Demi Lovato Recreated Her Overdose For a New Music Video, but Not Everyone's a Fan
Warning: This article discusses addiction and drug overdose.
Demi Lovato has been open about her journey with addiction and sobriety for over a decade now, and her latest release is perhaps the most intimate depiction of her experiences yet. The singer's music video for "Dancing With the Devil," which premiered at midnight, reimagines the night of her 2018 overdose and hospitalization. Though the overdose was highly publicized, Lovato said in her recently released YouTube docu-series, "I actually don't think people realize how bad it actually was."
"I had three strokes," she said, as reported by Entertainment Weekly. I had a heart attack. I suffered brain damage from the strokes. I can't drive anymore. And I have blind spots in my vision so sometimes when I go to pour a glass of water, I'll totally miss the cup because I can't see it. I also had pneumonia because I asphyxiated and had multiple organ failure...I'm really lucky to be alive. My doctors said that, like, I had five to 10 more minutes. And had my assistant not come in, I wouldn't be here today."
The music video for "Dancing With the Devil" closely follows the night of Lovato's life-threatening experience from her starting out the night with "a little red wine" to ending up receiving a sponge bath in a hospital bed. A Buzzfeed article breaks down the hidden messages and symbolism in the video. It notes how Lovato takes a shot "behind her friends' backs to symbolize what they didn't know about her abuse of drugs and alcohol," and also portrays her drug dealer leaving her "for dead," as she addresses in her documentary.
The singer shared a clip from the video on her Instagram, writing, "Thank you for listening, and thank you for hearing me. If you or someone you know is in need of support, please remember it's ok to ask for help."
Though many have responded positively to the video, admiring the singer's strength and vulnerability, not everyone agrees with her decision to show such traumatic visuals.
One TikTok user in particular, who is "a little over two and a half years clean from heroin" had a lot to say about the video.
"Overdosing is insanely traumatic," user @skatie420 said in a video that has nearly half a million views. "I won't even think about the times it's happened to me because I will just end up spiraling. What she's doing is glorifying drug use and overdoses for her young audience."
She continues, "I've almost died. I've almost lost my arm. I've had so many people I love die. Me and my mom had to plan out my funeral. It's not fun and it's not cute. And when I think of all the people that I love that weren't lucky enough to survive an overdose, it breaks my heart that [Lovato] would promote this to children. Don't make fucking overdosing an aesthetic."
Another TikTok user responded to @skatie420's original video, adding that portraying overdoses and other forms of trauma literally is not the best or most sensitive way to go about making art. "It glorifies it, it desensitizes us to it, and it can hurt people who have experienced these sorts of things before," user @xiandivyne said. He added that the same can be said for portrayals of sexual assault, violence against black bodies, eating disorders, and more.
"If you're an aspiring creative, know that there are better ways to portray trauma on-screen and events like this on-screen without being dark and gritty and realistic that'll be more thoughtful and more deep, because the way that people do this is just shallow and hurtful," he continued.
Others argued in the comments that it was Lovato's own experience and story to tell, arguing, "you can't gatekeep how she can or can't heal from her trauma."
While not everyone agrees with the way Lovato has chosen to depict her overdose, we support the singer on her continued journey to recovery. If you want to learn more about her story, you can watch her YouTube docu-series, Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil here.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, head over to the Facing Addiction with NCADD website and/or call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline at 1-800-622-HELP (4357)