Is Chris Brown’s rehabilitation now complete?

A few of these pieces have popped up in the past week. I find it bizarre as it was clear long ago that Chris Brown’s career wasn’t particularly going to suffer – I wrote my own piece on his ‘rehabilitation’ back in March 2011. Yet here we are and this Observer piece is particularly interesting in that both ‘sides’ trot out some well-worn but rather unchallenged arguments. A few comments arising from it:

  • Peter Tatchell’s comments about how he should be forgiven were harmful for exactly the reason we see here: he’s viewed (wrongly, in my view) as a totemic ‘liberal’ and someone who would be expected to condemn Brown. So his comments are seized on as being evidence that ‘even’ right-on folk like him want to move on, implying that anyone who doesn’t is some bitter crank. Yet Tatchell, not for the first time, had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. It quickly became clear that he had absolutely zero knowledge of Brown’s career, his disgusting lyrics referring to Rihanna and the incident, his bleating, self-pitying tweets and comments, his tantrums and recurring violence. I think it’s fair to say that if another ‘celebrity’ had dismissed homophobic actions with the ignorance Tatchell brought to this issue, he would have been incensed.
  • ‘People find it hard that his apology wasn’t “sincere” enough’. I’m not really sure why sincere deserves those sneering quotation marks – as I wrote in my piece above, only the most ignorant or most idiotic of observers could possibly believe that Brown had sincerely understood the gravity of what he did and apologised for it. His response has been and continues to be insulting and degrading at every turn. This is the crux of the matter. Despite how they are presented, I’ve encountered few people who believe that there is no way back from his actions. Of course there should be – yet it requires a bit of effort and humility on his part. This is additionally important due to his status and his young fanbase, whom we have already seen taking very disturbing messages from the whole thing.
  • Yes, it’s completely outrageous that white men such as Charlie Sheen appear to get a free pass for their actions. That’s a reason to attack hypocrisy, not excuse Chris Brown.
  • It’s also bizarre that Cheryl Cole received such an easy pass for her assault – one which, lest we forget, she pleaded ‘not guilty’ to. From what I can gather she’s never properly accepted responsibility for this. While there are clearly very different dynamics and relations going on with domestic violence, we can expect that a man convicted of a similar assault would have received a far more damning and lasting response from newspapers like The Guardian.
  • Laura Snapes instantly begins her argument with the observation that Chris Brown’s music is rubbish and so it should have been easy to forget him. It’s inexcusable that this is not developed further as the question of whether we should be more forgiving of musical geniuses is a very interesting and pertinent one which has a lot to offer to the argument. Andrew Emery is correct that the issue of whether or not we like Chris Brown’s music should not cloud our responses to his violence; the fact that our personal preferences for artists sometimes do cloud our judgment is one worth considering more fully.
  • Andrew draws a distinction between the law and music, arguing that being punished in the former sphere is enough to allow enjoyment of the latter. I would argue that music is not separate from morality and that popular culture has a far more powerful impact than a single conviction could ever have – especially a conviction in a sphere where the wealthy tend to receive preferential treatment.
  • Laura Snapes inadvertently highlights some of the dodgy racial politics bubbling beneath the surface of this discussion with her already trite contrasting of Frank Ocean’s ‘smart’, civilised work with Chris Brown’s. I still find it breathtaking how swiftly Ocean’s blog has led to his adoption as a totemic example of intellectual, humane r&b in a genre of barbarians. As Andrew quickly points out in response, this is nonsense and relies on a heavily selective view of Ocean’s work indeed.
  • John Lennon is typically wheeled out by Brown defenders of a certain age as an example of the shocking hypocrisy of his detractors. I think it’s unreasonable to expect people to have an equal response to (heavily disputed) events which took place before they were born. The implications and connections are hugely different. Of course we should be able to discuss them but it smacks merely of more cynical obfuscation of the issue rather than a sincere attempt to examine responses to domestic abuse. In Lennon’s case, the fact that the allegations of abuse came in two books which were printed long after his death makes comparisons even more irrelevant and impossible.
  • I wouldn’t particularly say that people have been demonstrating great willingness to give Mel Gibson another go.
  • The news in the comments that Chris Moyles actually re-recorded Chris Brown’s parts in a single he liked as he refuses to play Chris Brown made me like Moyles that little bit more.

Is Chris Brown’s rehabilitation now complete?

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