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Why Chris Brown is no role model

Chris Brown
Chris Brown, a role model? That's what Sherri Shepherd argued on Wednesday's episode of "The View." Her argument makes a certain amount of sense. "His mother was abused right in front of his very eyes six years before this happened to Rihanna. He used to wet his pants from the fear. He was a victim; he became an offender," Shepherd said, pointing out that Brown has since committed himself to domestic prevention counseling, albeit at a court's order. "If you have a child in that situation, you may see Chris Brown as a role model."

But a comeback does not a role model make. Sure, he could become a role model, an example of breaking the cycle, a celebrated tale of redemption. (See Kanye West, Eminem.) But Brown has squandered his opportunity so far.

"Brown has been anything but contrite," writes Jezebel's Madeleine Davies. "He's been whiny and angry about the cultural backlash towards him for the last three years." (For anyone who doesn't remember the details of Rihanna's beating, the Daily Beast's Marlow Stern provides a graphic, stomach-churning account.)

Brown may be eager to leave the incident behind him, but in not addressing it, in staying silent, it's possible that he's perpetuating the problem of domestic abuse. Nico Lang makes a compelling argument on the Huffington Post:

Brown, and any celebrity rewarded with fame after unapologetically brutalizing someone, needs to show us that he knows how important forgiveness is, that he understands the role he could play in starting a meaningful conversation on domestic abuse. […]

By remaining silent on stage -- at a time when women on Twitter were making light of his history of violence by saying that he could abuse them any time -- Brown may have continued his history of silence on abuse, but in giving him a space on television, the Grammys supported that narrative. We might pretend that the Grammys are just superficial and irrelevant, but they are, for better or worse, the most influential music body in the country and say a great deal about what we hold up as being of worth. When the Grammys celebrate a space where women are not safe and then bring that space into our homes, we have a duty to do more than shut off our televisions. We have a duty to speak up and use our voice to end the silence. We have a duty to make sure it doesn't happen again.

It's doubtful Brown knew of the young women tweeting about their deranged desires for him while he was performing at the Grammys, but he's surely heard about it since. As someone who grew up in a home so violent that it caused him to wet his pants, he understands acutely that there's nothing lighthearted about women making abuse jokes. He's had an opportunity to address these women, but instead Brown has spent his energy confronting his critics, reminding us exactly why he's not a role model, at least not yet.

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--Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: Chris Brown accepts the award for best R&B album for "F.A.M.E." during the 54th annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 12. Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press

 

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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.



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