Over the past several weeks as entertainment news has been filled with the story of Chris Brown and Rhianna’s domestic drama, there have been reports of the reactions to the incident from other celebrities. It seemed that lots of well-known musicians, actors, actresses, and such didn’t want to take a stand. That seemed a little odd to me. Isn’t it obvious that Chris Brown acted badly by basically beating up Rhianna? Wouldn’t they want to stand up for “right?”
Celebrities not wanting to take a stand is problematic, but I guess they are celebrities and don’t want to get mixed up in the story. But, then again, they aren’t just celebrities, in many cases they are role models for teens (and others) and as such could have an impact on how this story is perceived and understood by others. As a teen librarian and advocate I do wish that celebrity role models would stand up and speak out against unacceptable behavior.
This has come more to my mind as I’ve been reading about teens and what they have to say about the incident. Most recently in The New York Times there is a story titled Teenage Girls Stand By Their Man. The article focuses on the complexity of teen reactions to what happened between Chris Brown and Rhianna.
My first reaction when reading about teen girl’s support of Chris Brown over Rhianna was one of horror, shock, and sadness. How could these teens say that Rhianna played a role in what happened to her? How could they support Chris Brown after seeing Rhianna’s face? But, then I read the article and realized, of course, for some teen girls, this isn’t a black and white issue. There’s a lot going on in this story which makes it difficult for teens to easily understand and interpret the situation. There’s the glamour of the celebrities involved. And, there are teen’s own struggles figuring out who they are, what they believe, what their values are, etc.
What does this teen reaction and struggle mean for librarians working with teens? Do we promote research on abuse, dating violence, women’s rights? Do we start conversations with teens about relationships and how to handle bad dating situations? Do we make sure to have fiction and non-fiction easily available for teens in order to give them a chance to investigate these topics within their own comfort level and on their own time?
The answers to all of the questions is “yes.” (You can find some useful resources in Kelly Czarnecki’s post from last month.) We also have to remember that librarians, like celebrities, are role models for teens. We need to listen to what teens have to say about the topic and find ways to help them understand their own reactions. While we might know that teens aren’t necessarily seeing the “truth” of the situation, we can’t judge them for their reactions. We can however help them to understand why relationship violence isn’t OK no matter who the perpetrator is – a boy who lives down the block, or a cute famous singer that’s on the cover of many magazines.