Well this is like a colorful cupcake that tastes like a crusty lick of Perez Hilton’s latex jockstrap. Fetish/fashion photographer David LaChapelle took a rubber glove and bitch-slapped Rihanna with a oh-no-you-didn’t lawsuit over her video S&M, claiming that RiRi copied his style in her video. The video, which has been banned in 11 countries, and has had uninformed press saying that the video is “about abuse,” is now the center of LaChapelle’s legal accusations that “the music video is directly derived from and substantially similar to the LaChapelle works.” In his lawsuit filed yesterday, LaChapelle said Rihanna appropriated eight of his images in S&M, and that Rihanna’s video copied the “composition, total concept, feel, tone, mood, theme, colors, props, settings, decors, wardrobe and lighting” of his work. He is suing for unspecified damages.
I am a fan of both artists, but I also have seen a lot of fetish and fashion photography and video over the past 10 years as a professional sex blogger, and I can’t say I agree with LaChappelle’s angle. I’ve looked at the images, and it just doesn’t add up. Most of all, I strongly feel that LaChapelle is in no danger of brand confusion – meaning no one is going to look at S&M and think that it’s LaChapelle’s work. This is my own opinion, of course, but I’m a fan of LaChapelle and I’m familiar with the images he alleges were copied. When I saw the video I did not say (or mention in my post, as you know I will do) that it reminded me of, or even looked like his work. His work is iconic – and I’m sorry, but the images in the Rihanna video were generic – generic fetish imagery.
Most of all, a significant number of them are actually different fetishes.
Look at the main two images of this post above.
In S&M Rihanna is dressed like a lady of the house walking her “puppy” (Perez Hilton) and taking him out for a pee, in a classic fetish scenario that depicts human-animal roleplay in the most typical and classic manifestation: pup-play. Rihanna’s outfit and mannerisms of the puppy, as well as the puppy’s outfit, are typical for this subculture – as is the suburban setting. She is also smoking (capnolagnia).
However, in the LaChapelle photograph we have two vastly different characters, a different scene and a different fetish that is not typical at all: the female is dressed to depict rubber raincoat fetish (mackintosh fetish, big in the UK) and is in front of a public Russian-looking building, carrying a whip, and is walking a leatherman in a gay-male-leather-culture BDSM outfit on a lead, though he is most certainly not posing as a dog or puppy. It is like a weird mashup of fetishes that don’t go together: nice image, but it doesn’t make real sense in real BDSM because that scenario never happens. It’s contrived. Rihanna’s scene actually happens in real life BDSM scenarios.
I could dissect the rest like this, but I just wanted you to see why I think LaChapelle needs to take a pill – and look around at the contemporary world of fetish. Latex and rubber makers and models will look at these two images and think, WTF LaChapelle – yes they’re both pink, but really? Two very different kinds of hoods, which mean very different kinds of scenes, not to mention this is VERY generic at this point in time:
There’s also this comparison, which isn’t even close (yes, that’s Lagy Gaga on the right):
Lastly, to say that Rihanna’s rigging (photographer Nikki Nefarious did the rigging with pink rope for Rhianna’s S&M video) is a copy of the suspension in LaChapelle’s photo just shows a total lack of understanding about bondage and rope scenes. Anyway, I hope someone who understands fetishes chimes in on this one, because since fetish is seen in such an uninformed and judgmental light, I worry that it’ll all get filed away under “freaky” and creative people will get stifled. This just seems ripe for misunderstanding.
Yes, I wrote Fetish Sex: the only – and most referenced – book of its kind. I know what I’m talking about, and I have taught sexuality students about fetishes twice a year for nearly a decade.