By now you’ve likely come across one of the many news stories about Chris Brown’s neck tattoo. Many blogs are are gasping with incredulity about his new ink that appears to depict a woman who looks an awful lot like Chris’s ex Rihanna and also looks a lot like she got the shit beat out of her.
The face’s large almond-shaped eyes, prominent cheekbones and full lips, along with what look like dark bruising and contusions (plus some stitches on the lip), are oddly reminiscent of the images of Rihanna, post-battering.
Many folks are infuriated by what appears to be an almost celebratory commemoration of violence that he committed against a woman. Violence, it’s important to add, that many people feel he never truly apologized or was appropriately penalized either legally or in the court of public opinion. In light of Brown’s other outbursts and antisocial misbehavior, it might seem like a he’s trying to rub it in our faces that he can do whatever he wants without consequence.
And as one person on my facebook feed pointed out: “He’ll keep doing this as long as we pay him to do it.”
What Does He Say it Is?
But another friend wrote “I absolutely refuse to believe this!” And there may be validation to her skepticism. Brown himself denies the face is either a battered woman or Rihanna. He insists it’s a “random woman” and based off a Dia De Los Muertes skull used in a MAC cosmetics ad.
And I’m inclined to believe him.
That is: at least consciously he’s telling the truth. The deeper reality is probably much more complicated.
“….Doomed to Repeat it”
Who among us hasn’t taken the drama and trauma of our past relationships and brought it into our lives later in a different form?
Have you ever known someone who tried to fix the dysfunction of their family growing up by dating someone who was “like” their mother or father?
Have you ever realized that you were re-living the same unhealthy dynamic with a new partner that had plagued a previous relationship?
Have you ever noticed someone do a complete 180 and run in the opposite direction of their past: dating someone who was so entirely dissimilar from the their last partner that it was almost Bizarro World?
That’s because our minds are not just what we consciously think and decide. We are heavily influenced by factors of which we are never aware. Freud was wrong about a lot of things, but the concept of the unconscious he totally nailed.
And when we look at Chris Brown, we may see a spoiled brat or an unrepentant monster who is enabled by fame and money. But we have to remember that even if famous people’s lives seem almost scripted and intended to garner more fame and attention, we’re also looking at a human and that means he’s as likely as anyone to be driven by unconscious motives.
Chris Brown, Human Male
His very public break up with Rihanna, precipitated by his vile act of battering, was a turning point in his relationship with the public, but also in his personal life. I’d argue that for Chris Brown, the man, it was the nadir of his life. The fact he and Rihanna have been unable to stay out of each other’s lives since the incident- talking about her in songs while there was a restraining order and now working with her and possibly rekindling the romance- means they probably have a great deal of emotion about each other.
What would be a more perfect tattoo to get, then? He would be drawn to the facial features that remind him of the woman about whom he has so many feels. And he might have a very visceral reaction to the black eye, stitches and dramatic makeup that are comparable not only to that fateful fucking night after the Grammys but also to her dichotomous public persona that has become increasingly dark and S&M inspired. It’s got the same emotional meaning as those semi-popular drama-comedy mask tattoos with the personalization of having someone’s name or face inked on you.
What is the point of this observation? Obviously not to condone Brown’s behavior. I hope that much is clear. But it is a reminder to all of us to examine our own motivations more deeply. To think about how our past experiences may continue to be relived until we are able to consciously reckon with them. To make sure our current conflicts and attractions are not being propelled further with the rocket fuel of previous hurts and loves.