Grammys Sends Wrong Message with Chris Brown Performance
When Chris Brown took the stage at this year’s Grammy Awards, it’d been almost three years exactly since he assaulted his then-girlfriend Rihanna on the night before the 2009 Grammy Awards show.
For many, Brown’s performance this year—and simply his invite from the Grammys to perform—was outrageous and troubling.
During the show, which aired live on Sunday night, Brown performed three numbers and also won the Grammy for Best R&B album. MTV asserted that the “controversy” surrounding Brown and Rihanna doesn’t matter anymore because Chris Brown “simply focused on the music.”
But an article by Sasha Pasulka on the site Hello Giggles, “I’m not okay with Chris Brown Performing at the Grammys and I’m not sure why you are,” has gained a lot of attention lately, mostly because it summarizes what many been thinking and others saying about Grammy producers’ decision to ask Brown to perform just several years after the incident.
The night before the Grammys in 2009, Brown hit Rihanna. She went to the hospital and then to the Los Angeles Police Department where she reported the assault. The world was disturbed by this photo of Rihanna’s bruising, which was leaked to TMZ, reportedly for $62,500.
Rihanna and Brown were both scheduled to perform at the Grammys that year, but neither did. Instead, Brown turned himself into the LAPD and was booked on suspicion of criminal threats. He was later released on $50,000 bail and ultimately charged with felony assault.
The media reported extensively on the situation. But one of Pasulka’s main arguments is that celebrities declined to comment on the issue at the time, leaving the media discussing whether what happened was actually Rihanna’s fault. In some instances, commentators were defending Brown.
Fellow performer Usher criticized a photo of Brown riding jet skis in February 2009, saying: “I’m a little disappointed in this photo. After the other photo [of Rihanna's bruised face]? C’mon, Chris. Have a little bit of remorse, man. The man’s on jet skis? Like, just relaxing in Miami?” Yet Usher was forced to publicly apologize—in case he accidentally offended anyone.
When media and celebrities refuse to defend Rihanna or criticize Brown and instead stay neutral on the issue, they send the message that it’s OK for women to be abused and that we won’t say or do anything about it.
Unfortunately, this is still happening—on Tuesday’s The View, host Sherri Shepherd said she thinks Brown deserves another chance, adding that Americans shouldn’t throw him out “over one mistake.” The comment garnered audience applause. Shepherd also said she thinks others could see him as a role model.
When Grammy producers confirmed that Brown would perform this year, executive producer Ken Ehrlich announced:
We’re glad to have him back. I think people deserve a second chance, you know. If you’ll note, he has not been on the Grammys for the past few years and it may have taken us a while to kind of get over the fact that we were the victim of what happened.
Pasulka is right to attack this quote in particular—how a Grammy producer could imply that the “victim” in this situation is actually the awards show is baffling.
Immediately after the Grammys, Buzzfeed posted a list of “25 Extremely Upsetting Reactions to Chris Brown at The Grammys.” The list features 25 women who Tweeted or posted to Facebook some version of “Chris Brown can beat me anytime he wants.”
Many things about Buzzfeed’s list are very upsetting, but what is perhaps most shocking is that these women actually ask Chris Brown to “beat me.” There are few other phrases for striking a person so full of violence. The worst tweet from the list even criticized Rihanna for reporting the assault: “I don’t why Rihanna complained. Chris Brown could beat me anytime he wanted to.”
Brown is serving five years of probation and has completed half of his six months of community service. Brown’s lawyer recently asked a judge to end his client’s probation early for good behavior, but the request was denied. The original restraining order, which stipulated Brown could not be within 50 yards of Rihanna or within 10 yards during public events, has been relaxed specifically so the two can attend the same awards shows.
Brown’s next hearing is scheduled for July 10. But regardless of how Brown behaves with his probation officer, there’s reason to believe he isn’t so far from the person he was in 2009—last year, Brown threw a chair out of a window on Good Morning America when he was asked about Rihanna.
Allowing Chris Brown to perform at the Grammys just three years after he was charged with felony assault and making criminal threats is an insult to women’s health and safety.
Sure, Chris Brown should be allowed to go on with his life, but we don’t have to accept him back into ours. We don’t have to support a man who hit his girlfriend and, a mere three years later, thinks everyone should get over it.
In Hollywood, a small handful of people have the power to decide who can perform in front of thousands.
This weekend, those people sent the message to millions of Americans.
Dahlia Grossman-Heinze is a reporter-blogger for Campus Progress. Follow her on Twitter @salvadordahlia.