Dating, Relationships, & Sex, Pop Culture, Theory & Essay

Having The Birthday Cake And Eating It Too: A Collection of Conflicting Thoughts About Chris Brown

Ever since his infamous assault of then-girlfriend Rihanna, I’ve been captivated with Chris Brown, Rihanna, the myriad different stances people have adopted in regards to them, and the “Whys” behind these stances. Case in point: Along with my recent piece at Ebony, I’ve written about them — well, him in particular — at least four times in the three years since.

First there was “naked: chris brown and the sad plight of the scorned man” — an entry where I used their situation as a convenient segue to talk about how men dealing with effed up relationship situations usually don’t have any proverbial “shoulders to cry on.”

I followed that a few months later in something written about Tiger Woods and his wife, where I made mention of the fact that it seems like some of the people excusing Chris Brown for his role in the incident may not realize exactly how much bigger he is than Rihanna. Not that it should matter. A 5’6” man can inflict just as much damage as a 6’6” man can. But, I thought (and still do think) that some people hear the name “Chris Brown” and immediately think skinny, dancing-ass, teenage pop star, not 6’2” man with muscles formed from years of dancing and working out. Basically, in their minds, him vs Rihanna was a fair fight, but in actuality he dwarfs her in size.

Next, I made mention of them making a “movie” together in “A Sneak-Peek Into “Tyler Perry’s Love Jones.”

And, by the time “Seven Reasons Why I’m Totally Not Upset About Steve Harvey’s “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man” Movie” was written a few months ago, you could begin to sense my exasperation with this discussion. In a matter of a couple years, I went from “this is some serious sh*t” to “I know it’s serious, but I don’t really give a damn anymore”

“Back to Blonde Breezy. Although I’ve been very critical of Chris Brown’s “redemption” in the past, I think I’ve officially reached the “not a single f*ck was given” point regarding whatever the hell happened that infamous night on the way to the Grammys. Apparently, time heals all wounds and all self-righteous indignations.

But, what remains completely fascinating is how both him and Rihanna have gotten progressively weirder and progressively more famous since that night. Maybe instead of a fight that night, they actually went through the Illuminati’s application and pledging process. Who knows?

I do know, though, that somewhere out there (probably on Mars), Andre 3000 and Erykah Badu are kicking themselves. They already had the weird part down pact. Who knew that all they had to do to keep people actually buying their albums was jab each other a couple times while riding in one of their spaceships?”

I guess today’s entry is me coming full-circle. As you may have guessed, I am fascinated again. Now, though, the best word to describe my feelings about Chris Brown is ambivalent.

From the perspective of a person who follows, studies, appreciates, and, sh*t, depends on pop culture, I’m elated that Breezy and Ri-Ri are making music (and, possibly, love) together again. I don’t give a damn about the “Birthday Cake” song itself (I haven’t even listened to it yet), but I will be tuned in to read, watch, listen to, and attempt to deconstruct people’s reactions to it. For a person who writes about pop culture for a living, you couldn’t ask for a better, more layered story.

But, from the perspective of a man who used to be an educator and knows exactly how damaging the latent message of “It’s ok to beat up your girl as long as you’re handsome and popular because everyone, including her, will forgive you shortly anyway” can (and will) have on their millions of young fans, their very public reconciliation rubs me the wrong way.

Right now, Chris Brown is having his birthday cake and eating it too. And, along with the Gotdamn Idiot factor, I think much of the push back is due to the fact that it just doesn’t seem fair for him to be able to do that. People upset at the situation are interested in and deeply invested in concepts like justice, and karma, and comeuppance, and seeing a person do dirt and still succeed in spite of it is a severe rebuke of the way they see the world.

On the other hand, that — Life just aint f*cking fair. Get used to it. — could be a teachable lesson in itself. Perhaps it’s not a bad thing to teach kids at an early age that popular guys and pretty girls will have advantages that normal folks just don’t. I mean, I’m sure they see it play out in front of them every day, and they’re probably tired of hearing “all people have the same chance” from their teachers and parents anyway. Why not be real with them now instead of setting them up for a lifetime’s worth of disappointment?

I don’t know. I don’t have any answers to any of these questions. I don’t know which side of me — the writer or the human — will win out. Sh*t, I don’t even know if the writer and the human are separate entities. I do know, though, that this will not be the last time I devote space to Chris Brown, and I’m concerned with how easily I’m beginning to be able to write something and feel nothing.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

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Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for and EBONY Magazine. And a founding editor for 1839. And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at Or don't. Whatever.

