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’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.
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.
“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.”
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?