Ever since Chris Brown plead guilty to beating then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009, the world has offered no shortage of opinions on the couple’s tumultuous relationship. When Rihanna made the choice to reunite with Brown following the assault, she actually had to go on “Oprah” to make a tearful case as to why she had decided to reunite with a man who physically abused her. “He’s the love of my life,” she said at the time. “Nobody’s going to say he needs help. Everybody’s going to say he’s a monster without looking at the source.”
While that may be true—most of us women have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to men smacking us around—a new satirical article published in today’s Onion really isn’t sitting well with us, even though it makes Brown look like a bigger animal than he might be. The title: “Heartbroken Chris Brown Always Thought Rihanna Was Woman He’d Beat To Death.” Yikes.
Why we care: As members of the fashion and entertainment media, we’re lucky enough to spend our days providing our readers with fun fashion tips and entertaining headlines. That said, we’re also mindful of the larger issues that surround our readers on a day to day basis, and want to point out certain stories that we consider to be in seriously poor taste. The Onion used to be a publication we admired for its ability to make fun of universal truths in witty, intelligent ways, but lately, it’s more angry than funny—especially when it comes to women. Case in point: the appalling “humorous” tweet the Onion sent out during the Oscars about 9-year-old nominee Quvenzhane Wallis. They took responsibility and apologized, but it looks like the publication hasn’t learned its lesson.
In this case, the headline of the Rihanna-Chris Brown piece pretty much speaks for the whole article, which describes how Brown would beat Rihanna to death, and includes made-up quotes about Brown reassuring readers that the special woman “he was meant to beat to death is still out there for him.” The article even goes so far as to congratulate Rihanna’s next squeeze, calling him “the luckiest guy in the world” for getting to assault her on a regular basis.
Here’s why this isn’t okay: This story (as fake as it may be) paints a caricature of Chris Brown as a violent maniac—something that’s easy to agree with—but it also completely removes Rihanna from the story.
Instead of considering the pop star’s protected status as a victim of assault and battery—which she is—it positions her as a person with no real feelings and (most importantly) no real autonomy. It’s easy to publish something that aims to get a cheap laugh out of the masses by calling Brown out on his perceived lack of humanity—we’re all in on that joke—but The Onion totally fails at taking the intelligent route and using this headline to create some real thought-provoking satire, or simply something that sympathizes with and empowers the victim, like “Chris Brown Dumps Rihanna; Now She Can Finally Start Dating That Boxing Glove.”
Here’s hoping the folks at The Onion get back to writing pieces that go for intelligent satire over pure shock value.