burning his beloved to keep her form leaving him — then what is it about? Why bother creating that expectation if you have no honor in presenting the horribleness of the underlying meaning? If there’s no Irrevocable Change, then there’s no reason to pursue such a wrongful adaptation.
Eminem doesn’t do any better in the video adaptation of his own song — even though it presently has almost 18 million YouTube views. Rihanna is wasted, and her performance is painfully awful. Megan Fox and Dominic Monaghan are merely going through the motions of precisely matching their actions to the lyric: They’re misused in a simplistic and Naturalistic rendering of a subject matter that deserves a much better bending.
Why is Rihanna dressed in bippy shorts? Inappropriate much? Does she have no respect for the matter at hand? Why is she sneering during her solos? The beauty of the song is her interpretation of the lyric to give it an innocent voicing. I’ve seen Rihanna in concert. Her face is expressionless when she sings. Someone, likely the video director, gave her the push to “make faces” as she sings the melody to show her disgust for the topic — and the result is a ruined performance because she’s “voting backward,” after the fact, on her initial rightful interpretation — and the face doesn’t match the voice.
Eminem is lost — he’s punching and flailing and Dominic is doing the same thing in the video with the same shirt, haircut and tattoos — so why not just use Eminem instead?
Do we really need Eminem and Rihanna dancing outside a burning building? It’s laughable and silly — two things you would never want to include in a serious video about domestic abuse.
Megan Fox is misused and it isn’t her fault, and again, I blame the director. She’s “on fire” in the video — but not really. She’s “pretend burning” in someone’s mind — so she isn’t really hurt and isn’t really in danger after all — it’s all a fantastical dream that she eventually wakes up from at the end of the video. Don’t worry — she was dreaming the whole thing. Nobody was injured. No actresses where burned in actuality or in Eminem Pretend Fantasyland. Why did you waste 4:27 seconds of my life to show me something that never happened?
There was a great opportunity here for Eminem to set the new standard for music adaptation in video — but he took the easy route-by-rote where everything sung and rapped was just moved around and acted out by actors — and that’s boring and forgettable and we deserve better.
Megan Fox should’ve been irrevocably burned to death at the end of the video because that’s exactly what the song — on paper, and in song — tells us. We should have seen her being lashed to the bed, doused with gasoline, set on fire, and watched, in slow motion, as her flesh shriveled into a charring black to reveal smoldering, white, bones that become her.
We need that terrible visualization because that’s what we are owed by the lyric, and because that’s the brutality of the song, and because that’s the reality that Eminem dared to write, but, in the end, chickened out to honor in performance.
When the artistic moment of inspiration demands bravery — we must never substitute cowardice for mainstream pacification.