“I hate that guy.” That’s what you’re bound to think first upon hearing that Chris Brown has announced a new album — if you reside in the camp that believes Chris Brown is a deplorable human, that is. It’s not his music that targets your animosity — not specifically, anyway. But him. You hate Chris Brown. And whatever you think of harmonic dexterity, you’re not willing to give the Fortune follow-up, which MTV reveals will be available later this year, a second thought. It doesn’t matter if his music is any good — you’re just not on board with him as a human being. Therefore, you have no room in your life for his art.
And while we’re hardly making this claim in the interest of attracting an audience to Brown’s next array of trash compactor sounds set to lyrics about lounge bathrooms, we can't help but wonder: should we try to take an ubiased look at Brown’s music before we cast it out? Or are we right to boycott all output from the artist based solely on the vicious act of violence he imparted upon his girlfriend Rihanna in 2009? Is this distinction — between the individual and his or her work — one that needs to be made?
RELATED: Rihanna Instagrams Her Marijuana Bouquet
George Washington owned slaves and dabbled in drugs. Albert Einstein treated his wife like a servant and neglected his illegitimate daughter. Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, was vehemently in favor of detention camps for Japanese Americans. But we’re perfectly fine with glossing over all that.
We’re well aware of the transgressions of figures like those listed above — men whose toils resulted in the likes of modern democracy and Hop on Pop. We know that behind many historical triumphs there live imperfect characters, riddled with corruption, cruelty, and intolerance. But instead of honing in on personal maladies, we’re inclined to keep our eyes on the achievements in government, science, and the arts. At least when it comes to dead people.
Separating the individual from the work is none too prevalent a practice when it comes to contemporary figures. While the contributions of Washington and Einstein live on with vigor long past the expiration of these men (and their indiscretions) the public icons of today do not have the same kind of statute of limitations working in their favor. And as privacy is a luxury so few know in this day and age, we experience the influence of personal wrongdoings tenfold.
RELATED: Did Chris Brown Refuse to Stand for Frank Ocean at the Grammys?
We oust political figures from office over ordeals of sexual deviancy and blacklist actors for racial epithets. We can’t watch a Mel Gibson movie without recalling his infamous anti-Semitic rant or a Tom Cruise flick without braving thoughts of the allegations of psychological abuse with which his name has been associated — as such, many of us will abstain from watching altogether. But are Tom Cruise and his movies one and the same? Is there harm in shirking an artist’s work due entirely to the artist’s off-screen character?
Taking, for a moment, the quality of Brown's music out of the equation, it is the very idea of this alienation that conjures concerns. As expressed via the above examples, valuable achievements can come from objectionable sources: Washington, Einstein, Seuss. Roman Polanski, guilty of child molestation, is responsible for a number of cinematic masterpieces. Oscar Scott Card, an outspoken homophobe, created the popular science-fiction tome Ender’s Game. Ray Charles, an adulterous heroin addict, forever changed the genres of blues, jazz, and rock and roll.
The question is an especially biting one when it comes to the music industry. More than a piece of film, television, or even literature, a song seems to be inherently connected to the essence of its creator. When you’re listening to a Chris Brown song, you feel like you’re listening to — and as such connecting with, communicating with, supporting — Chris Brown.
RELATED: Rihanna Strips Down in 'Stay' Music Video
In Brown's case, the issue is greeted with even more jaw-clenching fury, however, because Brown doesn’t seem at all interested in separating himself from his work. Antics like announcing his new album just a day prior to girlfriend Rihanna’s 25th birthday exhibit a willingness to associate his work with his personal affairs. Brown constantly sells himself (and his music) under a label of rehabilitation, with a misguided Rihanna’s vigorously enabling his efforts. Brown seems satisfied with who he is, and, furthermore, with his listeners connecting to that very character. And what’s scary is, many of them seem to. A slew of legitimately terrifying messages hit the Internet in the wake of Brown’s crime, with fans of the singer/songwriter excusing his actions based on their affinity for his music and good looks.
Justin Bieber, a contemporary of Brown’s, rules in favor of judging Brown’s actions separately from his music. “Chris Brown. I’m a fan,” Bieber said, as reported by Hollywood Life. “His music is really good. That’s what they should focus on: his music.”
RELATED: Why We Can't Admit We Didn't Like Frank Ocean's 'Forrest Gump' Performance
The real meat of the debate asks whether support for Brown’s music entails support for his actions. Is any sort of propagation of his validity, as an artist, some form of a free pass for the disgusting act of abuse for which he is responsible? Even if we can distance our own judgments of Brown when considering his music, will said consideration be taken into account by the observers — society, and Brown himself?
