I pity most celebrities for one reason and one reason alone: They don’t possess the luxurious freedom of anonymity when it comes to pursuing their hopelessly self-destructive and foolish romantic lives. Unlike we mere mortals, who are free to make glorious messes in private, their human failings are broadcast over the loudspeaker of public life.
Case in point: Rihanna’s decision to follow former boyfriend Chris Brown on Twitter recently resulted in a minor brouhaha online among her fans (via E!Online). Troubled by the young singer’s apparent interest in having even an Internet-based acquaintance with Brown, some fans voiced their opposition in 124 characters or less on Rihanna’s page.
One fan feared that the fairly benign action indicated that Rihanna was getting back together with Brown. While telling the singer it’s ultimately her life, she also said that the star should be more mindful of her status as a role model to young girls. (Aside to culture: we need to take MTV out of the role model fashioning business stat!)
It’s easy to understand why some were upset by Rihanna’s decision. From the outside looking in, it seems like a pretty confusing leap to go from victim of domestic violence to Twitter pal in the span of a few years.
It was only two years ago that the relationship between the two young stars came to an ugly end. After the 2009 Grammys, a then 21-year-old Rihanna was left bloodied and bruised by Chris Brown, her then 19-year-old boyfriend. Brown was charged with assault and making criminal threats. In 2010, he received five years probation after reaching a plea agreement. Since then, he hasn’t exactly won himself any redeeming value points. Brown’s alleged backstage tantrum on Good Morning America had some wondering if he’d learned anything from his prior troubles.
Rihanna didn’t appreciate the ruckus resulting from her following Brown, however, or the assumption that it meant that she was going back to her troubled ex. Annoyed by the fans’ reaction, according to E!Online she reportedly tweeted: “”Its f–kin twitter, not the altar! Calm down.”
It’s not the most sensitive response the singer could have crafted for fans and neither is it entirely clarifying (the fan and Rihanna later patched up their differences with mutual apologies). Neither wise, nor particularly role model-like, Rihanna’s reply managed only to be remarkably human. And by human I mean utterly frustrating.
Fans may seek to form role models out of celebrities, but occasionally they’re left to consider the complex reality behind the persona instead.