The internet can be a great “place” for discussion of ideas and interests between a diverse collection of people most of us normally wouldn’t be able to interact with. It can also be an utter disaster, such as it becomes seemingly anytime anyone calls for accountability from public figures with massive followings.
That’s exactly what happened over this past weekend, after Scottish synth-pop band Chvrches expressed disappointment in masked electronic producer Marshmello for his work with singer Chris Brown and rapper Tyga on the new single “Light It Up” in a post on their Instagram.
“We are really upset, confused, and disappointed by Marshmello’s choice to work with Tyga and Chris Brown,” the band wrote. “We like and respect Marshmello as a person but working with people who are predators and abusers enables, excuses, and ultimately tacitly endorses that behavior. That is not something we can or will stand behind.” Since the band recently worked with the producer on the hit single “Here With Me” they seemed compelled to speak up, and did so.
At first, the response to their statement was reasonable. Tyga commented: “Where all God’s children [sic]. Everyone makes mistakes no ones perfect. Let’s Keep the energy positive.” While his reply was a little wishy-washy and dodged addressing the allegations at hand, it was Chris Brown, who has never been one for measured, rational dialogue, who threw gas on the flame.
On a later post, Brown lambasted the band in the comments, writing an angry, all-caps screed. “BUNCH OF LOSER,” he wrote. “These are the type of people I wish walked in front of a speeding bus full of mental patients. Keep groveling over you own insecurities and hatred. IM BLACK AND PROUD. AND I KNOW ITS HURTS THAT U GUYS ARE STRUGGLING WIT LIFE OR PEACE SO U ARE FORCED TO SEE MY SUCCESS. You aren’t even #2 (REMEMBER 2nd place only means YOU LOST FIRST! TA-TA. GOODDAY PEASANTS”.
Since then, Chvrches’ social media profiles have been bombarded by angry Chris Brown fans, who have insulted and threatened the band collectively and its members individually both in their comments and their direct messages. Frontwoman Lauren Mayberry has taken to posting screenshots of the vitriol that’s been directed their way on behalf of Brown, who has yet to address his own fans’ behavior or condemn their reactions — and probably isn’t very likely to, considering his own response.
And while Mayberry has put a brave face on things, writing “Angry men on the internet can call me all the names they want. I still think domestic abuse is wrong” as a caption on one post revealing the misogynistic attacks of Brown’s fans, the band has reportedly added extra security on tour. In a deleted Twitter exchange with The Guardian’s deputy music editor Laura Snapes, Mayberry revealed that she doesn’t feel safe at home, tweeting:
“I am not staying in my own home when we finish tour because the threats we have received have reached such a scale. We have to have the police at our shows now. If that’s what I deserve for saying mainstream music should be more morally conscious, then so be it.”
The background for Chvrches’ comments toward Marshmello goes back to the highly-publicized 2009 domestic assault case against Brown for his brutal beating of then-girlfriend Rihanna, which thrust domestic violence into the spotlight in a way it hadn’t previously been considered by mainstream media. The images of Rihanna’s battered face changed the way partner violence is perceived and talked about, and Chris Brown was temporarily excommunicated from the spotlight for the next year, until he was able to reverse his pariah status by shedding a few crocodile tears during his first televised performance since. He also avoided jail time by agreeing to probation. Since then, he’s lashed out at numerous women and smashed up a TV set when he was confronted about the case.
Tyga’s placement in the conversation stems from his 2014 relationship with Kylie Jenner, who was reportedly only 16 years old at the time they began dating. Tyga was 24. The legal age of consent in California, where both resided at the time, is 18. Although Tyga was never charged with any crimes, pretty much any reasonable adult would agree that his actions ranged somewhere between questionable and downright creepy; as an adult, his grooming of an underaged teenager — even under the watchful eye of momager Kris Jenner — reads as inappropriate and even, yes, predatoryl. Although the pair eventually broke up, their relationship was still marked by instances of sexualized, public displays of affection, such as a suggestive short film and openly erotic references in Tyga’s music.
Chvrches’ comments reflected a point that Uproxx has made numerous times over the years: Artists who repeatedly engage in predatory or abusive behavior don’t deserve support, either from fans or other artists — especially entertainers who don’t show any signs of contrition or growth. One false equivalence Brown’s fans — and really, any defenders of misogynistic actions online in general — have brought up is Cardi B’s admission to using drugs to rob former clients during her stripper days. The obvious difference is that Cardi has acknowledged, repeatedly, that she knows she broke the law, apologized, and most importantly, changed her behavior. She has repeatedly stated that she tries to be a better role model for impressionable young fans and aside from a few verbal miscues on social media, has for the most part, lived up to that.
Chris Brown, on the other hand, has lashed out at anyone and everyone who ever confronted him about his prior abuse, which he has only ever seemingly made excuses for, rather than apologies. Chris has made it a habit to stalk and harass women with whom he’s fallen out, and often mobilizes his considerable following of apologists to attack critics, such as Chvrches and Lauren Mayberry. Even the wording of his comment responding to their statement is shot through with violent underpinnings; he frames Chvrches, a quite successful band in their own right, as being “jealous” of his success and wishes they would get hit by a bus. He hasn’t learned and he hasn’t changed, and even worse, his fans won’t ever ask him to.
I can’t believe I’m writing these words again, or that I have to, but this sort of behavior on the part of fans is wrong. The titular character from the Eminem song “Stan” from whom this type of fan proudly takes their moniker was a deeply disturbed individual who couldn’t tell his fantasy friendship with the rapper from reality. The song is an indictment of that kind of mentality, not an endorsement. We shouldn’t be jumping to threaten, demean, berate, or otherwise attack artists’ critics on our favorites’ whims. We’ve already seen how dangerous this behavior can be. The fact that it’s most often directed against women who speak out isn’t lost on me, either. Hiding behind the racial component of a white band speaking out against their white counterparts for collaborating with Black men is doubly disgusting, because it undermines future criticism of actual instances of racist violence, rhetoric, and systems that truly plague Black men. Holding abusers and predators accountable for their actions isn’t the same as unjustly stripping rights and freedoms away from people on the basis of their heritage.
Chris Brown, and other artists like him who engage in predatory, abusive behavior, deserve to be held accountable. They deserve scrutiny and public criticism, not blind support. His comments and those of his followers only prove Chvrches’ initial statement correct and true. Enabling them only encourages them, it makes them worse and emboldens them to overstep the social boundaries and rules that tie us together. It shouldn’t matter how catchy their latest songs are, they should be judged as people by how they treat others.