In the wake of his latest run-in with the law, it might be time to ask if TV needs to take a vacation from Chris Brown. A permanent vacation.
The volatile singer was arrested and charged with felony assault on Sunday after allegedly punching a man -- and delivering a homophobic epithet -- outside a Washington, D.C., hotel. On Monday, Brown was released and the charge was downgraded to a misdemeanor.
Brown deserves a fair hearing at trial, but we don't have to wait to conclude that he's already been attached to way too many seriously violent incidents before now. He's still on five years' probation from the 2009 assault case involving his then-girlfriend Rihanna, a case that sparked a national debate about domestic violence. In 2011, he trashed his dressing room at ABC's "Good Morning America" after he was asked about the Rihanna incident (he later apologized).
Everyone knows about the Rihanna case (the ghastly photos of her swollen face became an Internet meme), but in truth the singer nicknamed Breezy brings disaster wherever he goes. Last year he and his entourage got in fisticuffs at a nightclub with the singer Drake; in early 2013 he allegedly shoved and threatened to shoot singer Frank Ocean in a dispute over a parking space. Just a few months ago, Brown was accused in a hit-and-run accident, although those charges were later dropped.
Question: Why does this clearly out-of-control man still enjoy access to big media?
Sure, a lot of big-name rappers have been involved in violent cases, but even the best-known among them, such as T.I., haven't been given the same indulgence as Brown has received. Grammy producers took deserved heat for allowing Brown to perform -- twice! -- at the 2012 awards ceremony. They probably won't make that mistake again, although stranger things have happened in the entertainment business. But the fact is, Brown is still allowed to go out there and flog his music on TV, even after everyone already knows his story and after he keeps pummeling new victims.
Who's enabling him lately? Well, NBC's "Today" -- a mainstream platform if ever there was one -- booked him for a live appearance in August (and he was on the show last year too). As many have noticed, these interviews are awkward. When Matt Lauer asked in August why Brown was putting out "negative" Twitter messages -- really? we're worried about his Twitter account here? -- the singer dodged by replying, "Uh, it's not my music." And then he was invited to perform a song for a throng of adoring fans crowding Rockefeller Center.
Whether these interviews are good TV is beside the point. What's relevant is that network TV shows are gladly allowing themselves to be drafted into the PR machine of an entertainment figure with known violent tendencies. Brown doesn't just sing about beating people up. He actually does it. Repeatedly. And then he gets invited back on TV shows, where a host will ask an obligatory question about the violence that Brown will sidestep. And then he'll get to do another song.
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What do you think of Breezy and his latest problems? Should he be kept off TV?