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?

You know what would be really great? Billboard (if this news is confirmed) putting an editorial about it in the magazine, as opposed to just one feature amongst many of the website. I am really sick to death of music (and wider entertainment) magazines, sites, blogs, thinking that they exist in a vacuum and thinking there is no implication to featuring the latest Chris Brown video because they ‘don’t make judgements’ or they’re ‘not involved in politics’ or they’re ‘just doing their job’. It’s all utter bullshit. These are choices and every choice we make means something – maybe not something huge, but it means something. We all write about music and pop culture because we love it and because we’re a part of it. As such, we all have a relationship with it and we all have something to say. I had an argument with the editor of a (dreadful, admittedly) music website last year as he reprinted without edit or comment a Chris Brown PR piece (with all the hyperbole that entails) as a ‘news item’. He kept saying that he made no judgements on the press releases that were submitted to him. When I asked if he would have reprinted a Gary Glitter praisefest in full, he suddenly left the conversation and blocked me. Which says everything, really.

An Open Letter to Rihanna: It’s Time to Talk That Talk

Brown

How ironic that it’s the frequently hysterical (in tone) Fox News that sticks its head above the parapet and dares to be ‘serious’ about Chris Brown. I wrote about Chris Brown’s non-redemptive redemption here and since then it has only gathered pace. None of the big pop writers, pop blogs, pop sites, seem to address the issue. I suspect it’s largely a result of the fear of being ‘serious’ that is so endemic in our media (in our society!) Even this brilliant video can only tackle the unpleasant truths around the whole affair in a humorous way but, then again, you don’t look to Fox News for thoughtful commentary on misogyny and the arbitrary divide between the personal and the political, do you?

It follows comments from Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer that teenage women are most at risk of abuse and more must be done to tackle it.

The unthinking rehabilitation of Chris Brown. The sniggering over kooky old Charlie Sheen. Songs with lines like “I knock her lights out and she still shine’ not only inspiring zero outrage in response, but becoming top ten hits on both sides of the Atlantic. Footballers who, at the age of 22, already have a long history of violence against women being signed in multi-million deals and inspiring reams of fawning coverage in the tabloids. Computer games with ‘babe-slapping’ modes.

This is the very real result of a popular culture that refuses to face up to domestic violence. The mass media continues to spend a vast amount of its time pushing sexism, misogyny and attacking feminism and then thinks they make up for it if they publish this story with a lurid headline about teenage victims (I’m looking at you, Daily Mail.)

The only way this is ever going to change, even slightly, is if we all accept responsibility. Accept responsibility for challenging the predominant culture around us, challenging the behaviour that we know is unacceptable, challenging the ideas that allow domestic violence to thrive. It’s up to us.

All domestic abuse deaths to have multi-agency review

It’s good that someone is actually speaking about this (the only previous person I’ve seen was from The Observer, the sister paper) but this isn’t really the article that is needed. The willingness of people to ignore Chris Brown’s violence is a sad indictment of our society’s attitude towards domestic violence. I wrote on Twitter previously – society will have reached a good place when domestic violence is viewed in the same light as paedophilia. Completely beyond the pale.

I don’t believe that an act makes you a persona non grata for evermore. But redemption must be earned, and despite what this article claims, Chris Brown has most certainly not earned it.  He carried on as normal. releasing an album mere months after the brutal beating and paying the most desultory lip service to an apology on ‘Larry King Live’. Anyone who has watched that footage can see that Chris Brown is going through the motions and doing what his media handlers have told him to do. Most offensively, he refuses to take responsibility for his actions and instead claims to not remember doing it.

REALLY?!

Then we have this idea that he deserves some credit for not following his hardcore fans and blaming Rihanna for the incident. Well, first of all, there is no way in hell that he isn’t aware of what his fans have been saying and he hasn’t once spoken out to stop them, as any decent person who recognises that they’ve done wrong would. Secondly, let’s have a look at that album he released the same year as the attack. An album that he knew would be analysed for a glimpse of his response to the attack. Smack bang in the middle is a track called ‘Famous Girl’. Already the alarm bells are ringing, right? It’s clearly about Rihanna – it’s littered with references to her songs (one line: “I was wrong for writing “Disturbia” ”). It links her to a series of men, states “you let me down” and, most pathetically of all, “you were first to play the game though, sorry I bust the windows out your car.” The (very thinly veiled) implication is that Rihanna cheated on him, and that’s why he brutally beat her. It’s a completely indefensible attitude.

This was a song released only FIFTEEN MONTHS ago. What has changed since then? He cried at an award ceremony. That really appears to be the extent of it. His attitude is still plain to see: with a shocking lack of self-awareness, he has called his new album ‘Forgiving All My Enemies’ (a nod at the overwhelming self-pity he has demonstrated since the attack). When horrific photos of Rihanna’s injuries were leaked in the midst of his chart revival, he tweeted that ‘the devil is always busy’ and blamed a conspiracy against him.

This is a man who should be apologising, apologising and apologising again. He should be spending years repairing the damage he has done, trying to educate his young fans that their misogyny is not acceptable, and accepting that it’s a long hard slog before he has a right to any success again. Instead he has two singles in the UK top ten. It was with some astonishment that I noticed a mini-outrage over a Gary Glitter-penned song being used in ‘Glee’ this week. Fair enough – you can understand that people don’t want a child abuser profiting (both financially and in terms of reputation) from one of the biggest, and most child-friendly, shows on tv. Yet only a few months after Chris Brown hospitalised his girlfriend, ‘Glee’ featured one of his songs. I’ve never once seen a complaint about it.

People seem to have this idea that domestic violence is ‘private’. That it’s between the two people involved. It’s not. It concerns all of us. It’s all of our responsibility to oppose it, to condemn it, to report it and to make it completely unacceptable. Treating it as a private matter allows it to thrive. It’s about power, and the thugs who practice it rely on the quiet acquiescence of everyone around.

Still, the misogyny that allows violence against women to thrive unimpeded is clear from a cursory glance at BBC Radio 1. There has recently been some tabloid outrage over their playlist including a song that sends the wrong message to its listeners, that glamourises violence, that is inappropriate for daytime listening. No, it’s not Chris Brown (who is on the playlist). It’s Rihanna’s ‘S & M’, a silly, playful song about sex that has Rihanna firmly in control and is apparently so outrageous that it’s been heavily censored. The guy who beats up his girlfriend and then spends 2 years blaming her and complaining about being a victim gets off scot-free. Now that is some fucked up ‘morality’ on display.

The redemption of Chris Brown (that wasn’t)

Victims

“It says much about Rihanna’s story that she pierced the mainstream bubble only after she was widely photographed sporting a black eye, given to her by her then partner, the singer Chris Brown. For a woman who became the overnight face of domestic violence to later release S&M, a song with the lyrics: “Sticks and stones/ May break my bones/ But chains and whips/ Excite me,” is either ironic, empowering or plain silly.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/feb/20/rihanna-video-brits-lachapelle-music

This rewriting of history is one of the many sad (and even disturbing) fall-outs from the domestic violence case. Of course Rihanna had ‘pierced the mainstream bubble’ well before the ‘incident’ and had a string of massive hits behind her. She was also hardly known as being a wallflower. So what does it say that self-identified feminists now see her as someone who was ‘made’ by being attacked and should be mindful of this when creating new pop?