Late Wednesday night, Rihanna unfollowed ex-boyfriend Chris Brown on Twitter.
While that may not sound like front page news, the implications behind the move may be a lot deeper than they seem.
The un-following came after Brown released a remix to Kanye West’s song, Theraflu, in which he possibly disses Rihanna, saying, “Don’t f*ck with my old bitches … like a bad fur … every industry n*gga done had her.” He continues on the track, “Trick or treat like a pumpkin … just to smash her.”
In response to Rihanna unfollowing him, Brown unfollowed Rihanna on Twitter.
While we can’t know exactly what has gone on between Rihanna and Brown, we can make certain inferences—especially as these two adults throw all of their business into the open for a rabidly interested public to pore over and interpret.
The backstory is familiar by now: On February 8, 2009, Brown attacked his then girlfriend, Robyn Rihanna Fenty. The details of the attack are brutal—an LAPD Detective De Shon Andrews provided a sworn affidavit recounting the attack based on Rihanna’s statement to the police. Brown slammed her head into the passenger seat window, and punched her repeatedly in the face. He bit her, choked her, and threatened to kill her. It was only after she screamed loud enough to wake neighbors that he stopped attacking her.
Brown pleaded guilty to the charges. He avoided jail time and was sentenced to serve 180 days of community labor.
In February 2011 Rihanna dropped the restraining order against Brown to a level 1, meaning they could have contact with one another.
In May 2011, the couple began following one another on Twitter.
Fast forward to 2012.
Almost three years after Brown confessed to the charges, he was invited back to the Grammy Awards to perform twice on the Grammy stage. Brown controversially won a Grammy for Best R&B album for “Fame.”
A few days after the Grammys, Rihanna celebrated her 24th birthday, in which Brown made an appearance.
The appearance of Brown at Rihanna’s birthday led to a great deal of criticism. Yet, #TeamBreezy—the fans of Chris Brown—stood by him, tweeting support in response to the attacks on Brown, saying things such as, “I’d let Chris Brown beat me up anytime 🙂 #womanbeater.”
In February, Rihanna released a raunchy and sexually-explicit song, “Birthday Cake.” However, it was the remix with Brown that raised eyebrows.
In an interview with Ryan Seacrest in March on On The Air, Rihanna called the collaboration “innocent,” believing that the couple’s fans shouldn’t be divided.
“I reached out to him about doing ‘Birthday Cake’ because that’s the only person that really made sense to do the record,” she said. “You know I thought about rappers, and I’ve done that so many times, and the hottest R&B artist out right now is Chris Brown.”
“There shouldn’t be a divide. You know? It’s music, and it’s innocent,” Rihanna said to Seacrest.
Journalists and music critics alike denounced the musical collaboration, calling it a disappointment and saying they were cashing in on scandal.
Yet Rihanna’s music has always been personal, conveying her emotions and thoughts regarding sexuality, power and dominance.
Though we can only speculate on Rihanna’s mental state, some may infer that her behavior mimicks that of battered women and the power struggle they have with their abusers.
And while Rihanna has steered clear of calling herself a role model, she did separate from Brown—but not necessarily because she wanted to. She told Diane Sawyer on 20/20 that she’d reversed her “selfish decision” to stay with Brown because she feared it “could result in some young girl getting killed.” She admitted she was “embarrassed” for going back to him “eight or nine times” following other domestic violence incidents.
While Rihanna’s intentions at a collaboration and reconcilation may have been good, the continued back and forth by the couple is surely problematic for young people who look to them as role models.
Earlier today, Brown tweeted in response to the rumors about whi Rihanna unfollowed him, saying, “Assumptions! I didn’t say any names so if u took offense to it then its something you feel guilty about.”
The soap opera continues…