“The media use this belief as justification for promoting the success of people like Chris Brown who have publicly fallen, in the hopes that such promotion translates to curious viewers.”
(I promise to keep my opinions on pop culture items like this to a minimum; I wanted to embrace the challenge of writing clearly and thoughtfully about something that made me angry.)
Chris Brown, the singer and admitted and convicted abuser, was invited to perform and be interviewed on Good Morning America in an effort to promote his new album. During the interview, the content of which was discussed and approved beforehand, Robin Roberts probed about the situation in 2009 when he beat his girlfriend. After the interview, Chris reportedly went into a violent rage in his GMA dressing room, throwing a chair through a window, and stormed out (inexplicably shirtless). GMA has chosen not to press any charges, wishes Chris the best and has invited him back.
I try not to be a pop watcher. I used to (shamefully) keep up on celebrity gossip and regularly read a few blogs. A few months ago I realized with astonishment that I hadn’t checked a single gossip blog or even thought about doing so since my son was born, a habit-kicking feat I’d tried unsuccessfully to accomplish several times over in the last 5 years. I haven’t regressed, either, and I’m really pleased. These days, the only times I get sucked into a juicy celeb story is when it takes over all forms of media, and even then I manage to only limit myself to a passing interest, ie, I didn’t listen to any of the tapes of Charlie Sheen’s rants. I realize this is no cause for accolades, but I used to get really involved in such absurdities, and don’t anymore, so I’m proud of myself and mentioning it only so you know that my point here is to discuss a larger issue and not the minutia of a singer’s dirty habits.
Good Morning America is distasteful in its handling of this situation, not only because they’re inviting him back, but because they had him on in the first place. Those of us who don’t subscribe to People and Us Weekly and don’t religiously refresh Perez Hilton’s scummy blog can turn our noses up at the ick factor of paparazzi harassing the famous, but I think if we follow the logic, we end at reputable establishments like Good Morning America, and realize there can be just as much ick surrounding their deeds as there is those of the mulleted dude ith the telephoto lense trying to get an upskirt shot of Lohan. Good Morning America isn’t floundering for content or for friendly faces. They could’ve called any of 50 top 40 artists to come perform for their show, or showcase any up-and-comer, all without a violent criminal history. They wanted ratings. They wanted people to tune in and see Chris Brown squirm on his stool and then achieve redemption via a live performance of a catchy tune. GMA is a for-profit venture so we must understand the effort of garnering ratings to make money, but I wonder where we draw the line with social responsibility.
I don’t watch GMA (or any morning show, for that matter), so correct me if my assumptions are wrong, but don’t they generally take an anti-violence position? When the issue du jour of late was bullying, did they invite any bullies on their national program to gab about their hobbies and hopes? I doubt they did. They probably did a few earnest segments on what to do if you or your child is facing bullying at school. That they would invite a person who violently beat another person and has since demonstrated anger management issues to come on their program and gab about his album and his hopes for its success is hypocritical. When that violent, bullying person then destroys their property in a violent rage and puts their employees’ safety at risk, they should issue a statement condemning such behavior and apologizing to their staff for enabling it. Instead, they invite the bully back. According to Robin Roberts, “we’ve extended an invitation and we’d love to have him back and he’s seriously considering that.” She adds that all the show’s staffers “wish him the absolute best.” All the staffers? I doubt that. I doubt any staffers walking past his dressing room while he threw furniture through the window wish him the best. I doubt any staffer who’s ever been beaten or had a loved one beaten wishes him the absolute best.
We live in a society that has set up a legal structure allowing some to have second chances. If this weren’t a tenet of our beliefs, Chris Brown would be serving a life sentence or would have been sentenced to execution. In a broader sense, we believe in redemption and second chances because, at the core, each hopes that she/he will receive a second chance if she/he ruins the first one. The media use this belief as justification for promoting the fame and success of people like Chris Brown who have publicly fallen, in the hopes that such promotion translates to curious viewers. However, by choosing to do so, they, in their influence, declare which of the fallen are worthy of redemption. By demonstrating their belief in Chris’ worth, they proclaim that they believed he was not a danger to them. Clearly, they were wrong.
Months after Chris Brown assaulted Rihanna, I watched Diane Sawyer’s interview with her. Rihanna had resumed a romantic relationship with Chris after the assault, but then ended it. She told Diane that she knew Chris would never hurt her again, but that among her fans were people in abusive relationships that did not have that guarantee. Essentially, since she could not ensure that her fans’ abusive partners would not repeat their assaults, she felt the most responsible thing to do would be to separate herself from Chris and demonstrate an unequivocal rejection of such violence, regardless of future behavior.
This is what GMA should do.
But no one at GMA was bruised (thankfully, luckily). So, they’re inviting him back based on the assumption that he won’t be violent toward them again, despite his demonstrated pattern. What they’re refusing to acknowledge is that, just like Rihanna, they have fans who live in the uncertainty of whether someone in their life will continue to be violent or not. Inviting the violence into your home because it promises to be good is unsafe. Giving the violence a platform for anything, even redemption, is unsafe. I realize this sounds fatalistic, but GMA is gambling with their viewers’ lives, and they’re doing it for their own profit.