Sunday, March 08, 2009

Image Consultants?

An image consultant offers advice to Chris Brown:
"Come up with a soulful song about what happened," said Davia Temin, CEO of Temin and Co. "I would use my fame to say, 'Look we are all human and make terrible mistakes.'"
Mistakes? This is a mistake: "I miscalculated the tip on my order, and left 25 percent instead of 15 percent". This is not a mistake: "I repeatedly punched my girlfriend in the face, injuring her so badly she needed emergency medical treatment." I can hardly wait to hear the set of lyrics Davida proposes. Something a bit more soulful than, say, this? Is there a song people traditionally dedicate to their loved ones, after they smack 'em around a bit?
The idea, said Temin, "is to embrace the thing that hurt you the most and turn it into something positive."
Such wonderful advice. Except Brown wasn't really the person who got hurt. Did he skin his knuckles or something? To me, this sounds a bit like suggesting that OJ Simpson was "hurt" because Nicole got his knife all bloody and he ended up having to throw away some really expensive gloves and shoes.
While Brown has yet to plead to the criminal charges, in the court of public opinion, he's already guilty, she said.

"The reputation is already tarnished, and perception becomes reality," said Temin.
Well, let's see... The alternative theory whereby he could be innocent. That would be a bit like the guy who complained that, no matter how many times he swerved, the pedestrian he hit ended up standing right in front of his car. How would it work? "No matter where I put my hands, she kept brutally bashing her face against my knuckles."

Another consultant suggests that Rihanna's return to him could help him:
"The fact that she is standing by his side is significant," she said. "That she went back to him takes him off the hook a little."

Puder-York quickly added, "It does not excuse what happened."

"But for the public, it raises the question, 'Who am I to condemn him if the person he is accused of victimizing is not condemning him?'" she said.
It raises a different question to me. I was left wondering, what sort of childhood did Rihanna have, where she would view brutality like this as anything even slightly acceptable in a relationship, let alone something forgivable. If you want to participate in a New York Daily News-style "she brought it on herself" sneerfest, you're part of the problem.


  1. Thanks for posting this, Aaron. In my early law days, I worked in a domestic violence shelter (doing divorces and custody). It was amazing how men got completely up in my shit for that...I don't mean the abusers--I mean regular dudes. The FBI says something like 90% of abusers are men and whenever I said that, there was a population of men who got just SO upset by that--not that men were abusing, but they were just so sure that it was more like 50/50.
    To be sure, statistics are often wrong, but these were pretty consistent over years and years.
    As I told my husband--guys are the ones who can stop this, by simply, uh, not abusing (kind of easy, really). Step one is just talking about and calling other dudes on it.
    And this dude needs to be called out...what a douche.

  2. Dear Aaron,

    You are so very right...abuse is abhorrent, needs to be fought on every level, and can never be trivialized. It is something we all need to fight in any and every way we can. As often happens, much of what I said in an interview was edited, and therefore, what you take as a light comment was far from it.

    I would like to set the record straight. What I believe, and said, was that first and foremost, Chris Brown would truly need to understand, cease, admit to and get help for his reprehensible behavior. That would need to be authentic and lasting. But then, if he did/could do that, he actually could do some good.

    He could show to his public that it is possible to confront and change abusive behavior. And, by writing a song about it, and donating the proceeds to a foundation (real, not for show) or to shelters across the country, he could turn a horrific situation into something for the common good. It actually would be in his power to turn this into something people could learn to change.

    I was thinking at the time about Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven," that he wrote about the death of his young son. It was so moving...and memorable -- not cheap or exploitative. Something real, something meaningful from Chris Brown could shine a spotlight on abuse, and on the possibliity of self-awareness and recovery of the abuser. If it were real, meaningful, it could help a lot of people.

    Davia Temin

  3. Yes, columnists often seek out the juiciest sound bits without providing context or less interesting quotes that might add some nuance.

    Tears in Heaven is an interesting example, in that Eric Clapton didn't write it with the intention of recording it, and most people wouldn't find it particularly touching without knowing the back story. It's also not promoting a cause, or attempting to revive a career or reputation - it's an expression of feelings.

    It's crucial, of course, to be genuine - even if it weren't, I don't think Chris Brown has the acting skills to fake it. If he went on Larry King Live and opened up about domestic violence the way Eric Clapton has about addiction and recovery, that would be something. But he's a long way from there. I suspect at present he would sound defensive, self-pitying, or self-justifying - with public statements potentially turning himself a modern Ike Turner.

    A song? I still can't quite picture the lyrics. I don't see a song that dances around the issue as being helpful or redeeming. But if he speaks to the actual violence, without any (counter-productive) gangsta bravado, I'm not sure where that leaves him.

    Tracy Chapman - Behind the Wall
    Janis Ian - His Hands
    Connie Kaldor - One Hit (Leads to Another)
    Nickelback - Never Again
    Red Jumpsuit Apparatus - Face Down
    Ani DiFranco - Fixing Her Hair
    Sara Mclachlan - Good Enough

    I think if Brown manages to pull of a meaningful apology song for domestic violence, it will be a first.