Here is hoping the outcry over domestic violence perpetrated by Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and other NFL players has more impact than similar rounds of public disgust and media attention directed at Hollywood celebrities — which have done nothing positive.
One need look no further than Charlie Sheen for proof. With a rap sheet including multiple episodes of assault and threats to several girlfriends and two wives, Sheen has done better than survive — he’s made hay with his image. His FX “Anger Management” series has been on since 2012 despite what critic Maureen Ryan described perfectly as the show’s “core ugliness and toxic narcissism.” Sheen and brother Emilio Estevez produced a game show pilot called “Charlie Sheen’s Bad Influence” this past spring for WE tv.
See how pop culture has rewarded someone who made his women into punching bags?
Chris Brown gets downright ticked off when people have the nerve to remember that he once almost killed his on and off again girlfriend Rihanna (currently off, but rumors of a persistent obsession continue). How dare we bring up something we were all supposed to forget? After the headlines in ’09 that Brown had choked Rihanna and left her for dead, questions resounded in the media over whether his career was over. We predicted that he would carry on, as, indeed, he has.
It was impossible not to notice Brown and Rihanna cuddling in the audience at the 2013 Grammy Awards. She was also on hand at his probation hearing shortly before that, where prosecutors said that he had failed to complete the community service part of his sentence for felony assault against her in 2009. Yes, she blew kisses at her man in court. Yes, she at one time was planning to be a role model for young girls to get out of abusive relationships, but a few years after the incident, she and Chris were sending Instagram pictures from the same bed and letting the world know their relationship was “Nobody’s Business” — as in one of their duet titles. Of course, she’s made it our business with ongoing teases of S&M in her songs and duets with the misogynistic lyric-spouting Eminem.
Like Sheen, they’ve exploited their own sorry story to burnish their public notoriety. Now we have a sideshow with Rihanna’s gripe against CBS over her song being pulled/used on their Thursday night NFL broadcasts. Bah.
Speaking of Eminem (who has been investigated on domestic violence allegations, but never charged), as you may be aware, his songs have explored a myriad of vicious sex crime fantasies like raping his mother and assaulting underage girls.
Most notorious, perhaps, is his song named after his ex-wife, Kim Mathers, in which he verbally abuses her and slits her throat. She attempted suicide after watching him perform the song. And then there’s Eminem’s song “Kill You”, which includes lines such as “Slut, you think I won’t choke no whore / till the vocal cords don’t work in her throat no more?”
It follows the hideous tradition of hate speech against women in hip-hop, with stars like Akon referring to women as bitches and hos. This disgrace has gone on so long (in rock, too — “Brown Sugar” anyone?) that sadly, young women and men today simply view it as part of the scenery, the way things are.
Again, in the entertainment world, there’s money to be made and fame to be gained by exploiting domestic violence.
It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time when the mere accusation of spousal abuse could kill the momentum in an actor’s career. In 1983, going public about his history of uncontrollable anger — which had led to his wife charging him with battery — put then-hugely-popular “Starsky & Hutch” star David Soul’s career in deep freeze.
Then things changed. In 1998, when Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee was sentenced to six months behind bars over domestic violence involving then-wife Pamela Anderson, many thought that would be the end of his stardom. Few would have imagined that Lee would go on to even more success — including his own reality show, a rap metal band called Methods of Mayhem and joining in the fun on Pam’s popular cable TV roast.
The public got used to the revolving door of breakups and make-ups — including telltale signs and stories of violence — between Bobby Brown and the late Whitney Houston.
Some celebrities have plea bargained and been sentenced to various diversion programs, probation, etc. in spousal abuse cases (examples include Christian Slater and John Singleton), with barely a ripple in their careers.
“Celebrities have a powerful influence on our culture. We admire famous actors, athletes, musicians and other public figures. What does it mean, then, when they fail as role models, when they batter their partners, and we as a culture continue to admire them and pay to see them perform?” asked the Family Violence Prevention Fund on its endabuse.org website a few years ago. “When we continue to view our celebrities as sexy or heroic even after they are known to be violent to their partners, we condone their behavior and perpetuate domestic violence by helping to create an environment in which violence is viewed as acceptable. Celebrities, and the media that publicize and employ them, must be held accountable. It is up to us, as consumers of entertainment, to make sure that this happens.”
We have not. And unfortunately, with Hollywood’s double standard on domestic violence, and the NFL’s disingenuous stance (they’re shocked — shocked! — that any of their players might hit their girlfriends or experience steroid rages) it’s unlikely any change will come without consumers forcing it.