Two elevators, two incidents, two marriages, one heap of public scrutiny. Do we as the public only support marriages if they purport to match our idea of what a “healthy” marriage looks like—publicly? After the Met Gala earlier this year, footage was leaked showing an out of control Solange physically attacking Jay-Z, her sister’s husband. From what we saw, both Jay and Beyonce maintained composure, as security for the couple subdued Solange. The group emerged from the elevator to awaiting paparazzi and until the video leaked no one was the wiser about the melee that occurred mere moments prior.
Some time ago, video of then-Baltimore Ravens, Ray Rice, was released showing him dragging the motionless body of his then fiancé and now wife, Janay, from an Atlantic City elevator. Until recently, the only evidence that he’d struck her was the ‘after’ video, as he removed her from the elevator. This week, video went public showing the events causing her unconsciousness. He hit her. At least twice. The final blow caused her to hit her head on the elevator’s hand rail and lose consciousness.
In the aftermath of each of these incidents blogs, social media, traditional media—you name the platform—were abuzz with visuals of the incidents, playing them on incessant loops, freezing and going in slow motion frame by frame as pundits and others emphasized whatever argument they were presenting. Burning those awful images into our collective psyche forever.
Myriad opinions have been shared from barbershops to the dinner table to Facebook and beyond on how each of the wives should have responded in each instance and what should happen next in each of these marriages. In the case of Jay-Z and Beyonce, the rumor mill spent a number of months picking apart everything from her faded—possibly being removed—ring finger tattoo that symbolized her love for Jay to how the couple were interacting off-stage during their summer 2014 On The Run Tour. The uber private couple, who for years appeared as a united front to the public and so Dangerously In Love, Flaws and All, were being torn to shreds as stories of infidelity and staying together just for the money swirled about. As soon as we witnessed that, like the rest of us they were gasp, human, and suffered from familial strife, misunderstandings and similar difficulties faced by us mere mortals we proceeded to pick their marriage apart. Some folks are still waiting to see if they do in fact separate this fall after their On The Run HBO special airs.
While Ray and Janay Rice were not married when the events on the elevator occurred, they were engaged at the time, and subsequently married. Putting aside Ray’s career and the professional and legal sanctions that followed, their marriage, from the choice to get married after the incident, to their choice to stay married has now become fodder for all to dissect and opine. And the opinions are generally that they should not have gotten married and that Janay needs to leave him.
When we look solely at each of these marriages, the public has no right to have an opinion, and definitely not opinions that are shared publicly. Interpersonal family relationships are dynamic and often complex. Few of us, if any of us, have relationships that are free of turmoil for the entirety of the interaction. And even fewer of us would be able to withstand the public scrutiny of our relationships or marriages on their worst days. I’m speculating here, but based on Janay Rice’s Instagram it was certainly, “a moment in [their] lives that [they] regret everyday.” For the Carters, that night probably ranked high if it wasn’t the worst day of their marriage.
These celebrities are not our friends or relatives and are not ourselves. While their professions are highly public, and in the case of the Carters they even crafted an entire concert tour around their love and marriage via their music, we, their fans, and members of the public, do not have a right to weigh in on anything beyond their public lives. And their public lives do not and should not include the incidents that occurred in semi-private elevators. If we really are really concerned, we can do a service to our families and, by extension, our communities by loving our sons AND daughters and educating them about self love. We can also set an example of the gentle and loving nature of true romantic love and how to deal with anger and frustration by non-violent means. But whatever public glimpses of a marriage we may glean, we do not have the right to tear it apart publicly, and if we do…shame on us.