It’s always an ethical conundrum for people who care about making ethical choices: Do you have to approve of an artist to consume his/her art? I’ve been thinking a lot about this question lately, since the Grammys and the whole Chris Brown/Rhianna controversy, as I don’t understand why it’s a controversy. I don’t understand why Chris Brown actually has a career. Rhianna is talented and beautiful. He’s simply attractive. Couldn’t the promotion machine behind him simply find somebody else attractive who isn’t a violent jerk wad to do what they have Chris Brown do?
Unlike this one, there are controversies surrounding artists or sports figures that actually make sense. Some people will never forgive Michael Vick or Tiger Woods, though I really don’t understand much of the outrage leveled at Tiger Woods for those of us outside the marriage. But there are, generously, about ten people in the world who can do what Michael Vick does, and nobody can do what Tiger Woods did before it all fell apart. Whether you can forgive and forget or not, Vick and Woods are both rare talents. Whether you value sports enough to let go their ethical lapses is another thing entirely. Or whether you take their apologies and restitution as a done deal is also another matter. Vick, in particular, has done everything that has been asked of him. Forgiveness is a tricky bit of public ethics. Forgiveness is seldom owed to anybody in secular ethics. (Christian ethics is another ball game for forgiveness.)
This difference plagues me when thinking about Chris Brown and Rhianna because it reminds me of the Ike and Tina Turner revelations. Regardless of whom you believe in the he said, she said nature of that history (which isn’t the case with Rhianna; the evidence is clear–Chris Brown is a violent dude), Ike Turner was a tremendously gifted musician. He had horrible personal demons, but he was a first-rate artist, even if it’s easy to get distracted by Tina’s obvious sex appeal when you watch their old clips.
Chris Brown isn’t. I don’t mean to be rude, but…it seems to me that a record company could take any handsome young black man, buy him some expensive clothing, and that guy could do what Chris Brown does. He strikes me as being a violent Kim Kardashian, and I think society can, indeed, straight up expect those people with their extremely limited contributions to at least be nice.
So why does this man still have a career? Am I just too tasteless/ignorant to recognize his wonderfulness?