Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I'm Still Not Over Chris Brown at the Grammys

Yes, I know, the Grammys were Sunday night and everyone is moving on. But there's still a valuable conversation going on about the presence of Chris Brown on the Grammy stage and why it matters, so we wanted to address it.

I happened to be on twitter during most of the Grammys, so between that and talking to people after the show I know that I was far from the only one who was not happy that Chris Brown was invited to perform. (He also ended up winning an award.) If you were wondering about the thought process that led the show's producers to decide to invite Brown to perform, especially with Rihanna also scheduled to attend and perform, Grammy Executive Producer Ken Ehrlich answered that by essentially explaining that Rihanna wasn't the most important consideration:
“I think people deserve a second chance, you know," Ehrlich said. "If you’ll note, he has not been on the Grammys for the past few years and it may have taken us a while to kind of get over the fact that we were the victim of what happened.”
He went on to say that "what (Brown has) done to reclaim his career and seemingly the kind of person that he has become makes him -- I don't even want to use the word eligible -- but you know, it's time."
Oh, now I get it. The producers' decision was never about what Chris Brown did to Rihanna - which was beat her so badly that she ended up in the hospital, and is documented in a police report if you know anybody who's forgotten about it like Ehrlich apparently has - it was about what Chris Brown did to the Grammy Awards. It was about Ken Ehrlich and his fellow producers giving Brown their version of the silent treatment for a whopping three years while they decided whether they could find it in their hearts to forgive him for the horrible crime of forcing them to rearrange a small portion of their awards show. Keep in mind that this is the same Grammy Awards that banned Janet Jackson for her Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction, but Chris Brown violently assaults his girlfriend while threatening to kill her, shows little to no remorse for his actions, and gives indications that his violent behavior is not under control, but hey, Ken Ehrlich says "it's time" for all of us to welcome him back to the Grammy stage.

I found Ehrlich's choice of words to be really interesting, and also really infuriating. He doesn't say that they were giving members of their viewing audience a chance to get over what happened, and he doesn't show any concern for Rihanna or any other victims of domestic violence that may have strong feelings about Brown's participation. He doesn't say 'we were wary about inviting him back because in a very small way we were also kind of a victim of what happened due to the timing'. He says "it may have taken us a while to kind of get over the fact that we were the victim of what happened". Rihanna who? This is all about Ken Ehrlich's pain, guys. Let's all admire his strength in finding a way to forgive, and also his audacity in thinking that these comments were remotely acceptable.

Of course, some people will inevitably say that it's just an awards show, but this sends a message and that message matters. Right after the show Buzzfeed compiled a list of 25 extremely upsetting reactions from twitter, with women saying things like "I'd let Chris Brown beat me up anytime". And Brown himself tweeted, and then deleted, this mature and thoughtful response to the controversy and his critics: "HATE ALL U WANT BECUZ I GOT A GRAMMY Now! That's the ultimate FUCK OFF!" Clearly Ken Ehrlich is seeing something that I'm not when it comes to the question of the kind of person that Chris Brown has become. As media critic Jennifer Pozner put it, "Dating violence, just like domestic violence, is deeply misunderstood and not taken even remotely seriously, even though it happens in epidemic numbers...That's part of the reason why it is so dangerous for the Grammys to embrace and showcase Chris Brown after his violence against Rihanna."

If you'd like to join us in sending a message to the Grammys about their support of Chris Brown, there's a petition on right now asking the Grammys to apologize, and to "make that apology meaningful with a donation to an organization that works on behalf of domestic violence victims and survivors". It currently has more then 5500 signatures, so maybe if enough of us speak up we can help Ken Ehrlich to realize that "it's time" for him to rethink his point of view.

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