Forever on the Airwaves

I love a good internet meme.  I actually do mean “good” because there are bad internet memes.  Literal music videos and LOLcats?  Always funny.  The banana dancing to the peanut butter jelly song?  It was never funny.  Most of this is a matter of personal meme taste, though we can all agree that this meme of a meme is the best of all the memes…woah.  Too much meme. (KnowYourMeme is a good place to start if you’re feeling incredibly confused right now.)

One of my favorite internet memes is that viral video of the bridal party dancing down the aisle at a wedding.  It’s so much better than a boring march to some clichéd string quartet.  (Incidentally, Pachabel’s Canon in D is a FOUR minute piece of music.  Nobody takes four minutes to walk down an aisle.  Pick. A. Better. Song.)  I’ve watched this video a lot.  When my sister and brother-in-law were planning their wedding last year, I continuously requested a dance entrance.  They refused, and threatened to disown me if I tried any rebellious aisle-dancing.

In yet another of my I-cannot-connect-with-my-age-group woes, I don’t like Top 40 music.  I like Oldies and Eisley and NPR.  Chris Brown is a Top 40 artist.  I only know one song of his, and I only know that because it’s the song used in the wedding video.  In addition to the one Chris Brown song I know, I have an unfortunate wealth of knowledge regarding his off-the-radio conduct.  Specifically, I know all about that time he assaulted his then-girlfriend.  We all know her name, but I’m not going to use it here.  Because she didn’t ask to be brutalized, and while being a survivor is a true and praise-worthy accomplishment… I don’t think this incident should be her legacy.  Instead, I’ll wish her happiness, success and peace and will attempt to abstain from bringing her into this particular dialogue.

Violence against women is unconscionable.  I don’t have adjectives powerful enough to describe the utterly deplorable nature of domestic violence.  Think about it:  you’re in this intimate relationship, built on trust and mutual respect and all the other things that contribute to a good, healthy union.  Then, your partner violates all of that trust and respect in the most horrific ways imaginable.  Whatever combination of emotional, psychological and physical violence is enacted against you, you’re left to navigate the situation, virtually alone.

When the “Chris Brown = Batterer” headlines broke, I was heartened by stories of radio stations refusing to play his music.  That radio stations were actively sending the message that ‘No, actually, we are NOT okay with this in our society.’ meant a lot to me.  This is the world I want to live in- a world that does not condone domestic violence.  I felt like this was a big step, as we’re typically a victim-blaming culture with meager laws to protect survivors or prevent perpetrators.

I was flipping through radio stations yesterday when I heard that wedding song.  My thought process went like this:  I love that internet meme!  I wish my sister had let me dance down the aisle at her wedding.  Wait…isn’t this Chris Brown?  Perpetrator of violence?  Why the blazes is he on the radio right now??

I’ve heard the argument that because he “apologized”, because so much time has passed, we should move on.  It’s fine to listen to his music again, right?  No.  It’s not all right at all.  Music may be a matter of taste, but I truly believe there is nothing Chris Brown is creating that a thousand other talented musicians- artists who don’t hit their girlfriends- can’t create.  There is no reason we should be idolizing and glorifying this man.  He should not be a celebrity.  I’m feeling pretty horrified to live in a society that praises violence.

My favorite part of that wedding dance video isn’t any part of the actual video.  It’s the annotation box that hovers over the screen, encouraging viewers to donate money to prevent domestic violence.  It’s this statement on the couple’s website:  “We hope to direct this positivity to a good cause. Due to the circumstances surrounding the song in our wedding video, we have chosen the Sheila Wellstone Institute.  Sheila Wellstone was an advocate, organizer, and national champion in the effort to end domestic violence in our communities.”

I never want to listen to Chris Brown’s music.  I definitely don’t want to see the romantic comedy he’s been cast in.  But I still love that wedding dance video.  Can I watch it without feeling guilty about supporting an abuser?  YES.  Here’s my madcap plan:  The video has a running time of 5:10… so, what if I just stuck a dollar sign in front of that?  $5.10.  I’m charging myself five dollars and ten cents for watching this video.  And that money is going to the Safehouse in my area.

