Chris Brown has released the sights and sounds of his new single “Fine China” and in it he seems to purposefully conjure images of Michael Jackson… and starts interracial dating warfare of the future.
Brown has intimated more and more he’d like to foray into film and acting, and “Fine China” is a video that showcases a plot at the very least. It opens with a beautiful girl at war with her father, who does not wish for her to date Brown. (Because what father would.) Brown pulls up to her house in a ridiculous car and she runs out to him, ready for a night on the town.
It then diverges into a mix of “Smooth Criminal” and “Bad,” hats, leather, studs, lights and all. Brown and his bros dance for his giggling lady love before an Asian gang shows up, first to a martial-arts-dance-battle, and then they’re out for blood, with futuristic guns, more ridiculous cars and dunnn dunn duuuuunnnnnn… the girl’s father leading the charge. The mafia is met with Brown’s gang outside, everybody’s guns locked and stocked, and it ends with a “To Be Continued…” vibe.
Now for subtext: François Chau plays the intimidating father, essentially the same hardass, controlling Asian Father role as his character in “21 & Over.” He warns his daughter about Brown, calling him a “thug,” a loaded word particularly toward African-Americans. Even though Brown is convicted felon (and has repeatedly acted violent, homophobic and immature in the months and years that have followed his conviction), there is a relatively good argument in existence that says Brown has received harsher treatment from the media and from music fans because he’s black. Unfortunately, the counter-argument by the finish isn’t that Brown refuses to be violent (see: Justin Bieber’s “As Long As You Love Me”), but is in fact part of a gun-toting group willing to go to blows over their allegiance to him.
But there’s also another racial underpinning that is African-American/Asian-American tension: Brown’s crowd appears to be multi-racial, though primarily black, while the damsel’s father’s gang is an unspecified Asiatic crowd. Perhaps the music video’s makers were merely working up to a martial arts dancefloor battle, but it’s also unfortunately paired up with a song titled “Fine China.” Queue the groans. (Chau, for the record, is Cambodian-American, but the video’s set in the laser-tinged future, so we’ll go with Pan-Asian on this one.)
Furthermore, the female lead is torn in a classic patriarchal conflict: obey her father or obey her boyfriend. She is a mere object volleyed between two powerful male leads which, as discussed, racial hierarchies and social membership, an actor whose sole role is to obey. Her father grabs her early on in the video, and his gang members shake her up and rip a jacket off of her (as if implied violence toward women weren’t already evident). The daughter’s role as mere object is again compounded by the title and the lyrics: “It’s alright, I’m not dangerous / When you’re mine, I’ll be generous / You’re irreplaceable / A collectible, just like fine china.”
Brown is on a media blitz all of this week in promoting his new album “X,” so there’s going to be some mixed messages, from his diss at Drake to the silly “peace-love” shirt he wore on the “Today” show. With this single, he’s hoping to make broad strokes of his dancing abilities, his avoidance of using auto-tune in more than eight bars, his desire to hit the top of the charts. But does the story of “Fine China” court more controversy than it does the resurrected soul of Michael Jackson?