  • Here’s what fascinates me about Chris Brown and Rihanna – OTHER peoples fascination with them. I mean, Miranda Lambert getting all worked up at the Grammys (even though she did a tribute to Glen Campbell who’s been beating women 2 or CB’s lifetimes), Elisabeth Hasslebeck crying over her on the view, etc. Like, you don’t know these folks, why are y’all so emotional about them? How does this affect YOU? My 2 cs

  • Cheech

    I listened to the song today and honestly I haven’t been this disturbed by a song since Plies’ Get it Wet. I’ve listened to dirty songs before but this one was just weird because this is their first song together since the beating and they are already singing about screwing…like where was the reconciliation. I know it is technically a private matter but they and the police publicized it and Rihanna spoke about it in interviews so you would expect something but no…they jump right back into bed lol. I kind of feel bad for Chris’s girl and Drake right now….both them have to feel a bit pissed

  • I don’t really care about them or their situation one way or the other. Their drama has provided us with plenty of fodder for laughs, lessons about writing checks you arse can’t cash and pickin fights in appropriate places…but thats all its been to me. There are plenty of women (and some men too) getting their arse kicked everyday by their friends, family, and/or significant others…i don’t see too many people taking to the streets on their behalf.

    Wish people would stop idolizing folks

  • missmajestic

    I think I’m biased by the fact that Chris is WAY more talented than Rihanna. He was way wrong, but to make Rihanna into some sort of domestic violence example is just wrong. they aint even close to a Ike and Tina. I doubt it would have even made the news the way it did had it not been right before the Grammys.

  • That Ugly Kid

    I might sound like a d*ck, but I believe people need to leave the Chris and Rihanna situation alone. He did what he did, owned up to it, and dealt with the consequences. And it apologized for it. People can question the sincerity (or strength) of his apology all they want. They aren’t the victim. Your opinion, on his apology, to RIHANNA, is irrelevent. I see all kinds of asinine comments like “Chris is trash and deserves life in prison” or my personal favorite “Chris deserves the death penalty.”

    Life Sentence? Death Penalty? For what? I know I’m probably gonna catch flak for this but I have a secret. Beating a woman is not the worse crime. Stop acting like it. In world that has homicide, genocide, rape, child molestation, etc…beating a woman is not the worse thing one human can do to another. Am I saying beating a woman isn’t horrible? Nope. It is very horrible. But to refuse to forgive a man when he could’ve done something MUCH worse, is ludicrous. Bruises heal. A dead man can’t return to life.

  • naturalista88

    I just wish he & everyone else would STFU w/the back and forth about it; let that man lip sync his way into greatness/obscurity, and let the sh*t breathe.

  • kid video

    I bet the makeup sex was intense…they probably been sexting for months before finally hooking back up.

  • Rihanna has a right to forgive and forget. It cracks me up when people get all worked up about something that didn’t happen to them. If your man beats your ass and you don’t choose to get back with him then good for you, but if you decide to work it out that’s your business and you will have to live with your decision. If it backfires very few people will feel sorry for you, but apparently Ri-Ri isn’t too worried about that. Maybe the whole experience has helped them grow closer together. I don’t know but that’s between Rihanna and Chris… sh*t I got my own problems.

  • I’ve been both conflicted and apathetic about this situation for a while. I’ve argued in the favor of people like Mike Vick that served their sentence for their crime and deserve a chance to continue to live in society. However, I refuse to support him because I can’t respect a dude that acts like he does. I don’t think him and Rihanna should be chilling, acting, singing, dancing, or sexing together ever again. She shouldn’t let him back in her life. But, its her life to live and it doesn’t affect me, so she can do what she wants. I just hope history doesn’t repeat itself.

  • Dom

    Well I guess Im gonna play devils advocate in these here comments. I think it’s more than just a little ridiculous that a young woman can have her face beat to the point it’s unrecognizable, sit in an interview and claim to want to teach young fans a lesson about not tolerating domestic violence, and then turn around and continue to make music with the man who beat the crap out of her. The fact that so far the comments are so apathetic about this is disturbing to me. I really wonder how accepting people would be of CB if he’d busted their sister, daughter, or mothers face. Just because she forgave him doesn’t mean we all have to support their reconcillistion on wax.

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