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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chris Brown and Charlie Sheen: Separate and Unequal??

It's been quite a week for (in)famous (alleged) batterers of women. Charlie Sheen sells out Madison Square Garden while denying rumors that he's returned to "Two and a Half Men," and hip-hop artist Chris Brown emerges shirtless from the Good Morning America NYC studio after a violent rage caused by a tough interview. Somewhere the ghost of Ike Turner is kicking himself and wishing he was alive right now!! What a terrific time to be a male star who abuses women. The world is your oyster - you can release your comeback album, throw temper tantrums (and chairs), play the victim, and be treated to a lap dance in a 12-hour period (Mr. Brown); or you can have two strippers/porn stars babysit your children and can cash in on the psycho-babblings of your Twitter feed (Mr. Sheen).

But, alas, not all is well. Following the firestorm that erupted after his post-GMA tirade, Chris Brown tweeted that he was angry that the media continues to bring up his domestic violence, while Charlie Sheen is given a pass (the actual tweet contained some spicier verbiage!). So is there a double standard in the treatment of Chris Brown and Charlie Sheen? Yes, there is. So what is it based on? The answer may not be so obvious. Here are some factors that may be at work:

  1. Race - The image of the violent, angry black man is, unfortunately, still a go-to stereotype in the minds of some, and images of a snarling, smirking, and shirtless Chris Brown only serve to reinforce this prejudice. He has been portrayed as an animalistic, violent thug, while Charlie Sheen is viewed as the sad, drunken uncle that your mom warns you about whose completely harmless. His rantings are fodder for "The Soup" and his jovial, even affable manner, has made him a media darling.
  2. Bimbo vs. Good Girl - Charlie Sheen has a long history of violence against women, however, with the exception of Kelly Preston, whom he shot in 1990 when they were engaged, these women have either had careers in the adult entertainment industry or were abusing drugs and alcohol. These women were no match for Sheen and his millions, and a public who believes the worst when it comes to certain types of women who do certain kinds of things with men. Contrast this situation with Chris Brown who had the nerve to rough up Rihanna, a "nice" girl who was successful on her own. The fact that the two had been in a long-term committed relationship only added to the public's sense of betrayal, after all we'd watched them on countless red carpets together. Add to this that there were actual photos showing Rihanna's bruised, puffy punch-battered face and you've got a slam dunk! 
  3. Addiction vs. Anger - The treatment of addiction is both illusive and frustrating, and for celebrities the fame and narcissism can make addiction fatal. Reality shows, like the repulsive "Celebrity Rehab," and the over-the-top "Being Bobby Brown," while exploiting their celeb subjects, have also taken us behind the fame wall and made us sympathetic to those wrestling with addiction. It's become standard operating procedure for celebrities like La-Lohan to sign themselves immediately into a rehab facility following extremely bad behavior. We can forgive addiction. So it's little wonder that Charlie Sheen has found a soft spot in the hearts and minds of so many, after all, his rages were fueled by addiction, or so we assume, and so he is given a pass. Not so with Chris Brown, though. He's an angry man, that's it, pure and simple - case closed!
Of course, lost in all of this are the limitations of the law in prosecuting violence against women, and our own limitations as we allow ourselves to be entertained by a couple of clowns who beat and threaten women and collect a paycheck for their efforts. I'm just saying.

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