Britney Spears recently released a video for her single “Criminal” which tells the story of a girl leaving an abusive partner for a criminal. The video opens with Britney and her partner at an event where he publicly humiliates her by yelling and grabbing her. When he loses control of his temper, he violently drags Britney outside of the party. He screams at her for “disrespecting him” and slaps her hard. Another man steps in and punches the abuser to the ground and ensures that Britney is ok.
While we appreciate a bystander interfering with a public display of domestic violence (though not in the method we would recommend), what happens next is not the healthiest option for Britney. The song begins and Britney jumps into a relationship with her newfound love, a dangerous criminal. Britney immediately shows signs of loyalty to her new partner, though she sings that he is a “loser” and a “bum” who lies and is recognizably unreliable. The lyrics seem to plead with her mother to not worry because she will “be alright” even though her new boyfriend “has got no conscience” and kills for fun.
Britney seems to acknowledge that her new relationship is not healthy, but she seems to be blinded by the physical passion they share as a couple. Because Britney was so clearly unhappy with her abusive ex, she is excited by these intense, positive feelings and may be mistaking them for mutual love.
Britney’s criminal boyfriend influences her to act in ways that she would not otherwise. In the video alone, we see her threaten someone with a gun, steal money and a car and she hides her identity to stay on the run with her boyfriend. This loss of self ultimately leads to isolation.
Even though this video is a dramatization, it brings up elements that do happen in real life. It can be hard to want to immediately replace the void left by an ex, even an abusive one. This may not really give you time to check in with yourself and take care of you.
Also, though a new love may feel exciting, any relationship where you are not free to make your own decisions, you are in serious danger or you are forced to do something you aren’t comfortable with is not healthy. Any time that you are coerced into a situation, someone has used their power to take your self-control away from you. For more about power and control, check out our Power and Control Wheel.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? If you or a friend has experienced something similar to the story in the video or you have any questions, please call, chat or text us and an advocate is waiting to talk to you.