In 2009, Chris Brown went viral for all the wrong reasons when photos of his then-girlfriend Rihanna’s bruised and bloody face hit the world wide web. Just a few months later, the R&B singer released a new album, Graffiti. It featured the lead single “I Can Transform Ya,” a top 20 hit and indisputable banger. Brown plead guilty in court, and accepted a plea deal that included community service and five years of probation. If the star’s formal punishment failed to appropriately fit the crime, his trial by public opinion was even more inept. In 2012, Brown took home a Grammy Award for Best R&B Album—yes, the Grammys have always been terrible—and he’s been cranking out hit singles and album appearances ever since. Chris Brown is just one in a long line of men who thrive in Hollywood but would be disqualified from even an entry-level job outside of the thirty-mile zone.
Much like Mel Gibson or Johnny Depp before him, Brown has exhibited traits that should make him unemployable. In Brown’s case, those traits are violence, general rudeness, and a criminal record. The Grammy Award winner’s behavior vacillates between unprofessional (a massive neck tattoo of a battered woman) and downright psychopathic (is that a tattoo of Rihanna?!). When he’s not (allegedly) punching Frank Ocean, he’s (allegedly) throwing a chair at a window on the set of Good Morning America. When it comes to the perennially angry superstar, no target is too ill-advised and no object too inanimate. Unfortunately for ethical consumers, the hip-hop community decided way back in the 2000s that Chris Brown is the only man alive who can sing a hook like Michael Jackson. Apparently, the entertainment world can forgive a lot in a tenor vocalist—even the violent assault of a fellow artist.
As the old Hollywood saying goes, if you give a man with a history of domestic abuse a free pass, you can’t be surprised if he hits his girlfriend. A full decade after “Kiss Kiss,” Brown’s only inarguable contribution to society, Breezy is still keeping it on brand with his continued reign of terror. On Tuesday, news broke that Brown’s ex Karrueche Tran had successfully filed for a restraining order, alleging that Brown “told a few people that he was going to kill me.” In a statement to the judge, Tran further testified that Chris swore to his friends that if he couldn’t have her, then no one else could. She also claimed that several years ago the star “punched me in my stomach twice” and “pushed me down the stairs.” At the time, Brown would still have been on probation for assaulting Rihanna.
Tran’s fear of violent retaliation checks out; a few weeks ago, Brown posted a video monologue in which he swears that “If I love you bitch, ain’t nobody gonna have you. Imma make you miserable…Imma chase your ass around.” What defies logic is the industry that supported this man through all of his misdeeds, and the fans who spent the past decade footing his bills. As long as we were buying what he was selling, why would Brown have any motivation to clean up his act? For all of his violence and bluster, Brown raises the vital question of just how low a celebrity has to go to become an industry outcast. Is anything unforgivable?
Calling Chris Brown’s bad behavior some sort of performance would be an insult to the exes, contemporaries, and chairs he has terrorized. But there’s something almost artificial about just how far Brown will go to act a fool, as if he’s daring us to call him out on it. After all, Brown’s dickishness cannot be contained to acts of outright violence. He’s spouted homophobic nonsense, dressed up as a terrorist for Halloween and even bred and sold pit bulls as an ill-informed hobby. From pissing off PETA to indiscriminate twitter beefs, it appears that Brown is playing himself in a game of asshole bingo. And as the winner of his own sick shenanigans, the singer’s taken home the prize of 24/7 press coverage.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Karrueche Tran has found herself at the center of Brown’s latest controversy. Karrueche and Chris first got together in 2011. A few Rihanna interludes and some baby mama drama later, Tran realized that she could probably do better. (Tyga would be better. A Japanese body pillow would be better). But then 2017 rolled around, and Brown became obsessed with reuniting with Karrueche for the end of the world. Understandable end goal, but Brown’s tactics—desperate comments on Tran’s Instagram thirst traps—left something to be desired. Needless to say, “still want it *pair of eyes emoji*” will not be remembered as one of history’s great romantic gestures. But Brown wasn’t the only celebrity ringing in the new year by sliding into Karrueche Tran’s DMs. When Brown noticed that Soulja Boy was also commenting on the model’s social media, he planned a rational response in keeping with the seriousness of the rapper’s perceived crime. Just kidding. According to a subsequent Soulja Boy tweet, “Chris brown [sic] just called me and said he wanna fight me because I liked @karrueche picture on Instagram this n**** a bitch.”
Social media shots were fired, firearms were brandished, and rappers had their personal contact info shared on Instagram. The feud concluded with a promise to duke it out in a literal boxing ring. A hyped Las Vegas fight morphed into tentative fisticuffs in Dubai, before fizzling out completely. Upon hearing that Brown had refused to sign his contract to box with Soulja Boy, I experienced something akin to what Tran must have felt when her boyfriend announced he had impregnated another woman: the realization that Chris Brown isn’t the man I thought he was. After all, if our most infamous instigator won’t even fight Soulja Boy for our amusement, then what is he possibly good for? We’ve been bankrolling this serial abuser for over a decade, and we can’t even watch him flaunt his untreated anger management issues on Pay-Per-View?
While Brown will not be publicly KO’d any time soon, Tran’s testimony is sure to hit him where it hurts. According to TMZ, Tran’s restraining order requires that Brown stay 100 yards away from the model and her family. Of course, this is far from Brown’s first brush with the law. In addition to the Rihanna incident, Brown has been involved in an alleged hit-and-run, was arrested for felony assault in 2013, and had a confusing stand-off with the LAPD just last summer. But if there’s one thing Brown’s extensive rap sheet fails to adequately capture, it’s the potent mix of misogyny and violence that the singer’s been peddling for over a decade.
For all of his Instagram loving, Chris Brown hates women. He mocks them for attempting suicide, bullies them via text, and calls them bitches. Even if Brown didn’t have a criminal record, he would still be an unrepentant misogynist (not to mention a homophobe and, if not a full-fledged Islamophobe, at least a man with very poor taste). Assuming that, as all our anecdotal evidence seems to suggest, misogyny isn’t a personal or professional deal breaker, then what is? What—barring murder, maybe—can one man do to end his career once and for all? Seriously, Chris Brown wants to know (and his DMs are open).