Performer Chris Brown kisses his former flame Rihanna during a New York Knicks-Los Angeles Lakers NBA game in Los Angeles on Dec. 25. (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Their relationship status may be unclear, but celebrity-watchers couldn't help but notice the very public appearances of singers Chris Brown and Rihanna together over the holiday break. From taking in an NBA game on Christmas Day to posting suggestive pics, the chart-topping pair are making no secret of the fact that they've been spending time with each other.
We've asked a variety of experts -- including pop culture commentators, PR specialists, music writers, recording artists and women's groups representatives -- three questions about the situation:
1. What do you think about Chris Brown and Rihanna spending time together again?
2. What impact might this have on their careers?
3. Should we care and why?
Below are the first responses and we'll add more as they come in.
Andrea Grau, president, Touchwood PR
1. Interestingly enough, I was just having this conversation with a group of women the other night. I think that Rihanna is a young woman who, like many other young women, is in love and willing to forgive or tolerate a lot for that love. We don't know what kind of therapy they have been through to get to this next level. I just hope for her sake (and his) there has been some intense treatment. The abuse is undeniable: those images of her beaten face are hard to ignore. I hope through her forgiveness, she hasn't forgotten.
2. From what I see, his career has suffered more than hers. But again, the man clearly has issues much larger than his music career to deal with. I think she will be fine. In fact, she has (publicly) shown vulnerability and humanity through all this. That can only make people feel more connected to her.
3. Interesting question. I think as a society we pay too much attention to what happens with celebrities. The level of current-day idolatry inflates egos and helps create a world in which people lose their lives for a photo. It's gone too far. I don't think what we do with celebrities is "caring." In fact, it's destructive to everyone. So, should we actually care? Yes, we should. Just as we should care about anyone else who suffers abuse or mental illness.
Debra Goldblatt-Sadowski, president, rock-it promotions
1. I think she's a very strong-minded, successful young woman who has a team of people making decisions with her all the time. I think she likes being able to choose the man she shares her bed and heart with, no matter what anybody says. She's been quoted as saying that she likes having a man who controls her. I think it's likely a very sexual relationship and that's enough for her to let go of his past mistakes. Let's not forget that she is 24 years old. I sure made some poor choices in love when I was in my twenties.
Brown and Rihanna have not officially discussed the status of their relationship. (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
2. The initial shock of her going back to him has passed for most people. Unfortunately, the beating didn't seem to have a very long-term, negative effect on his career, so I don't see this affecting either of them too much. Do I think he's an idiot? Yep. It's never okay to have physical abuse in any relationship. Do I think she's an idiot for being with him? Yep. But she's young, I'm a big fan and I continue to listen to her music. This is her personal life. It sets a terrible example for other young women, but in the end, she isn't the first artist/celeb to set a bad example.
3. The only reason we should care is because we don't want this setting a GOOD example. It's on parents to teach their kids/teens that it's not okay to have a man beat us and then go back to him. Period the end.
Ingrid Hamilton, owner-operator, GAT PR
1. Any woman with the hindsight of experience would say this is not a smart move. After going on record with police on the brutal beating (including photos, sworn testimony, etc.), you would think that would put punctuation on the relationship. But there's something about the drama that draws women to bad boys. There's a sense of sexy attached to that kind of ugly. I wish I knew where it comes from. I didn't take it too far, but I was no angel at Rihanna's age. It might have been a matter of spine or luck that spared me the worst. Women are always looking to change a man, but this goes way beyond that -- possibly all the way to misplaced maternal instincts. Perhaps Rihanna believes she doesn't deserve better than Chris Brown. And only a therapist can help her with that one.
2. Sadly, as proven by Chris Brown's most recent recordings, his assault on Rihanna didn't affect sales at all. If anything, it has added to them. Again, my age may be showing, but beating someone up, probation and then getting back to business is all okay in the world today. Ugh. The same goes for Rihanna. We're sending girls the message that getting beat up is a normal part of a relationship. We all deserve a second chance, but let's take some time to see the improvements. If I'm not mistaken, Brown is continually showing his rage: in interviews, bar brawls, etc. I'm not sure he's quite learned his lesson.
3. I wish we didn't have to care and we could allow such people to live, without comment, in a world of their own making, with its own rules. But if Rihanna and Chris Brown are who our sons and daughters are looking up to, it becomes our business. We want them to be the best role models. Unfortunately, our interest encourages gossip, and gossip-mongering. In the case of Rihanna and Chris Brown, it is obvious that most people have no qualms about their current situation, as proven through their concerts and record sales. But the good news for concerned parents is that attitudes can change, household by household.
Jason Furman, agent and talent manager, The Feldman Agency
1. No one truly knows what's going on between them, so it's not my place to judge. But they both just need to remember that a lot of young people look up to them. They need to be smart with what they post on their social media accounts and how they act in public.
2. I don't see their relationship hurting or helping any sort of live, digital or physical sales. Their music continues to do well despite what is happening and what happened between the two of them a few years ago. People may not like Chris, or what he did. However they are still listening to his music: his songs continue to be hits.
3. We should care if it negatively influences fans who see them as role models. We can't control what Chris and Rihanna do in the public eye, but we can teach our children and youth what's right and wrong.
Andrea Gunraj, community outreach worker, Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC)
1. Relationships can be complicated, especially where abuse has happened. Without making assumptions about what's going on in this particular relationship, it can take many years for a woman to leave an abusive relationship and there are many valid reasons why women might stay. There may be many financial, emotional and familial ties. Women who stay in abusive relationships may genuinely love their partners and want to work it out. They just want the abuse to stop.
It's easy to judge public figures. But they may struggle in dealing with abuse like anyone else. A big concern, of course, is safety. Many studies show that violence against women tends to occur repeatedly and can lead to many injuries and physical and emotional scars. Whatever happens, I hope Rihanna can find safety and support and Chris Brown can find real help to stop enacting abusive behaviour.
2. What I've noticed is a lot of public criticism, often levelled against Rihanna and what she is or isn't doing. While it's important for us to name and denounce abuse, victim-blaming is very dangerous. In this case, it can negatively impact her career and take attention away from real concerns about her safety. On a broader level, it perpetuates the myth that women are responsible for abusive behaviour they experience. It puts the onus on those who are abused to stop the violence, when really the onus should be on the person being abusive. When these harmful ideas yet again pass through the media and society's imagination, violence against women remains unchallenged.
3. Statistics Canada shows that one in two women will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes and a good portion of it happens in the context of intimate partner relationships. It's an epidemic and has all kinds of negative consequences and costs in our lives. I believe everyone knows a woman who has faced abuse -- a friend, a coworker, a family member or neighbour.
How could we not care? I've heard people in the media say, "Rihanna and Chris Brown should just kiss and make up." That's a pretty simplistic response and does nothing to address the realities of violence against women. It's important for everyone to learn the warning signs of violence and what we can do to make a difference. You can read resources on METRAC's website and also check out the Neighbours, Friends and Families campaign website.
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