Monday, March 9, 2009

It's a lot bigger than Rihanna

The Rihanna/Chris Brown debacle is looking to be the most controversial domestic abuse case since Tina left Ike. Ever since the couple failed to make either of their Grammy night appearances due to Brown's assault on Rihanna, the story has continued to snowball to the point where anchors are merely rattling off catch-phrases to describe the ongoing scandal.

We have seen reporters and anchors go from shock at Brown's outburst and dismay at Rihanna's injuries to villanizing both of them. But as always, all the sound and fury in the world can't substitute for a deeper look at what this horrifying episode reveals about the sick society we live in.

First of all, would the media be stirring up such furor if either of these artists were white? The switcheroo on the media's portrayal of Brown has gone from the happy-go-lucky, charismatic artist from the Double Mint commercials to a brooding, threatening savage. The quickness with which he has gone from "good negro" to "bad negro" is stark enough to show how narrowly this system still views African Americans.

And then there is the way in which reporters are increasingly turning toward blaming Rihanna! When her people announced that the performer had gotten back together with Brown, anchors and pundits pointed the finger at her for "setting a bad example" for women everywhere.

Is it really Rihanna that is setting the bad example? Isn't this kind of reporting, which puts the blame on the shoulders of the victim, a lot more damaging? What about the way the media itself views women? Domestic abuse is a serious, terrifying phenomenon that keeps countless women living in fear, but it doesn't just come out of thin air.

From music videos to Hollywood movies to beer commercials to the nightly news, men and women are both bombarded daily with countless images of women as little more than servants to men. Rihanna herself is a perfect example. The music industry have built her entire career on the image of her as a sexualized, empty-headed hottentot. Little notions like "talent," "intelligence," or "depth" are mere afterthoughts.

This is the daily culture we live in. Empty notions of "tolerance" and "equality" don't stand a chance in the face of all this. The tabloids and talk shows love to place the blame for society's problems on the shoulders of individual people. After all, it's a lot easier than taking a serious look at the fundamental inequities of our world.

*****

1 comment:

Binh said...

I heard that Chris Brown claimed he was "defending himself," which if it's true, is pretty god damn outrageous.

Sad thing is there is a lot of pressure in the industry to whitewash this, because both artists are huge money-makers and times are tough for the big labels these days. Even sadder is that Rihanna seems like she is going to forgive Brown and stay with him. It's Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown all over again....