Notes on Chris Brown, Rihanna and notable woman-beaters of recent history…

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Anyone who’s spent any portion of the past couple of years perusing either my Facebook page (arguably the greatest of its kind, ever) or my recently award-winning Twitter feed (thanks again, Jax Mag!) can discern two facts straightaway: 1) I love pro-wrestling; 2) I hate Chris Brown. If I need to explain why, I can only offer congratulations on getting out of your vegetative state, or GITMO, whichever applies to your specific case. My fiery distaste for this glorified minstrel was inflamed yet again by his feuds with WWE Champion CM Punk and country singer Miranda Lambert (both of whom could probably kick his ass), as well as the news that he’s collaborated on two new tracks by Rihanna, who of course is best-known for being repeatedly punched in the face by Chris Brown, and not really minding that much.

To each his own—and these are two peas in a pod. Whereas Brown has spent the past few years trying to balance his need for public absolution against his obvious inability to change the mentality that got him that situation to begin with, Rihanna has spent that time glorifying her abuser and his type in songs, videos and elaborate stage shows built around the single unifying theme of all of Rihanna’s music: S&M. The world erred in viewing that incident as domestic violence, and Rihanna as a helpless victim of an abruptly abusive male. In reality, the beating was just one small, public part of a long-term sadomasochistic relationship between two people who grew up being abused, and whose profession requires them to project self-destructive messages to the urban fans who, being rubes in the most fundamental sense, take their gimmicks seriously. Their job is to help normalize this shit, and make it cool.

The Chris Brown camp—aka the “I don’t hit girls, but if any girl ever gives me a halfway plausible excuse, I look forward to doing so” crowd—makes a very good point in his defense: He did nothing unusual in the larger context of pop-culture. To single him out is unfair, and hypocritical. Brown is not the first famous guy caught beating the crap out a woman, but he is the first who’s ever had to apologize more than once, if only because there were pictures.

A short list would fill this column; a full and detailed list would fill this entire issue, and it’s surprising no one’s actually tried that yet. After looking into the subject, I was disturbed to see that many of my favorite artists, writers and musicians hit their wives, girlfriends, or even strangers; some are well-known, others less so. This list is meant to include only convictions or plea bargains, admitted incidents, incidents that occurred in front of witnesses, or individuals who have been accused by multiple women.

Marv Albert, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Chris Benoit, Big Pun, Biggie Smalls, Riddick Bowe, Jackson Browne, Jim Brown, Bobby Brown, Glenn Campbell, Jose Canseco, Nick Carter, John Daly, Miles Davis, Elijah Dukes, Eminem, Mel Gibson, Jimi Hendrix, Terence Howard, Joe Jackson, Rick James, Sean Penn, Jason Kidd, Sugar Ray Leonard, Lex Luger, Sugar Ray Robinson, Tommy Lee, John Lennon, Norman Mailer, Moses Malone, Steve McQueen, Shawne Merriman, Harry Morgan, Mos Def, Bill Murray, Tito Ortiz, Pablo Picasso, Kirby Puckett, Busta Rhymes, Axl Rose, Randy Savage, George C. Scott, Charlie Sheen, Christian Slater, Dick Slater, Wesley Snipes (accused of beating Halle Berry), Phil Spector, Kevin Sullivan, Tone Loc, Stalin, Daryl Strawberry, Hunter S. Thompson, Ike Turner, Mike Tyson, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sid Vicious, Yanni. And you know who was one of the most notorious woman-beaters in recent memory? Mr. “peace and love” himself–John Lennon! Hell, even Ric Flair has been accused of domestic violence. (Note: For legal reasons, and to save space, no local examples are cited here, but everyone knows who I’m talking about.)

What can we learn from all this? Nothing.

Let’s also note that the Chris Brown/Rihanna debacle points to a common problem in dealing with domestic violence: What do you do when the woman forgives and embraces her accuser? Rihanna fans who were disgusted by the beating she took have now been forced, by her, to put money into the pocket of the man who did it. All her so-called “friends” and family who went to her birthday party just a couple weeks ago were compelled not only to tolerate Brown’s presence as he nuzzled up to her, but also to reportedly sign confidentiality agreements saying they wouldn’t tell the media he was there—and they did it!

And, lest the world come down too hard on Rihanna’s deplorable behavior in all this (which sets a new low, even in this category), let’s not forget that things could be worse. The example of Halle Berry looms, pointing toward her future, in a best-case scenario. At worst, well, one shudders to think. Hopefully she does, as well.

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