About this Chris Brown thing

There’s this open letter to GMA about their response to Chris Brown. I’m nodding my head, thinking, yeah- HELL yeah! Why should this jerk get away with it? Why should ABC send the message that it’s okay to be a woman-beating manchild who can trash a dressing room and storm off after a temper tantrum and get away with such behavior? Why should the message be sent that that’s okay or at all socially acceptable?

But then, I wonder, is Chris Brown getting a pass because he’s black? Stick with me here. I’m wondering- not at all settled on what I think about it, but just thinking out loud per se, that his career still has any traction at all because he’s black, compared to, let’s say, Charlie Sheen or Mel Gibson?

What I mean is, are his actions not receiving more cultural sanction because this behavior is somehow expected of black men? That the mainstream, in the form of the mass media, is tacitly giving Brown a little wink and a nod…because it’s perceived that this is just how black men behave? On the other hand, respectable white folks don’t do this shit…in public.

Either way, it’s utter b.s. that this little toolshed of a toolshed (I had to seriously censor my epithet there to refrain from using sexist language…) is getting away with continual acts of violence, as evidenced by the fact THAT HE STILL HAS A CAREER AND A RECORDING CONTRACT AND MORNING SHOW VISITS…and ABC refuses to bring charges against this guy. But I’m thinking what this tells us about manhood in our society and our expectations of it, that for some, it’s a career-ender and for others, it’s not. Why do some men get to sing openly that “bitches ain’t shit but hos and tricks” (please correct me if I got that lyric wrong), yet others get tossed into the career-equivalent of Siberia for publicly exhibiting the same level of misogyny?

I suspect race has something to do with this, and our expectations of racialized masculinity, and no matter what, those performances of masculinity that involve violence against anyone in order to gain validation are not okay. Ever.

And, I have no empirical evidence- yet- as to the actual career-trajectory-as-evidence-of-cultural-sanction for Chris Brown post-Rihanna, Mel Gibson post-batshit-craziness, and so forth because I haven’t seen any of Gibson’s recent movies (has anyone? Maybe that’s the question), nor have I seen any of Charlie Sheen’s work in…about…15 years (or more? I don’t know), and I couldn’t tell you a Chris Brown song if I heard one. Yes, I have reached that age where my tastes and cultural excursions cemented to perpetually match my interests at age 25. But, I have a hunch that I’m right and that our culture handles misogyny differently, based on the race of the perpetrator. I leave it at that, for now, and throw it out to the intertubes for consideration.

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One thought on “About this Chris Brown thing

  1. MaryAnn,

    I think this is a fantastic post that brings up a lot of things about this situation that need to be addressed.

    Before I deconstruct what you wrote, I just want to say this: I’ve never been a Chris Brown fan and I’m certainly not one now. I do have sympathy for him because I think he is mentally ill and clearly has anger issues, but I do not for a second excuse his behavior or think it’s in any way acceptable that come next week he will most likely have the top-selling album in the country. I also think it’s sad and ridiculous that people are inviting him to promote his album and perform on TV shows and at events. It’s gross.

    Having said all that, and if you’ve read my blog I think you know my feelings on Chris Brown, I think he’s actually experiencing more vitriol than we usually reserve for famous men who behave badly. Think about it, O.J. Simpson had abused his wife for years and no one said anything until she and her boyfriend turned up dead. Charlie Sheen SHOT Kelly Preston, his ex-wives and girlfriends are out there telling stories about how he abused them physically and mentally, but the Charlie Sheen story is basically campy. He’s going on a speaking tour and didn’t get fired from his job until he insulted the showrunner and executives. Chris Brown served basically a year (give or take a few months) in exile before giving a slow trail of interviews on the situation and begging for forgiveness (which I’d say he hasn’t largely received).

    It’s easy to look at Chris Brown’s fans, who are very vocal, and the media — which has been pretty forgiving, or is at least choosing to promote him — and say he’s been largely exonerated. But the fact that he had something to come back from, the fact that he was punished and has had to rebuild, is proof of his “supposed” penance (for lack of a better word). He came under a lot of scorn.

    The Charlie Sheen thing is funny (at least that’s how it’s being framed). He makes funny videos and holds funny live chats and gives funny interviews and even has catchphrases. The media has been largely silent on the fact that he has a very colorful history of drug abuse and physically abusing women.

    I wish there was more outcry on both fronts, but I find it hard to believe Brown is really being embraced. I think it’s just that his fans are talking louder than the large crowd of people like us who are disgusted by his actions. I mean, Charlie Sheen also had morning show visits and now has speaking engagements that I’m sure he’ll promote on his choice of morning shows.

    Mel Gibson, on the other hand, was an anti-Semite, and I think it’s easier for us as a culture to react to that. For lack of a better term, it’s black and white. Racism = bad (or at least that’s how we’re supposed to feel, especially when it’s that obvious kind of racism). Beating up your girlfriend = bad, as long as she’s famous and there’s unimpeachable proof and it might be an easier equation if you’re black. Plus, Mel Gibson’s career prime was years before his anti-Semitic outbursts and abuse of his girlfriend/wife (I’m not sure if they were married). For young people, we didn’t really know him or care about him and he hadn’t had a blockbuster film in awhile, and the most recent one (“The Passion of the Christ”) he hadn’t starred in so it wasn’t so directly associated with him. I feel like in order to draw fair parallels to l’affaire Chris Brown, it would’ve had to have been Ben Affleck or Shia LeBeouf and not Mel Gibson.

    I don’t know, and I’m not yet comfortable deciding, what role race played in any of this. I think the way you’re seeing it is valid and logical, but I think your admitted removal from the “youth culture” might be why we see it differently.

    I want to leave you with this thought: Charlie Sheen, despite his reputation (hanging out with Heidi Fleiss, stints in rehab, violence), he was able to be cast in and eventually score the top-rated sitcom in the country. His marriage failed, he was accused of abuse and no one batted an eye until he shouted loudest about his own mental instability. And even still, the ratings for “Two and A Half Men” are through the roof. Brown and Sheen might be more alike than any of us think.

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