There’s a certain language that they give people in recovery to use to describe how their lives were before, how their lives are now, and how they must be in the future. It’s all about recognizing the wrong, salvaging the good, understanding new boundaries placed upon you as a result of your addiction/problem, and conditioning you to move forward in a world of people who don’t understand, who have never had a problem with the things that tempt you beyond bearing. They feed you a steady diet of statistics and lecture you on the right thing to do if you are ever confronted with that situation again. But they can’t make you take any of it, use any of it for any meaningful purpose; they can only make you able to repeat the facts and figures on demand. They equip you with the right things to say, but it’s up to you to show and prove.
Victims are given a similar language, though much more empowering. It’s not “You can no longer do this,” it’s “this was not your fault.” They give you the statistics to make you feel less lonely or foolish or weak. They bolster your opinion of yourself and your self-worth. They want you to be able to rise above the limiting label of the victim. They give you the words to tell people how it wasn’t your fault, you’re so much better, you no longer feel humiliated and ashamed, you know how to avoid those pitfalls again. But seeing the deer in your headlights and not hitting him are not the same thing. They can’t make you swerve to avoid it, or stop just short of hitting it; they can only warn you to look out for them.
Or it’s all PR BS, just more acronymns for you to toss around, more words to mold your image and keep you from being a different statistic: a celebrity has been, or worse, a celebrity more famous for being infamous than for actually recording music.
We’ve seen this posturing before. I took the more unpopular approach and called out Whitney for being image consulted to death. As an addict in recovery, the first thing you do is admit you have a problem (and no, Whitney, being addicted to Bobby’s “peeps” was not the only problem you had). That’s the accountability part that allows you to move forward. I have made this mistake and I can make it again; so teach me how to stop making it. This is how you are receptive to change and not just receptive to what could be good for your career.
Just in time to promote their new albums, Chris Brown and Rihanna both had interviews about what happened February 8th, a day that will live in infamy. I only got to view portions of her interview, but I saw all of his (it was only a half hour and on demand is gracious enough to put MTV at my disposal). I have to say that the timing of these interviews leads me to believe, just as Whitney’s did, that these “revelations” have a lot more to do with recovering fans than recovery, but I wanted to come to them with an open mind and ears to see whether or not they were willing to be real.
Chris Brown can quote verbatim anything you want to know about domestic violence. He can tell you what you should do as a male or a female who feels their relationship may turn violent. How do I know that he knows this? Sway went back to the expert, a therapist, and asked her the same questions and got the same answers. Good job Chris Brown; you studied. So did Rihanna, knowing enough to correct Diane Sawyer on some statistics. They both knew exactly what America wanted to hear and played their parts. No one wanted to hear Chris Brown describe choking Ri Ri out and punching and biting her, but everyone wanted to know how she was feeling. Did they still love each other? How did he feel about the restraining order? Why did he/she do this/that in the aftermath of the beating?
Yes I saw the interviews. Are they sincere? I would say they are as sincere as they can be in their respective positions. Not to be crude, but maybe Ri Ri was showing out too that night; maybe she slapped him, punched him too. Women abuse men too, but often get away with it because people think it’s cute or it doesn’t hurt, that a man should be able to handle it. Is she going to tell us that? No, she will lose fans. Must she make a stand, nearly 9 months later, about domestic violence? Of course, if she wants a career. I can’t doubt the validity of their emotions, but I can doubt if we would have ever heard any of this had it not been album release time. Did Rihanna’s album help her to recover? Probably so. As an artist (non-vocal, of course), I know how healing it can be to return to doing what you love. Is it an even better thing to say to pique public interest in your upcoming offering? Yes, that’s just good marketing.
And what of Chris Brown. Does he understand the seriousness of what happened? Can he be rehabilitated? I think it’s too soon to write anyone off. Nobody mentioned, to my knowledge, previous abuse or a pattern. Can he be with someone else and never raise a hand again? Sure, if he does get counseling and stays away from women who can make him that mad. It’s just like any addiction. But now he has to live in the new boundaries established by his previous behavior. Will his career recover? It might, if he can stay relevant long enough for someone else to mess up worse than him and divert attention, as well as stay out of trouble. But on the day they bury him, he will still be the pop sensation that beat the crap out of this other pop sensation at the height of both of their careers. Is he sincere? I have no idea, but it must be bewildering to suddenly be severed from someone you have come to love so deeply, even when you are the one who messed it up to begin with. Is it also the right thing to say to try and sway public opinion and sell albums? Absolutely.
So at the end of the day, this horrible abuse has become, in this celebrity setting, a commodity to be traded to either enhance or salvage a career and a way of live two people have grown accustomed to. Like any commodity, the things it is made of– love, hope, innocence, teenage angst, fame, wealth– have their own value independent of the thing they combine to become. I’m just not sure I want to buy it.