Plain and simple, we’re not sure. With passion for artistic expression resting steadily in our hearts, we want to say that an individual’s personal life and his or her creations should be distinct entities. We grant this favor when watching Chinatown or reading Ender’s Game. We’ll even enjoy Mad Max on a rainy day. But not without a sheath of guilt — while their crafts might warrant merit, we don’t want to support the people who inspire this debate. We don’t want to put another dollar into the pockets of the men and women who propagate ideas we detest or enact deeds we can’t even stomach. We want to be able to look at a piece of art for what it is, not for who made it. But we might never be able to do so objectively and shamelessly.
But we’re in luck here, friends — because at the end of the day, Chris Brown is also a pretty crappy musician. Ergo, we don’t have to worry about liking any part of him. Problem solved.
[Photo Credit: Jeff Fusco/Getty Images]
From Our Partners:Bradley Cooper Dancing Is Surprisingly Awkward, Sweaty (Vh1)Kate Upton Bares All in Nothing But Body Paint: Video (Celebuzz)
The original Seuss story is a wonderful--albeit simple
--children's tale about two bored kids left alone in their house on a cold wet day. They're visited by a six-foot-tall talking adventure-seeking feline who's looking for a little fun (OK maybe a lot of fun). Against the warnings of the children's seriously repressed pet goldfish the Cat (with the help of a couple of troll doll look-a-likes called Thing One and Thing Two) turns the house upside down then puts it all right-side-up again before the kids' mother gets home. The question for Hollywood is how to turn a story like this one that's left an indelible impression on millions of readers young and old since 1957 into a major motion picture? While the film thankfully keeps to this original's plot talking fish and all it obviously tries to flesh things out adding some new characters and tacking on a few life lessons. The kids now have very distinct personalities: Wild older brother Conrad (Spencer Breslin) plays fast and loose with the rules while sister Sally (Dakota Fanning) an uptight control freak has driven all her friends away with her rigidity. Their mother Joan (Kelly Preston) works at the town's real estate office run by the anal retentive Mr. Humberfloob (Sean Hayes) and she's dating the guy next door Quinn (Alec Baldwin) a superficial scumbag who wants to send Conrad to military school. On the particular cold wet day in question Joan leaves instructions not to mess up the house since she's having an important business meet-and-greet there later that night. When the Cat (Mike Myers) arrives he quickly assures Sally and Conrad they can have all the fun they want and nothing bad will happen. Ignoring vocal opposition from the Fish (voiced by Hayes) the Cat quickly puts into motion a series of events that will a) prove his point b) destroy the house and c) teach the kids a sugary-sweet but valuable lesson about being responsible while living life to the fullest.
Just as Jim Carrey immortalized the Grinch Mike Myers seems born to play the Cat in the oversized red-and-white striped hat--he has the sly slightly sarcastic wholly anarchistic thing down cold. Myers' impersonations of a redneck Cat mechanic (with requisite visible butt crack) an infomercial Cat host and a zany British Cat chef are outrageous as are the hilarious little asides he spouts although they'll probably go over kids' heads: "Well sure [the Fish] can talk but is he really saying anything? No not really." But even though Myers has some fun moments he just isn't the Barney type and when he turns on the come-on-kids-let's-have-fun charm and adopts a dopey laugh he seems uncomfortable. As for the kids Fanning and Breslin (Disney's The Kid) do a fine job reacting to the wackiness the Cat surrounds them with although Fanning basically plays the same uptight character she created in the recent Uptown Girls. Of the supporting players Baldwin has the most fun as the villainous Quinn a bad-guy role that while a little superfluous gives Baldwin plenty of opportunities to chew the scenery. Hayes is also good in his dual role; he stamps Humberfloob indelibly on our brains then kicks butt as the voice of the beleaguered Fish.
It must have been a no-brainer for producer Brian Grazer to do another Dr. Seuss adaptation after all the fun magic and profits the 2000 hit How the Grinch Stole Christmas generated. With Cat in the Hat however he didn't collaborate with his usual directing partner the Grinch's Ron Howard. Instead Grazer took a chance on first-time director Bo Welch who previously served as production designer on Tim Burton's Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands and has three Oscar nods to his credit for production design on other films. Welch certainly takes his quirky cue from Burton when it comes to the look of Cat in the Hat especially Sally and Conrad's suburban Southern California neighborhood with its lilac frames and blue roofs. The gadgets are cool too from the Cat's Super Luxurious Omnidirectional Whatchamajigger or S.L.O.W vehicle to the Dynamic Industrial Renovating Tractormajigger or D.I.R.T. mobile for cleaning up the house. When we enter the Cat's bizarre world though the film's Seussian look starts to have problems possibly because there's nothing of this place in the original book. Hidden within the feline's magical crate the Cat's world can produce "the mother of all messes " and in keeping with that purpose there's some effort at making it look like a fragmented Cubist painting. But it's more plastic than Picasso and in the end it's about as interesting as a Universal Theme Park ride (a fact the movie actually mentions).