I’d like to start this off with a bit of an admission: I am not a fan of Shawn Mendes.
Granted, the 17-year-old has done nothing to me personally, nor do I dislike him as a musician, but in my opinion, he’s always been marketed as a slightly more respectable and acceptable version of another Canadian singer whose name I dare not mention here. Alas, he’s not really my cup of tea, but I am well aware of who he is, and I do know that his latest song, “Treat You Better,” is burning up the airwaves.
What I didn’t know; at least before today, that is, was that the video for the song was making its debut. Out of curiosity, and perhaps as a way to see if he could win my interest, I decided to check it out. Spoiler alert: I’m still not digging this kid or his music that much, but I did like seeing him have his butt handed to him at the end of the “Treat You Better” video. In fact, I’ll go on record and say that I absolutely loved it, and by the end of this explanation, maybe you will, too.
As someone who has, like Mendes in “Treat You Better,” been close to people who either have been in or currently are in varying levels of domestically violent relationships, there is one harsh but wholly true lesson that I have learned. No matter how much, how hard, or how tirelessly you love, care for, or want to protect someone, there isn’t much you can do for them other than stand on the sidelines. You can talk to them until you’re blue in the face; literally drag them away, kicking and screaming, from their partner; or worse of all, disassociate yourself completely from that person in order to save your own sanity, but the endgame is always going to be the same: they will not leave that person until they are good and ready to, and not a second before that.
Despite all of his groveling, crooning, and literal crying outside her bathroom door, the object of Shawn’s affections in “Treat You Better” doesn’t ever run to the arms of her unwanted hero. In fact, she stays with her abusive lover, much to the chagrin of Mendes, who, at one point, puffs up his bare chest a la Nick Jonas. Whether this display of boy-becoming-a-man was intentional for the sake of Mendes’ swooning fan base, or to prove some kind of unforeseen machismo, is unknown, but it makes what ultimately befalls him all the more realistic.
Following a near-miss car accident that’s orchestrated by her lover, and an argument that stems from catching him with another girl in a nightclub, we reach our climax. Mendes, in an attempt to defend her honor and all of the many times she’s been hit by her boyfriend, confronts the angry young man with disastrous results. In an effort to save her heroically inept protector, she intervenes and is tossed aside like a rag doll. It is then, and only then, that she finally realizes that she must get away from the man who has brought her so much emotional and physical pain.
In the end, the victim becomes her own hero, while the heroic Shawn looks like he’s going to need some stitches (see what I did there)?
All jokes aside, there aren’t many young artists out there who would use their platform to promote such an honest and controversial message through their music, and I highly commend Shawn for doing such a powerful thing. “Treat You Better” may not change my opinion of Shawn Mendes, the musician (different strokes and all), but it did something even better: it changed my opinion of Shawn Mendes, the person. Good on you, kid.
[Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Stringer/Getty Images]