The sixty-fifth annual Grammy Awards were marked by monumental firsts, including Robert Glasper’s win in the category of Best R&B Album entitled Black Radio III. This marks Robert Glasper’s, the specially gifted pianist’s, fifth Grammy win. However, not everyone relished in the achievement of Glasper being awarded this win. Singer Chris Brown, also nominated in the category, took to his Instagram to post a series of stories documenting his immediate
outburst at losing in that category, referring to Robert Glasper by writing, “Who the f—- is this?” Chris Brown’s wildly hysterical posts featured numerous insults to Glasper’s talent and boastings of his own personal accolades.
However, Brown’s behaviour was met with large amounts of backlash from the public, most glaringly posing the question as to why he continues to be celebrated within the media industry despite his past being riddled with patterns of abusive behaviour towards his romantic partners. Chris Brown’s nomination itself is an ode to Hollywood’s longstanding obsession with the rehabilitation of powerful men with well-documented histories of violence towards women.
Chris Brown’s most notable instance includes his 2009 assault towards then-partner Rihanna, featuring graphic images of blackened eyes, intense facial bruising and other markings of horrendous abuse. Rather than leaving a scathing taint on his legacy and branding him a
disgraced artist, it was met with a Hollywood-sanctioned curated redemption arc where Brown went on to maintain a stellar career. This included the winning of the 2012 Grammy award for best R&B Album, being celebrated by many and adding to his overall persona.
To continue this saga, many in the industry reported on this event as being an anomaly, diametrically opposed to Brown’s true character and would often quote his eventual apology to Rihanna. However, this was not the sole incident. Over the years, Chris Brown has been involved in multiple instances of violence towards women, including physical and verbal assaults spanning decades.
The history of powerful men being offered impunity by the media industry towards violence against women is an ancient fable. At the hands of the intensely selective media coverage, Chris Brown’s abusive patterns evade scrutiny in the eyes of many, classifying it as a minor blip in character rather than a wholly destructive act towards one’s career. The near erasure of this behaviour is indicative of society’s valorisation of mediocrely-talented men rather than ensuring the protection and safety of women.
In situations like this, many people often advocate for the creation of ‘middle grounds’ in hopes of achieving a semblance of neutrality. The creation of this middle ground often manifests itself in loud, near-desperate calls to separate the art from the artist, often from avid fans, in an attempt to differentiate between appreciation of music from the condemnation of actions.
While calls for this are noble, they are often rooted in naivety which leads to immense disregard for the experiences of women. One can pose several questions as to how art can be appreciated in good conscience while knowing the horrific actions of the artist. How can we foster an environment where victims of abuse can come forward when overt abusers have celebrated careers?
The constant defence of Chris Brown is illustrative of our obsession with justifying otherwise condemnable actions of powerful men to the perpetual demise of women. His considerable success serves as a semi-cautionary tale as to how investing in a culture that normalizes violence is detrimental to us all.
Image: “Chris Brown” by Eva Rinaldi Celebrity Photographer is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.