Chris Brown and Rihanna are no strangers to the media. As top artists in the R&B, Pop, and Hip Hop genres, Chris Brown and Rihanna are well known for their number one albums and top selling singles. Aside from their music, most people recall their violent breakup in 2009, where Brown assaulted Rihanna and later pled guilty to felony battery charges. Despite their history, both artists have recently collaborated and released remixes to two of their songs. As a high profile case that draws large attention to the topic of assault and battery, this begs the question: Are both artists sending the wrong message to the public about domestic violence? The answer is yes and no. The collaboration, on one hand, can be viewed as demonstrating that reconciliation is worth more than a person’s own safety. On another note, the situation can be also be seen as an attempt, mainly on Rihanna’s part, to send a positive message to victims of domestic violence that illustrates they are strong enough to overcome their situation and continue with their lives.
Early in 2009, Brown was sentenced to complete a year-long domestic violence counseling course, a restraining order, five years probation, and 1,400 hours of community service (the equivalent of 180 days in jails). Rihanna, on the other hand, faced public scrutiny from the media and public. Aside from the media and celebrity status, Rihanna joined the ranks of physically assaulted women, becoming a “one in four” woman who experienced domestic violence in her lifetime.
Immediately after the incident made headlines, Rihanna received large support from her fans and the public. Brown, on the other hand, received severe criticism and was ostracized from the music scene immediately after. The most current public response to Brown was evident in the 2012 Grammys Awards show. He won a Grammy for the “Best R&B Album,” and was well received with applause and cheers by the crowd after his performance. It appears that the public has allowed Brown to return to his glory, and has moved on from the incident.
The public’s shift in mindset about the situation cannot be considered sick or twisted; rather, it is common and real. Domestic violence is a hidden, often ignored worldwide problem that does not discriminate based on race, ethnicity, economic class, gender, etc. Even more astonishing is the idea that people are not prepared to deal with these situations, especially the victims themselves. These characteristics are evident in Hollywood’s initial response to the situation, where many celebrities chose to not comment on the situation because it was not their relationship or they underreported the incident because both artists are young. This, much like the initial controversy of the collaboration, makes light of the gravity of domestic violence.
The recent musical collaboration between both artists can either be considered daunting or optimistic. By working together, both artists can be seen as downplaying the severity of domestic violence, and essentially conveying the idea that “time heals” or that people, despite their actions, deserve second chances. The situation, on the other hand, can be interpreted as a move of empowerment on Rihanna’s part, illustrating that domestic violence should not dictate the futures of victims, and that individuals are capable of moving on.
The gruesome reality of this situation forces the public to conflate Chris Brown and Rihanna’s celebrity status with their musical craft. Without a doubt, both artists are talented individuals in their own right, but they should also be aware of the meaning their collaboration communicates to the public. The decision to support or not support the collaboration between both artists (or more generally the “reunion” of the two) rests largely on everyone’s individual decision and ability to discern musical craft from individual actions.
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