The Grammys certainly did stir up a healthy amount of controversy this year, didn’t they? We already asked you what you thought of Nicki Minaj‘s strange “The Exorcism Of Roman” stage show, and now we want to know what you think of the whole Chris Brown debacle — because conversation around the issue hasn’t diminished in the slightest since Sunday. We should all be familiar with the back story by now: in 2009, the night before The Grammys, rapper Chris Brown physically assaulted then-girlfriend Rihanna (to which he pleaded guilty in court), forcing both to cancel their planned Grammys performances. Official court documents tell a very chilling tale of what went down between the pair on the night of the assault, and if you have the stomach for it, you can read the gruesome details at MTV News, and if you have an especially strong disposition, you can see the results of those acts at TMZ. Brown was then sentenced to 180 days of labor service, five years probation and attendance at a domestic-abuse program for a year. If you’re any good at math, you’ll notice that the justice system still has Brown on probation.
Controversy arose earlier this year over The Grammys’ decision to allow Brown to take the stage — not once, but twice (!)— to perform at the illustrious awards ceremony. This ruffled more than a few feathers, with women’s groups, activists, and a wide portion of the online community firing into a vitriolic rage. One of the most concise commentaries on the matter from Hello Giggles’ Sasha Pasulka gives a measured bur firm summation. While Pasulka is a proponent of rehabilitation for offenders, she still saw allowing Brown to perform at The Grammys as reductive for victims of a abuse, in a broader, more global sense:
“We – the grown-up influencers in this country, the people with platforms and with educations and with power — are allowing a clear message to be sent to women: We will easily forgive a person who victimizes you. We are able to look beyond the fact that you were treated as less than human, that a bigger, stronger person decided to resolve a conflict with you through violence. We know it happened, but it’s just not that big of a deal to us… We’re accepting the message that women just aren’t that important, that their health and their safety and their self-respect is only important until it stops being convenient for everyone. We should be angry about this, and we should be angry publicly about this.”
Following the Grammys, several high profile celebrities also lashed out at Brown via Twitter, including Miranda Lambert, Bette Midler and Michelle Branch:
Some of Brown’s detractors chose to focus instead on the treatment of Whitney Houston following her death, comparing a scant tribute to what seemed to be blanket adoration for Brown. While the late legend Houston only received one official memorial, a single performance by Jennifer Hudson, many, like Brooklyn Decker, could not reconcile this with the convicted felon being invited to perform twice:
Detractors also took issue, completely justifiably, with a disturbing Twitter trend that emerged in conjunction with Brown’s Grammy’s performances, wherein young female fans Tweeted that they wished Chris Brown would “beat” them. You can read some of the most disconcerting Tweets in Flavorpill’s roundup here. Obviously, this is the very root of the issue for those who see Brown’s performance as problematic — that a very clear message is being sent to young women, and in short, that message is that domestic abuse is OK, and even sexy, or as Feministe put it, “Chris Brown is so hot, it would be okay if he beat me.”
While the support that raged on Twitter from young women wanting to be “beaten” by Brown was deeply upsetting, others showed their support more subtly, with the audience at The Grammys rising to give Brown a standing ovation following his first performance. While vocal support for Brown online seems to consist of the Twitter movement in his favor, arguments in defense of The Grammys decision to allow him to perform include that the rule of law prevails, that the justice system has punished him and as such we don’t need to, and furthermore that people are capable of “change,” “remorse” (although Brown expressed none at the Grammys, we’re sure it was implicit in the back flip he did to exit the stage) and “rehabilitation.”
While we’re all for fair trail and punishment by law, and indeed for the rehabilitation of offenders, we definitely also think that community and social justice are just as important — we don’t mean vigilantism, but awareness raising through non-violent, collective action. So while we don’t necessarily agree with the “R.I.P Chris Brown” trend that has emerged on Twitter (it’s pushing the vitriol a little far, and is counter-productive to raising any proper awareness about the actual issue at hand — the social perception of domestic abuse and blind idolatry for misbehaving celebrities), we do hope that some sort of discourse will arise in an educative sense, at least.
Brown hasn’t let the zealous hatorate go unnoticed either. He Tweeted “HATE ALL U WANT BECUZ I GOT A GRAMMY Now! That’s the ultimate F**K OFF!” which was promptly deleted by his camp, but thankfully screen-grabbed by Mashable in the nick of time. The Tweet evinces a certain lack of acknowledgement for why Brown was facing so much “hate,” and perhaps understanding and education isn’t only necessary for society — perhaps we need to include Brown, and indeed other offenders, in our conversation in order to develop a fully rounded dialogue instead of blithely slinging mud.
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Chris Brown Police Report Provides Details Of Altercation [MTV News]
The Face of a Battered Woman [TMZ]
Chris Brown’s Sentence ‘A Pretty Tough Deal,’ Legal Expert Says [MTV News]
I’m Not OK With Chris Brown Performing At The Grammys And I’m Not Sure Why You Are [Hello Giggles]
Stars voice disgust with Chris Brown [Canada.com]
25 Extremely Upsetting Reactions To Chris Brown At The Grammys [Flavorpill]
Chris Brown won’t let us forget: Domestic violence is okay if you’re hot [Feministe]
Chris Brown Curses Out Twitter Critics Then Tries to Delete the Evidence [Mashable]
‘RIP Chris Brown’ Trending On Twitter: Did Chris Brown Kill His Career With A Tweet? [Huffington Post]