Who could forget the picture of Rihanna taken after she had been beaten up by Chris Brown? Bloodied, swollen and tear-strewn, it was a horrible shock to see a familiar, famous face in such an awful state. It was unforgettable for all the wrong reasons, and yet Brown's fans appear to have wiped the incident from their collective memory. Guardian writer Rosie Swash asks how his fans can forgive and forget such an act...
Brown's latest album, Fortune, is on course to go to number one in the UK charts next week, and the army of young women that make up his hardcore fanbase have been tweeting like crazy about their 'idol', calling themselves #TeamBreezy. But why would anyone idolise a man who hit a woman? Well, despite being only 23-year-old, Chris Brown has been around for the best part of a decade, and his fans have been with him since day one. Some of them were barely into their teens when he first hit the pop scene and they're barely out of them now. As his career has grown, so it has become more apparent that he is unrivalled in pop - much as it kills me to say it, no other black male R&B singer of his generation has been able to compete with his commercial success (except perhaps Drake, who infamously became involved in a fight with Brown earlier this year). In terms of his position in the pop world, Brown is the male Rihanna. With his career legacy and a pop market lacking in other options, his fans stick to Brown like glue.
And when it comes to defending him, those fans will tell you everyone makes mistakes. They'll tell the media that critics ignore the talent and make personal jibes over an incident that, they may also tell you, was partly Rihanna's fault. Be prepared to be labelled a 'hater', a defence tactic the R&B star has stuck to since day one (day one being that time he repeatedly punched Rihanna in the face and promised to 'beat the shit' out of her when they got home), and a tedious but convenient way for the Team Breezy fans to be galvanised into unquestioning support for the singer.
Personally, I find it depressing that the language and the mindset employed by Brown's fans mirrors that of many domestic violence victims who defend their attacker.
One record industry insider I spoke to compared the media handling of his relationship with Rihanna as providing an almost 'fictional narrative for his young fans to cling on to', one that seemed far removed from the realities of domestic violence. That seems plausible when you take into consideration Rihanna's own father has told journalists he thinks his daughter should give Chris another go, an attitude so mystifying you can't believe it's real. But the terrifying thing isn't that his fans have forgiven him, it's that they never stopped believing in him in the first place.