I used to love Chris Brown. Love might be a strong word, but his music was consistently among my most played: “Forever” was the unofficial anthem to my college experience, the beat of “Look At Me Now” is undeniable and I’m typically the first to go on (and on) about how “Next 2 You,” featuring Justin Bieber, should have been a bigger hit. I wasn’t a full-fledged member of Team Breezy or a self-proclaimed stan, but I was a download-F.A.M.E.-and-consider-buying-tickets-to-his-live-show level of admirer back in 2011, two years after we all saw his dark side, with visual proof of what his fists did to then-girlfriend Rihanna.
This of course put me in a difficult position as both a music fan and a young woman, but I never condoned his actions. Through it all I merely tried as best I could to separate the personal from the professional, noting his talent and propensity for making my head bob rather than the (increasingly) unpredictable and unacceptable behavior that’s all to easy to make fun of. But maybe that was too much?
Yesterday’s public recognition of his newest tattoo, obtained sometime between August 30 and September 1, proved that it’s no longer possible to view Chris Brown as two separate entities, as his massive personal missteps continue to bleed into his professional image. The design, which resembles the face of a battered woman with all too many similarities to the police photos of Rihanna circa 2009, have since been classified by Brown as a take on Mexican art, specifically the “sugar skull” prevalent within the holiday Día de Los Muertos. He tweeted as much, along with the arguable defense that he’s an “artist,” and thus allowed to make such puzzling decisions:
I’m an artist and this is art. Dia de los Muertos.
— Chris Brown(@chrisbrown) September 11, 2012
Brown is an artist, yes, but he’s also a role model, whether he asked to be or not. His actions are seen from a larger stage, broadcast to a wider audience—including a good amount of impressionable, underage followers. His attempts to repent in the months that followed his assault received mixed reviews, but the success of last year’s album suggested it might be possible to put this all behind him; Rihanna’s decision to let him back into her life stood as a potential argument that we should leave it to these two to figure out for themselves.
But such utter disregard for common decency, or as we previously put it: cluelessness, proves he’ll never change. To think that getting a design which calls to mind such a horrifying incident wouldn’t offend someone, shows disrespect for the victim and victims everywhere. His decision to address the situation is appreciated; no longer must we rely on sketchy sources to know exactly what he’s thinking. Yet his explanation deflects responsibility for what myself and many others believe to be permanent laughter in the face of anyone who’s ever experienced domestic violence. Bombarding us with even more body art, coded song titles and hints at Rihanna—the couple that underboobs together, stays together?—further shows he’s delusional enough to rationalize the worst kinds of behavior.
It turns out someone with that much money to hire publicists, image experts and respected industry veterans known for spinning the worst situations into acceptable sympathy stories and prime-time interviews can be that stubborn. Or that stupid. And if he is, I feel sorry for him—sorry that he has no idea the position he’s been given in the world, and the power that he has to influence people everywhere.
So with that, I leave you, Breezy. You won’t miss me; you have an entire legion of fans—most of them female—who remain committed to your cause and have vowed to silence any “haters” who dare threaten your existence, or merely question your indefensible actions. You’re also only 23. The only semblance of hope I have is that someday (soon) this’ll all make sense. But then again, tattoos are forever.