Pop Rocks: Everybody Hates Chris [Brown]

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Chris Brown, in what I can only assume is a devious plan to become the Most Hated Man On Earth now that Larry "J.R. Ewing" Hagman has died, got involved in alleged fisticuffs with R&B singer Frank Ocean the other night:

L.A. County Sheriff's detectives say they want to question Brown about the dust-up that reportedly occurred Sunday night in the 7200 block of Santa Monica Boulevard, during which Brown allegedly punched Ocean, officials said.

A sheriff's spokesman, Steve Whitmore, said it wasn't yet clear whether the reported incident "rose to the level of an alleged assault. As a matter of fact, it could be a minor scuffle over a parking spot."

At present Brown is on probation for assaulting his girlfriend, Rihanna, the night before the 2009 Grammy Awards.

Brown's problem -- well, aside from chronic rage issues -- is a baffling refusal to acknowledge he did anything wrong. The Good Morning America thing, the neck tattoo, the triumphant Tweets following his getting back together with the woman he savagely beat up, they all go a long way towards explaining why everyone who doesn't self-designate themselves as "Team Breezy" wishes the guy would drop off the face of the earth, preferably through a giant, orbiting space wood chipper.

Because the American public is nothing if not forgiving, a history of violence and subsequent commercial/critical accolades aren't mutually exclusive (Brown's won a Grammy since the incident, but recent album sales are well below the 2x platinum of each of his first two releases).

And as has been pointed out by just about everybody (including Brown himself), we've had no problem welcoming other unrepentant victimizers back to our collective bosom , including those who've offended much more habitually than Brown. Sean Penn is a two-time Oscar winner, never mind his history of abusing paparrazi (understandable) and wife Madonna (less so), including at least once with a baseball bat. Even Charlie Sheen, who "accidentally" shot then-fiancee Kelly Preston in the arm and pled guilty to assaulting wife Brooke Mueller in 2009, has a multi-year TV deal and legions of fans who are perhaps too impressed by the ability of a middle-aged burnout to convince porn stars to live with him.

Albeit temporarily.

I also think it's funny (not "ha ha" funny) that the Rihanna thing is the only point of reference I have for Brown. I've heard some of his songs, but I couldn't pick one of them out of a lineup (not that any are likely to pop up on my Drive-By Truckers Pandora station). Unlike, say, Sean Connery (on the record in two separate interviews that he fully supports smacking women around). But presumably we give him a pass because he's JAMES BOND, man! And it doesn't hurt that he doesn't spend every waking minute on Twitter or Instagram needling those who might have legitimate concerns about his actions.

But lack of social media exposure doesn't explain everything. Lack of criminal convictions makes it easier to excuse things, especially when the allegations are made against one of the biggest comedy icons of our time or one of our hottest cinema sex symbols. In Bill Murray's case, these are allegations made in divorce proceedings, in Michael Fassbender's, the girlfriend in question withdrew the charges for unclear reasons.

Maybe quality of output counts. Again, I haven't heard Brown's music, but John Lennon is widely regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of all time, and he was quite up front about his past violence against women. But again: "past." Lennon was singing from the perspective of a 27-year old with regards to his adolescence and sounded penitent about his actions. Do we then forgive him?

And Sgt. Pepper's is pretty awesome.

Or maybe it really is a race thing, and we give other (whiter) celebrities a pass because it's more palatable to us to do so. In that sense, one could almost make the argument Brown is getting a raw deal. Just as long as he tones it down and doesn't do anything else to turn public opinion against him:

On Monday, Brown posted an Instagram photo depicting a crucifixion scene with the caption: "Painting the way I feel today. Focus on what matters!"

Oh, the hell with it.

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