You might not have realized that Chris Brown‘s guest appearance on black-ish happened Wednesday night. That’s likely because, after an initial publicity push, the show made hardly a peep about his participation in this week’s episode.
If the pullback happened because ABC is ashamed of being associated with Brown, good: It should be.
Brown is a convicted abuser of women. He is a documented user of homophobic slurs. And for the life of me I can’t understand why such a smart, funny show with such a stellar history of handling racial and social issues decided that bringing him in for an episode would be a good idea.
The R&B/hip-hop star played a rapper named Rich Youngsta, with whom Dre collaborated on a ad campaign for sparkling wine. Though Dre’s co-workers and kids loved the first version of the commercial — which played heavily on black stereotypes — Bow and Ruby decried the spot for trafficking in such harmful tropes. Later, after Dre watched Jack behave badly while emulating Rich Youngsta’s antics, he had second thoughts and reshot the ad to drop the stereotypes.
There was no obvious reason to cast Brown in the role; neither the part nor the singer’s acting ability were remarkable. So it would seem that black-ish is yet another pop culture entity — much like the awards shows that continue to invite him to perform and the talk shows that still give him a publicity platform — rewarding Brown’s unrepentant terribleness.
The same argument can be made about Charlie Sheen, a domestic abuser and purveyor of homophobic slurs whose history of violence didn’t stop FX from giving him his own series, Anger Management, in 2012. The message sent was the same conveyed by this week’s black-ish: Treating women like literal punching bags has no repercussions on one’s viability in the entertainment business.
On the off chance that Brown wants to take some steps toward changing his image for the better, he can donate his black-ish pay to a women’s shelter or LGBTQ organization. And if he doesn’t, ABC should.
When Dre realized how harmful his ad was, he changed it, saying, “We decided to go in a different direction.” When it came to Brown’s involvement, too bad black-ish didn’t do the same.