Perhaps to make up for casting convicted rapist Mike Tyson on a show that largely promotes victims rights, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit holds a very unflattering microscope to the thankfully recently-ended tumultuous relationship of Chris Brown and Rihanna.
While the episode did cast a negative light on the predominantly black rap industry, “perpetuating the stereotype that hip hop artists are thugs”, we have to remember that the storyline was a direct commentary on Chris Brown’s beating of Rihanna four years ago and her subsequently taking him back.
Take, for example, the character of Micha Green, a young ingénue of an aging hip hop prodigy. Sounds a lot like Jay Z’s working relationship with Rihanna. And Micha’s lover and assailant’s, Caleb Bryant, initials are the same as one Chris Brown’s. Since giving Caleb the last name of Brown or Black would be too on the nose (and a little bit racist?), Micha is the one with a colour for a surname.
Further to that, the evidence photos of Micha’s mangled face are leaked to the press, and a restraining order is slapped on Caleb, who gets a tattoo on his torso that eerily resembles Brown’s neck tattoo of an alleged Mexican sugar skull that eerily resembles Rihanna’s post-beating face. Caleb might have “the Bryant team” (an obvious nod to Brown’s #TeamBreezy) on his side, but he’s playing “Russian Roulette” (Rihanna’s 2009 song) with Micha’s life.
Both Caleb and Micha, and, by extension, Brown and Rihanna, grew up with abusive fathers but SVU is sure to make a point of difference between the two couples, with Sgt. Munch suggesting they double date.
There’s a fair share of victim-blaming from witnesses and fans of the couple, which mirrors similar attitudes to Rihanna that continue to this day. “She shouldn’t have dissed him” lest she get beat in SVU becomes “she shouldn’t have taken him back” in the discourse of today.
Again, the show’s treatment of the “incident”, as Brown is so fond of calling it, was particularly harsh, with Micha’s “inevitable” death at the hands of Caleb, but if it helps to show that domestic violence doesn’t just “happen once”, then SVU can continue to paint as ruthless a picture of intimate partner violence as they like.
I’m just glad Rihanna got out before what happened to Micha happened to her…
Related: Rihanna & Domestic Violence.
Image via Crushable.