So I'm finally doing a Rihanna and Chris Brown post. Well, really just a Chris Brown post. I've put this off for a number of reasons. Firstly, I didn't see the point in writing a post when it first happened, just sort of saying it had happened and that it was terrible because, well, we all know that. Secondly, I wanted to see what happened to Brown in the months after the incident, his trial and his career. I feel that there's more to talk about at this point, mainly to do with the way Brown has dealt with the media.
I have to admit that I knew very little about Brown before this incident, not being particularly fond of the brand of dull as ditch-water r'n'b that he's been so successful at selling. From what I've read though, he was viewed as a real 'good guy', this was an integral part of his branding and image. Part of the shock people felt when this story broke was a result of this squeaky-clean image. And to be honest, many of his loyal fans continued to defend him on the blogosphere, some even going as far as to say that Rhihnna must have done something to deserve the brutal attack. Obviously Chrissywiss just isn't capable of doing anything his Mom wouldn't approve of. Men saying this is a worrying trend, but perhaps more worrying is that this defence often came from young women. Apparently there is a large group of young women out there who really feel that if they checked the text messages on their boyfriend's phone and accused him of cheating, they would deserve any violence that came their way. Or maybe they don't believe that, but they'd prefer to think that than accept the fact that Brown's behaviour was unjustifiable.
Then there is the apology. Call me cynical, but this came across as scripted (by a lawyer most probably) and a calculated attempt to create some closure and sympathy so that he could continue with his career. From his conservative (and, frankly, bizarre) outfit to his constant references to G-d, his mother and spiritual teachers, this was Brown trying to claw back his nice-guy image. His reference to the domestic violence he witnessed in his own home as a child, in the context of everything else he said, sounded hollow. Domestic violence is not simply 'uncontrolled rage', it's about entitlement and subjugation. The fact is, he felt entitled to hit Rihanna, probably because she's a women, an incredibly successful woman to boot.
Another public appearance, another ridiculous nice guy outfit. Brown appeared on Larry King's show with his mother. King asked him how he felt when he read the police report which details what he had done to Rihanna. His answer? 'I'm like, wow' and 'that's not the person I am'. Way to avoid answering there Chris. It clearly is the sort of person you are, you did it. This is obviously another attempt to distance himself from what he did, like it was another person who committed the abuse, not him. This is even more apparent when he claims that he doesn't remember it happening. Oh, using the old 'blackout' excuse there are we Chris? He clearly isn't worried about becoming a cliché. Brown never really addresses what he did, he never answers anything. It strikes me that it is only men who get away with this behaviour. Where womens' lives are scrutinised, men are often allowed to bluff their way out of uncomfortable situations.
It's a shame that Rihanna doesn't have the luxury of escaping from what happened, the leaked photographs of her abused face preclude this. She's been blamed for teaching girls that abuse is acceptable (because she accepted his apology and apparently took him back) and has been criticised for appearing in raunchy photo shoots, with people questioning if this is acceptable behaviour for a domestic violence victim (survivour). Brown seems to have avoided this level of scrutiny despite the fact that he was convicted of a violent crime. It seems there is no limit to the amount of blame that women are expected to shoulder.
At this point, it's hard to say whether Brown will go on to regain his success. His fans, or former fans, seem to be split roughly between postions that almost condone his behaviour and a sort of patriarchal, 'you don't do that to a woman, I want to beat him up'. He does seem to have lost the respect of lots of young fans though, which is generally positive (it would be better if it came from a place of gender equality rather than wanting to protect Rihanna's honour), but I'm sure many will just accept his apology and continue to throw girl-hate at Rihanna. It almost makes me wish I was a former fan, just so that I could stop buying his records.