Will We Ever Hold Chris Brown Accountable?
Sam Wasson / Getty
Despite what Chris Brown, his frequent contributors, and his army of online supporters have told us endlessly over the years, it seems the pesky R&B singer hasn't learned his lesson after all.
On Tuesday, TMZ reported that Brown is under investigation for battery after a woman accused him of hitting her on the head so hard that her tissue fell out. The police referred the incident to the Los Angeles Attorney's Office. So far there are only a few details on this topic. No injuries were reported. And it's unclear whether Brown will actually be charged.
This most recent incident marks the continuation of Brown's legacy as a well-known misogynist and threat to women, a label for more than 10 years and several litigations in the making. Coincidentally - and worryingly - it was exactly twelve years after the date of this latest report that Brown pleaded guilty to assaulting his former girlfriend Rihanna in a crime in a case that has shaken the entertainment industry and public debates about intimate partner violence would trigger. but leaving Brown largely unharmed and allowing him to do more harm to women in the future.
Chris Brown deserves no forgiveness for defeating Rihanna
Given the gruesome treatment of (white) female celebrities in the early 2000s, re-rated on the internet thanks to the framing Britney Spears documentary, Rihanna's name - in terms of the aftermath of the attack - has often been touted as an appropriate candidate for this species of cultural retrospect and apology. All of the media hype has been a sexist, racist nightmare - from TMZ's disregard for the singer's privacy in posting her mug shot showing her battered and injured, to her 20/20 interview in which Diane Sawyer asks her specific questions who would now be considered victims - finger pointing - not to mention the occasional victims many of us millennials among their peers witnessed about the situation and stand-up comedians using the incident as joke material.
Perhaps the most troubling aspect of this cultural moment to look back on, given Brown's behavior over the past few years, has been his quick embrace by the hip-hop and R&B community and the restoration of his public image, despite little accountability. The then 20-year-old embarked on a desperate but inadequate tour of salvation consisting of softball interviews that simultaneously advertised his new album Graffiti and Sneaker Line, a "leaked" apology track called "Changed Man" and one heavily criticized YouTube passed video apology. Unsurprisingly, it was a public breakdown the singer had while performing "Man in the Mirror" during a Michael Jackson tribute at the 2010 BET Awards that felt like a major turning point, like his regret from the Public was recorded. The publicity stunt harnessed the emotions of a harsh, grieving audience and earned it standing ovations and praise from celebrities like Diddy and Jermaine Jackson and of course his "Team Breezy" fans watching at home.
While Brown's apologies and explanations sounded hollow to many of his watchers in the months following the incident for a number of reasons - his lack of specificity in talking about the attack, his claim that he was "blackballed" after the graffiti performance worse than his of his previous albums, his anger at the media for repeatedly asking him about the incident, and culminating in a violent tantrum after meeting Robin Roberts - Brown's fans and the music industry couldn't wait to meet the talented singer and dancer to see and again a beloved musician. And so Brown's official comeback came, first with his 2011 album FAME, which was bursting with high-profile collaborators and earned him his first Grammy and Billboard No. 1, and a year later also debuted at No. 1 with Fortune and produced a number of successful singles.
For many, Brown's success as an artist - not to mention the litany of lavish, impressive performances he handed out during this time - meant a change in himself. Artists, including women, felt comfortable working with him again. His 2013 resuscitation with the woman he bullied apparently gave the public permission to forgive his past acts and never repeat the attack again, despite the well-reported fact that domestic violence victims often reunite with their perpetrators and this is rarely a sign of progress in the relationship (the two separated a few months after re-emerging as a couple).
Chris Brown will perform at Drai's Beach Club in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 1, 2016.
Bryan Steffy / Getty
By this point, Brown had somehow retained enough goodwill that allegations of violence by several women over the next three years, including threatening a woman with a gun in his home, were swept under the carpet and lumped together with his frequent physical fights were thrown with men, including fellow musicians Drake and Frank Ocean, who were treated primarily as gossip fodder. (Not to mention the time he mocked Kehlani for trying to take his own life.)
It wasn't until 2017, when Brown's recurring model friend Karrueche Tran received a five-year restraining order from the singer after threatening to "kill" her, that it felt like his reputation was being properly interrogated again. The popularity of social media at the time and the rise of pop feminism obviously helped more people grasp the gravity of his actions and spot a pattern. But Brown suffered little material consequences and kept an even stronger, more defensive army of fans online who willingly consumed his new albums and defended his merits as an artist ad nauseam. He was even able to guest on a star-studded Lil Dicky track and publicly complain (via Lil Dicky) that he was being judged on "his controversial past."
When it became known in 2019 that Brown, along with two other people, had been arrested by Paris police for aggravated rape, there was a noticeable lack of shock and fatigue on social media for those who actively criticized his behavior towards women the last ten years. The languor not only came from the fact that Brown's name was repeatedly on the news, but also from the knowledge that since the beginning of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, there have been few consequences for bad men, especially in the music industry.
With this latest allegation, it's hard to imagine that the outcome will be any different for Brown regardless of the outcome, and it's even harder to imagine a scenario in which the singer would be banned from his record label or isolated from his industry peers and loyal fans.
According to tweets and memes poking fun at the predictability of Brown's behavior, all that remains is to be exhausted.
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