By Jason Menard
I have a confession to make: when it comes to music appreciation, I’m a hypocrite. A big, huge, hippo-sized hypocrite. I’m the Hippocrates of Hypocrites. And I have Chris Brown to thank for this realization.
Music appreciation, in many ways, is like eating. As we get older, our palettes become at once both more refined and more expansive. But unlike food, music – and for the sake of argument we can extend this to all of the arts – is a personality influenced medium.
In spite of the rise of the celebrity chef, for the most part the people behind our food are anonymous. Food presents itself to us on its own – and we judge it solely on what’s before us. We judge it on its quality, its flavour, and the skill involved in its presentation.
Who made our meal is not a factor. But should it be? Would our compliments to the chef be less complimentary if we found out that the person who prepared our meal was a convicted rapist? What if the mirepoix was manipulated by a murderer? The penne produced by a paedophile?
In this case, ignorance seems to be bliss, but thanks to our celebrity-obsessed culture, we don’t have the luxury of appreciating other forms of art in isolation. The art and the artist become entwined, which muddies the waters a bit. And in the case of Chris Brown, even the smallest exposure leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth.
I’ll admit it. I can’t stand Chris Brown. I was never a huge fan of him, but appreciated his talent. And then it happened. We all have seen the photos of the eve-of-Grammy beating in 2009 that left Rihanna with horrendous bruising and swelling. At that point, I – and many others like me – wrote him off as a waste of breath.
Despite his tough-guy bravado and thug-lite wannabe-ism (yes, I made that word up), Brown will now forever be less of a man in my books. No real man hits a woman. Period. No fake posturing or tough-sounding lyrics will ever make me believe that he’s anything more than a pathetic little boy. Brown disgusts me and now so too does his music. If I see him on TV, I change the channel. If I hear him on the radio, I turn the dial.
This pathetic waste of flesh is, for all intents and purposes, dead to me. The only good thing about him, in my book, is that he provided an easy-to-understand example for my now 10-year-old daughter about what no “man” has a right to do to a woman.
So here’s where the hypocrisy comes in. I love The Sex Pistols; Sid Vicious killed Nancy Spungen. I love James Brown; the Godfather of Soul was repeatedly arrested for domestic violence and was once charged with forcible rape. I love Michael Jackson; and we all know what he’s alleged to have done. How can I allow Chris Brown’s art to be tainted by his behaviour when I’m so cavalier about not allowing other artists’ works to suffer the same fate?
The only thing I can come up with is that I’m a big ol’ hypocrite. And I’m not alone.
After all, how many Los Angeles Lakers fans out there cheer on Kobe Bryant? The same Bryant who was charged with rape (a charge that was dropped, but under extreme circumstances), apologized to the alleged victim, and provided financial compensation? Or how many people either love (or laugh at) the antics of Ozzy Osbourne? The same Ozzy who attempted to murder his wife Sharon in 1989?
Our favourite sporting moments, our favourite songs, and our favourite paintings – some of them are likely produced by people who have DUIs on their records, people who are racist/misogynist, and/or people with violent crimes in their past. Yet we let those slide, why?
Why do many people (myself included) refuse to allow Michael Vick to move on from his horrendous dog-fighting operation, despite having served his sentence, yet we’re more than willing ignore the numerous (although, to be fair, statistically less than the U.S. average) other violent crimes and DUIs peppered throughout the league?
There’s a very strong likelihood that I’ll never go to another Mel Gibson movie ever again as I don’t want to support his homophobic and racist behaviours. But should that colour my opinions of Lethal Weapon?
It’s easy to say that we should appreciate art for art’s sake alone. So why doesn’t it feel that simple? A stunning painting should just be a stunning painting; a great steak should simply be a great steak; an engrossing book should be just that; and a moving song should be allowed to move you.
We should be able to take a bite out of that rich cultural stew we have before us without being nauseated by the chef’s beliefs or behaviour. But that’s just not the case.
So thanks to my utter disdain for all things Chris Brown, I guess I’ll have to order that cultural stew with a heaping side order of hypocrisy.