Friday, February 20, 2009

Celebrity Violence

By now we’ve all seen the shocking photograph of Rihanna’s battered face on and various news outlets. When I first heard that Chris Brown was arrested for assaulting an unidentified woman I admittedly didn’t think much of it. I thought it was just another story of a celebrity getting in trouble in a club or party. I wasn’t dismissive of violence against women, of course, and am not a “blame the victim” type person. Unfortunately, I’m more of a “blame the celebrity” type person. Whenever I hear that a celebrity did something wrong, my first thought is, “Oh, he/she did it.”

Well, when I found out the victim was Rihanna it seriously bothered me. Although I’m not a fan of hers I do like her music. She is beautiful, but that wouldn’t impact my reaction. It was that by her being a celebrity I felt a connection to her. It’s as if I know her. But I wonder, why should that change how I felt? I consider myself a compassionate person, but was the limit of that so sharp? Had I become so desensitized to violence that anonymous victims are not given a second thought? Was it a coping mechanism because if we’re empathetic to every victim in this cruel and violent world we’d either lose our minds or fall into a bottomless pit of depression? I don’t know the answers, but it made me think twice about how I view the plight of strangers. It also reminded me of the passage in Matthew’s Gospel: “[T]o the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”

Something else bothered me about the matter. Although the investigation is still ongoing and charges may be filed, Chris Brown was originally arrested for making criminal threats because he “allegedly” (I’m using lawyer-speak here) said “I’m going to kill you!” before he “allegedly” assaulted Rihanna. I wondered why the police hadn’t also arrested him for felony domestic battery. I then learned that in California felony domestic battery is a lesser offense than making criminal threats. You have to wonder, how in the [bleep] is that possible? Is it more serious to threaten someone than to beat up your wife or girlfriend?

1 comment:

  1. I think that hearing Rihanna was (allegedly) battered by her boyfriend Chris Brown has more poignancy because the image is specific and concrete. The nameless and faceless victims do not suffer less; we don't "see" their suffering because they are abstract. It makes me think of the "show" vs. "tell." Seeing making us believe.

    Also, for Brown to have (allegedly) hit an anonymous stranger seems less disturbing than for him to hit someone he supposedly loves. Maybe he was high on drugs or drunk, and he was flailing about. To batter someone you know and claim to love strikes me as a betrayal as well as a crime. The injury is magnified.

    AW Newbie