Chris Brown Belongs to America's 'Unforgivable' CasteS

Chris Brown Belongs to America's 'Unforgivable' Caste

How much do we hate Chris Brown? This much: An "insider" says he used eyedrops for his recent onstage sob-fest. This is what happens when you're hell-bent on getting America to forgive you: We turn you into our whipping boy.

America abandoned him when we saw the damage his fists did to Rihanna's face. Now he's gone the way of medieval Christian martyrs, lying prostrate, mortifying himself and inflicting pain, tears streaming down his face, begging for forgiveness from that which he worships: public approval.

Was his BET breakdown staged? Probably. It's a pretty convenient that a man hell-bent on public apology got "Man in the Mirror" for his portion of the Michael Jackson tribute. Did he use eye drops to start the miracle of his infinite weeping? I doubt it. He sounds crappy enough to make me think those gulps and sobs are at least half-real. (The ideal version would be tears streaming down his face and a shaky-but-beautiful voice, no? If this performance sends a message, it's that Chris' emotional turmoil does prevent him from entertaining.) My guess would be that Chris is the kind of self-involved drama queen who can work himself into a histrionic lather onstage—he probably doesn't know where his emotions end and his self-serving motivations begin. They're rolled together as one for him, a man who grew up in an industry where your self-perception necessarily rides on your public perception.

That's why people like Queen Latifah want Chris to be forgiven: "He needs to forgiven. Enough already. We can't keep beating him up. She's going to grow and he's going to grow and we have to allow them both to do that."

It's true that Chris will grow and change. But that won't stop us from beating him up, nor from taking pleasure in concocting elaborate stories about just how awful he is. (Has anyone in the history of fake-crying ever actually used eye drops to induce waterworks? Maybe if Us said he purposefully tore a contact or poked himself in the eye, I'd believe it.) We're a nation obsessed with forgiveness—public apologies are practically an art—but we're also a nation that believes certain crimes are unforgivable. (Maybe it's how we justify all the plenary indulgences we grant?) Chris Brown has fallen down down the hole with pedophiles, rapists, Jesse James, James Frey, everyone whose ever been on To Catch a Predator, and Balloon Boy's parents: These are the people we America will never forgive, no matter how much they beg us or how hard they try. Attempts at recovery will dig them only deeper.

There have been isolated successes at climbing out of the pit of unforgivability. Ted Kennedy did it. (But not in everyone's eyes.) People on death row sometimes get off. The jury's still out on Tiger Woods, and Michael Vick's been doing surprisingly well, even as he floats around the periphery of new violent crimes. But no, we don't "need" to forgive Chris Brown—he's already filling a role for us, as America's whipping boy, a voodoo doll for us to stick with pins and drag through the dirt, as a stand-in for some other more loathed thing. (Violence against women? Our own guilt for rubbernecking so hard at Rihanna's pain?) Sometimes, we just need someone to hate. [Us, HipandPop, image via Getty]