Following the premiere of the 2023 MTV VMA Awards on September 12, 2023, many people have taken to social media to share their thoughts about moments that happened during the ceremony.
However, Selena Gomez, who was nominated for three VMA Awards this year, became quite the talk of the night after her reaction to another celebrity’s nomination was caught on camera.
Selena Gomez appeared to turn her nose up at Chris Brown’s VMA nomination.
In a clip that has started circulating across many channels, especially Twitter, during the announcement of Brown’s VMA nomination in the Best R&B category for his feature on singer Chloë’s song, “How Does It Feel,” Gomez was caught appearing visibly thrown off at the mention of the singer’s name.
The “Come and Get It” singer was seen scrunching up her nose from her seat in the crowd when Brown’s nomination came up. Her expressive reaction caused a stir online, which isn’t a surprise as Brown’s stardom is a point of division for many people who feel that the 34-year-old singer hasn’t received the proper repercussions for his violent and problematic past.
Many of the mixed reactions have to do with Brown’s extensive list of violence that he has perpetuated against women.
Brown was charged with felony assault in 2009 after a violent altercation with his ex-girlfriend, Rihanna. Many assumed that would be the end of his career, but the singer was granted community service, mandatory counseling, and probation in exchange for pleading guilty to one count of felony assault in a plea deal.
Brown’s fans will argue that his violent past started and ended with Rihanna, but that is not the case.
In the time following his lenient punishment, he has been tied to a slew of other alleged assaults. In 2016, a woman accused Brown of threatening her with a gun inside his house, though he was not convicted. Brown has also been accused of assaulting a woman at a club and at a party.
In 2017, Brown’s ex-girlfriend Karrueche Tran obtained a restraining order against him after she said he threatened to kill her, citing even more physical violence that happened during their relationship. In 2019, Brown was accused of raping a woman in Paris. He was released without charges.
Despite the concerning number of times that Brown has been caught up in violence against women, showing his true colors over and over again, he has gotten out of it unscathed. His career continues to flourish, no thanks to the millions of fans, mostly women, who have no problem supporting him.
However, Brown’s ability to remain in the spotlight with a dedicated army of supporters and celebrities who adore him sparks the question surrounding people’s desire to appreciate him for his artistry instead of his personality.
Chris Brown’s problematic past begs the question: Is it possible to separate the art from the artist?
The idea that art can be separated from an artist is a complex and nuanced belief and truly depends on the kind of person that artist may be. There is no right answer, but it can be possible for people who have done shameful things in the past to take accountability and grow.
It also depends on how impactful that art may be to the communities that respect that artist.
Take Michael Jackson, for instance; the late pop singer faced a slew of serious allegations relating to child sexual abuse and exploitation. The accusations against Jackson are not to be taken lightly and have successfully dimmed his reputation in the eyes of many people.
In the same breath, Jackson’s career has been credited by other musicians and people in the entertainment industry as being revolutionary. Jackson successfully refined and changed many aspects of the industry for himself and other Black artists that were to come after him. He was also known as a philanthropist and humanitarian, who often gave back to important charities throughout his career.
Looking at Jackson’s complicated history, many people agree that his art still means something, even after his death. It may even mean more than what he represented as a regular individual, separate from his career.
However, when it comes to Chris Brown, it’s harder for some people to distinguish the man responsible for the horrid acts against women and the man sharing his music and talents with the rest of the world.
Brown’s divisive career can have much to do with his lack of accountability, and this grudge that he seems to have against people who speak out about him and his past actions, despite how warranted those criticisms are.
It doesn’t help that many of Brown’s female fans are blinded by their warped parasocial relationship with him, where their support undermines and excuses his abusive behavior, as is the case of many male celebrity fans, including fans of Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp.
Brown’s actions have hurt many people, and he unknowingly represents the number of other powerful and successful men who have escaped the throngs of the #MeToo movement by the skin of their teeth.
The Chris Brown debate serves as a reflection of our complex relationship with art and artists. As we continue to grapple with these dilemmas, conversations around artists like Brown highlight the important reminders of the moral and ethical considerations that shape our appreciation of art and the individuals who create it.
Nia Tipton is a Chicago-based entertainment, news, and lifestyle writer whose work delves into modern-day issues and experiences.
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