I’ve watched the video three times while writing this blog…and I’m watching it right now…and there was that time on the radio.  So…that’s five times $5.10 which is (I’m an English major.  I’m not good at this math part.) $25.50.  Twenty five dollars and fifty cents.  That is not a lot of money.  It’s enough that I should probably stop watching this video…but it’s peanuts when you consider the financial needs of survivors in our communities.  $25.50 will go a long way in fulfilling the items on my local Safehouse’s Wish List.  And that’s something I can feel good about.

Domestic violence is an extremely personal issue in my life.  I care about this enormously.  I want to know what you think.  Are you okay with Chris Brown’s music being played on radios?  Would you go to see his romantic comedy?  Do you know where the shelters in your area are, and what monetary/material needs they currently have?

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3 thoughts on “Forever on the Airwaves

  1. I look forward to your columns in the NY Times or if that’s too mainstream, perhaps something like the New Yorker or something big some day. Your writing is always a treat to read!

    Now, to keep topical, I’ll answer your questions. I totally understand what you mean with if I am comfortable with his music on the air again. I don’t feel its appropriate. Why does it seem that society has given him a pass because he has “apologized”. Individuals in athletics for instance who commit henious crimes certainly are treated as they should be for their crimes. Is it a matter of audience at that point? When that comes into mind, things become a little clearer. A satirist at FOX named Andy Levy made mention of Chris Brown on Twitter, bringing focus to his indiscretions via mocking tweets. The outpour against Mr. Levy was interesting. Many stood with him but a surprising amount of individuals responsed to those tweets threatening him. The breakdown showed a low intelligence and also a low socio-economic background. Could it be that those in lower socio-economic brackets where there is little emphasis on issues with domestic violence have pushed him back on top and therefore he is back on the airways? I don’t particularly care for him as an individual but the same stands when I look at how I regard him as an “artist” as well. Points though, the meme is a good one – it reminds me of The Office when they took a shot at it too and I did enjoy it.

    On the topic of shelters, I unfortunately do not know the status of those in Laramie. Of the ones I know of in Cheyenne, they are always in need. Even if they were in a good position, I’d consider assisting and donating because that is work that is never-ending unfortunately.

    I apologize for any errors I miss, I tried to respond on my phone.

    • Hi, Pedro!

      The New Yorker is my yuppie writing dream. Honestly. You’re too nice. :D

      I don’t think I’ll ever stop being surprised when we meet violence with violence. I’ll also never stop being surprised when folks send violent threats via…Twitter. (I recently stumbled across @homophobes. The entire Twitter feed is retweets of violent/hateful comments about homosexuality. I just don’t get it.)

      Socio-economic class is certainly a factor (it’s often a really big factor) in domestic violence cases. But it is really important that we remember that anyone from any economic class can find themselves in these circumstances. Chris Brown, for instance, was an extremely wealthy and famous individual, but his celebrity didn’t stop his violence. Similarly, I think our reactions to domestic violence can have roots in socio-economic class. We’re really privileged to go to universities and have the opportunity to gain a lot of knowledge about the world and to challenge situations- like this man’s music showing up on the radio. So, maybe it’s fair to say that a less privileged class is supporting his return, because his battering just doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. At the same time, the folks who are continuing to produce his albums and put him movies certainly aren’t coming from a low economic position. Obviously, the market is going to respond to our demands. Maybe we need to be more vocal with our disapproval?

      I did some research about domestic violence resources in Laramie! Albany County does have a shelter. It’s called Safe Project. I hope you and the people you know never need to use their resources, but it’s good to know they exist. They also have a Wish List. I know there are lots of causes vying for our attention and donations, but a lot of the things they’re looking for (ie, paper towels) would be easy to pick up during your personal shopping.

  2. Pingback: Things I Like: SourceFed |

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