I wanted to post about slavery because since last Christmas we’re seeing it more and more. So look forward to a conversation about Django Unchained, American Horror Story, and 12 Years a Slave. But just like a mother cleaning her kitchen only to be interrupted by her baby propelling himself from the device he was strapped in I had to stop writing about slavery in TV and film to talk about Chris Brown.
I don’t really want to talk about Chris Brown. There is nothing to talk about there. He puts himself in situations and allows others to provoke him into these situations and draws the ire of white Americans (particularly men) and the sympathy and prayers of African Americans (particularly women). Its all tiresome but as Vice pointed out it deserved a case study.
I wan’t to speak specifically about the stories and the ire it draws. But first let’s talk about Charlie Sheen.
If recognizing racial bias in this case is too much of a stretch because it hints at a guilt you’re unwilling to partake in, consider Charlie Sheen. In 2009, the same year Chris Brown attacked Rihanna, Sheen was arrested for violently assaulting his wife at the time, Brooke Mueller. According to Mueller, Sheen pinned her to the bed and held a knife to her throat after hearing she wanted a divorce. This incident was not alone: In 2006 Denise Richards filed a restraining order against Sheen for his “abusive and threatening manner”; in 1996 Sheen slammed then-girlfriend Brittany Ashland on the floor, and the resulting split lip required seven stitches; in 1990 Sheen shot Kelly Preston, whom he was dating at the time, with a revolver. For his 2009 assault, Sheen was sentenced to 30 days in a rehabilitation center, 30 days of probation and 36 hours of anger management. Attorney Gloria Allred said at the time, “It was a serious, real-life dangerous situation, and should carry serious real life consequences… rather than the extremely light sentence that he received.”
“Instead of being presented as threatening and angry, Sheen is presented as troubled and eccentric—he’s been roasted on Comedy Central, he went on a stand-up tour, a Fiat Abarth commercial fictionalized his house arrest complete with cheering models, and his post-Two And A Half Men sitcom got a 100-episode order from FX. Its title? Anger Management.”
-excerpt from Vice You, Me, and Chris Brown
So why the schizophrenic response? Why is Charlie Sheen rewarded for far worse behavior? The narrative that governs Chris Brown’s condemnation while rewarding Charlie Sheen is the same narrative that condemned Trayvon Martin while seeking to understand Adam Lanza. It a narrative of inherent black deviance and individual white deviant acts.
Not only is this supported by various op-eds but also by comments on Facebook and comment sections on articles. Here are some gems left on a recent Chris Brown article. My favorite: the guy who justifies Sean Penn beating Madonna because he was high on cocaine and she was his wife.