April 17, 2024

Rihanna and Chris Brown’s Relationship Divides the Public

“Rihanna’s Love Has Given Chris Brown Confidence to Boost Career,” said the gossip site Hollywoodlife.com on April 21 amid seesaw reports around the Web about whether the two had split up. The latest consensus? Still together. (“How can u doubt love,” one fan asked on Twitter after an interview in the April issue of Elle UK in which Rihanna suggested she may want to have children with Mr. Brown.)

The attention was not always so positive. Four years ago Mr. Brown’s career as a boy-next-door pop star seemed to come to a sudden end when he was charged in the brutal beating of Rihanna. Excoriated by every sector of the media, he pleaded guilty to felony assault and was given five years of probation.

But now Rihanna, 25, has publicly embraced the boyfriend who once abused her, creating perhaps the most polarizing spectacle in pop culture. To their fans, the couple represent a story of forgiveness and happy endings. To a ravenous celebrity news media, their every affectionate tweet or late-night indiscretion is reliable hot copy. And to many others, Rihanna’s decision has inspired fear and worry about the example she is setting in what has become the signal domestic abuse case of the social media age.

“This is the case that has defined dating and domestic violence for the hip-hop generation,” said Salamishah Tillet, an assistant professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania and a co-founder of A Long Walk Home, a support group for female victims of physical abuse.

Mr. Brown, who turns 24 on Sunday, was not welcomed back — at least in public — all at once. His and Rihanna’s fans have been primed for their return by more than a year of hints on social media, song leaks, public appearances and tearful interviews, a process that has unfolded with all the conspicuous regularity of a disgraced politician’s public relations campaign.

“From a crisis-management standpoint this campaign has been well executed; the question is who it is for,” said Jeffrey Rabhan, chairman of the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University.

“The fans have forgiven her,” he added. “The world hasn’t.”

One of the first signs of a détente, in late 2011, was the video for Rihanna’s song “We Found Love,” in which she flirts and fights with a Brown look-alike; it drew headlines and raised eyebrows. After the Grammys a few months later, at which Mr. Brown won a prize for best RB album, the stars each tweeted links to remixes of their songs on which they both appear. (With 29 million followers, Rihanna is the fifth most followed person on Twitter.)

The story was carried along that summer with Rihanna telling Oprah Winfrey that she had forgiven Mr. Brown, and a seemingly impromptu embrace — and was that even a little kiss? — while Rihanna returned to her seat at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Before long Rihanna’s Instagram feed was hinting at intimate contact. Rihanna confirmed their full reconciliation in a Feb. 14 Rolling Stone cover article, in which she seemed to brace for criticism.

“Even if it’s a mistake, it’s my mistake,” she said. “I can handle it.”

Several people close to Rihanna and Mr. Brown, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect their relationships, described deep concern among the stars’ advisers as they realized that the two were heading for a reunion. And while some steps, like magazine and television interviews, were made deliberately and after much planning, these people said, social media allowed the couple to make some impulsive moves all on their own.

Rihanna’s representatives declined to comment for this article.

In a recent statement to The New York Times, Mr. Brown said: “I don’t make personal decisions based on public demands. My efforts to improve as a human being are strictly for my own personal growth and to honor my responsibility to my fans.”

Rihanna is by any measure one of the most successful women in pop. She has sold 63 million tracks in the United States and has as many No. 1 hits as Madonna and the Supremes. Her annual income is estimated at $53 million, much of it through corporate sponsorships like the one she recently announced with MAC Cosmetics.

In addition to shout-outs to fans and the occasional shot of her face in a swirl of marijuana smoke, her Twitter feed has included images of her with Mr. Brown, their limbs intertwined.

The role of the media in stirring public opinion was carefully built into a recent episode of “Law Order: Special Victims Unit,” a thinly veiled fictionalization of Rihanna and Mr. Brown’s relationship that ends with her death. Spin said it “aptly depicts our worst fears”; Gawker found it “despicable” and exploitive. On Sunday, The Daily News in New York quoted Clinton Brown, Mr. Brown’s father, as saying, “I personally really didn’t want him and Rihanna back together.”

Approving messages have also been part of the discourse. HollywoodLife.com, run by Bonnie Fuller, the former editor of US Weekly, Cosmopolitan and other magazines, has a “Rihanna Chris” section full of supportive headlines: “Chris Brown Won’t Disappoint Rihanna: He’ll Visit Her Really Soon.”

Ms. Fuller said that after studying the issue with experts, she and her staff concluded that “there are definitely men who can turn their lives around.”

“Our audience really wants to know: could this relationship succeed?” she said. “They are very interested in relationships in general, and they wanted to know: could they go on to have a healthy relationship if they got back together?”

Laurel Eisner, the executive director of Sanctuary for Families, a group in New York that serves domestic violence victims, criticized Rihanna’s decision to return to Mr. Brown — and gossip outlets that cheer it on — as a “fantasy message to young girls” that conflicts with reality.

“A magazine that sends out the message that it is O.K. is taking a risk with girls’ lives,” she said. “There is almost nothing to support the notion that a man who is as impulsive and as close to anger as he is, and who continues to repeat misogynist messages — there isn’t any evidence that men like that will change.”

