When R&B singer/music festival toilet Chris Brown recently decided to claim Rihanna’s vagina as his property (I believe his eloquent words were “THAT IS MY PUSSY!”), it was par for the course that is the Pebble Beach of douchebaggery. Sure, Brown previously expressed words that sounded like regret about beating Ri-Ri, but you can’t linger on that maturity and retrospective shit when there are pussies to claim!
Stars like Brown and Justin “I’ll beat the fuck out of you!” Bieber are visible in the public eye for their music as well as their public outbursts. They are considered role models to millions, and their every move is as carefully scrutinized as their lyrics. Celebrities engaging in horrendous behavior is nothing new; I’m sure that Jesus handled a camel or two while drunk back in his day. While “they’re just like us” in the sense that humans do stupid things without millions of dollars and PR people bankrolling and explaining their idiocy, they also produce art (movies, music, television–hell, anything creative) that is expected to be purchased.
This begs the question: can you justify spending your hard-earned money on something created by a dickbag? As Depeche Mode once said, “people are people” in reference to humanity being the same despite their differences (though the lyrics strangely read like a plea to Chris Brown to stop being an ass), so it is hypocritical to expect more from the more visible members of society because they make more money and have better clothes and skin. But there’s more to it.
Financing their work is an indirect (or direct, if they have Kickstarter drives or products to buy right from them) way of validating their behavior. That hotel room that Charlie Sheen trashed while vacationing with ex-wife Denise Richards? Paid by contracts for his performances that came from TV ratings from “viewers like you.” Or when Lindsay Lohan wrecked her Porsche and may have had alcohol on her breath? Probably paid for with royalties from Herbie: Fully Loaded. (Heh–“loaded.”) And Amanda Bynes seemed hellbent on ruining her What a Girl Wants goodwill and paycheck by being a colossal dirt bag–hit-and-run and turbans, oh my!
What’s especially troubling is that for all of the bad examples stars display, whether it is getting into fistfights like it’s their job or letting proven car-wreckers borrow their automobiles with predictable results, their cult-like fans (Team Breezy and Beliebers, respectively) are there to excuse their acts and aggressively challenge those that raise arguments about the stars’ social faux pas. These fanatics have wrapped their identities around their appreciation for the artist’s creative works to the point that they cannot separate the entertainment from reality.
I know that I have had trouble with this at times. Growing up in the ’90s gave me good examples of dickishness and bizarre behavior to parse–whether it was the oafish drunk/drug binges and interviews of Oasis’ Gallagher brothers, Michael Jackson’s fall from grace, and Eddie Murphy picking up a transvestite–and debating whether I could excuse their deeds in exchange for their entertainment. In my high school days, I defended the idiotic, racist rants of Chicago shock jock Mancow Muller because I identified with his anti-establishment personality as a part of my brief teenage rebellion with common sense. And when I was younger, grade-school me got in an argument with my friend Taneisha because she said that the King of Pop looked like a girl, and I misheard of her as saying he was gay. (Funny end to that story: when she explained what she really said, I was all “okay, I can see that.”)
I know that it’s too much to demand perfection from artists because they are human–unlike many Beliebers and Breezy-ites–and I won’t call Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong misunderstood because he smashed up a stage before going to rehab. But acts that can (and do harm) people, like racism, violence against another person, and drunk driving will lead me to reconsider or stop purchasing their art. It’s not a perfect contract of conditions, but neither is anyone involved.
Going back to the Chris Brown example, it seems implausible that the shy character nicknamed “Baby” in the movie This Christmas is the same person that could beat a woman or dress like a terrorist for Halloween, but that’s why they call it acting.
And for me, the harsh light of reality made paying for a false image that much more despicable.