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?