Radio programmers say that listeners want to hear her music no matter their opinion of her personal life.

“Their relationship pops up almost once a week,” said Ebro Darden, the programming director at Hot 97 in New York (WQHT-FM), a top hip-hop and RB station. “But people are beyond them being back together for now.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/29/business/media/rihanna-and-chris-browns-relationship-divides-the-public.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: Twitter Ban on NBC Critic Stirs Backlash and Backpedal

Guy Adams the Los Angeles correspondent for The Independent, shown at the 2010 Oscars. He posted the work e-mail address Gary Zenkel, an NBC executive.Guy Adams the Los Angeles correspondent for The Independent, shown at the 2010 Oscars. He posted the work e-mail address Gary Zenkel, an NBC executive.

Twitter has become the default forum for people when they have a complaint. Even when that complaint is about Twitter.

The company found itself at the center of a firestorm when on Sunday it suspended the account of Guy Adams, a British newspaper reporter for The Independent, after he posted complaints about NBC’s tape-delayed Olympics coverage. His posts included the e-mail address of Gary Zenkel, the head of NBC Olympics.

On Tuesday, both Twitter and NBC backpedaled. While Twitter officials stress that the company generally does not monitor content, Alexander Macgillivray, Twitter’s general counsel, said in a statement on Tuesday that Twitter “did proactively identify a Tweet that was in violation of the Twitter rules and encouraged them” — NBC — “to file a support ticket with our Trust and Safety team to report the violation.”

Chloe Sladden, vice president for media at Twitter, personally apologized on her Twitter feed for “the oversight.” NBC also issued a statement apologizing for having the reporter’s account suspended. Twitter then reactivated the reporter’s account.

“Our interest was in protecting our executive, not suspending the user from Twitter,” an NBC spokesman said in a statement. “We didn’t initially understand the repercussions of our complaint, but now that we do, we have rescinded it.”

But the initial suspension already put both companies out of favor with many Twitter faithful. Out of solidarity for Mr. Adams, supporters also started posting the e-mail address of Mr. Zenkel, the NBC executive. They paired the hashtags #guyadams with #NBCFail, which has become an all-purpose tag for criticisms of NBC’s coverage.

Some posters called the incident a “watershed moment” for social media and accused Twitter executives of censoring Mr. Adams’s account “to cater to corporate whim.” Others threatened to boycott NBC’s Olympics coverage.

“Thanks to @NBCOlympics behavior wrt @GuyAdams I won’t be watching any more Olympics. Sorry, London,” wrote one follower.

According to Topsy, an analytics and research company that tracks Twitter activity, over the last 24-hour period, there were more than 32,000 mentions of #NBCFail and more than 14,000 mentions of @guyadams.

Twitter has always enjoyed an extraordinary amount of good will from its users in part because it does not require them to sign in under their own names (unlike Facebook) and it allows almost unlimited free speech. The suspension of Mr. Adams’s account seemed like an exception to Twitter rules based on a corporate relationship.

In July, Twitter and NBC announced a partnership to share their Olympics coverage across both of their platforms. NBC would promote Twitter’s Olympic event page through on-air graphics and Twitter would include NBC commentators on its Olympic events page.

Jillian C. York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group, said that the incident was a departure from Twitter’s generally strong reputation as a supporter of free speech.

“Twitter has a pretty strong history in defending free speech. They’ve stood up for users in court. They’ve publicly written about their dedication to free expression,” said Ms. York. “Twitter needs to do more work this time around to make people trust them again.”

The problems started on Friday evening when Mr. Adams, who is based in Los Angeles, started posting on Twitter how frustrated he was that NBC was delaying television coverage until prime time. He wrote, “Am I alone in wondering why NBColympics think its acceptable to pretend this road race is being broadcast live?” As his frustration grew, he filed a post to Twitter that was heard throughout social media.

“The man responsible for NBC pretending the Olympics haven’t started yet is Gary Zenkel. Tell him what u think!” He ended his post with the work e-mail address of Mr. Zenkel. Soon he was retweeted and some angry followers added the hashtag #NBCFAIL.

That’s when Twitter officials abandoned their usual stance and contacted NBC employees they knew through their Olympics partnership. They told them about the post and advised them on how to suspend Mr. Adams’s account. Writing in The Independent, Mr. Adams said he discovered that his account had been suspended “for posting an individual’s private information such as private e-mail address.” But he stressed, “I do not wish Mr. Zenkel any harm.”

In a telephone interview, Mr. Adams said he had about 4,500 followers before he was kicked off Twitter. By Tuesday night, after Twitter reinstated his account, he had 16,300 followers. The attention he gained from being blocked has left his phone ringing nonstop. He has had to disconnect it so his wife, who is due with their second child next week, and his two-year-old can sleep.

He said he will continue to use Twitter for his work.

“Doing a journalist’s job without Twitter these days is nigh impossible. It is an essential tool of my trade,” said Mr. Adams. “I’m now freed. So I can get on with my job, which is far more interesting.”

Nick Bilton contributed reporting from San Francisco.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/31/twitter-gets-a-backlash-of-its-own-over-adams-suspension/?partner=rss&emc=rss