5 Reasons the Chris Brown and Rihanna SVU episode was both awesome and bad


Warning: Spoilers!

Last night, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit premiered a new episode “ripped from the headlines,” with a story line that was obviously supposed to be a take off of Chris Brown and Rihanna.  A singer named Micha Charles and her boyfriend, hip hop star Caleb Bryant get into an argument when Bryant is caught talking to another woman and Bryant beats and chokes Charles until she’s nearly dead.

Sound familiar?

The episode was heavy handed and a litte – no a lot – cheesy but there are 5 reasons why it was both awesome and bad (mixed with sincerity and snark): 

1.  The abuser’s name is Caleb Bryant.

American audiences sometimes have trouble keeping up so clearly the folks at Law and Order wanted to make sure we didn’t miss the point.  By naming the abuser Caleb Bryant it was like a big red flag and a bright light, indicating that yes we are in fact watching a story that is inspired by Chris Brown.

2. Caleb beats Micha over something minor.

I appreciated that the episode illustrated an important point often overlooked in domestic violence cases: the abuser often is set off by something small and insignificant.  In real life, Chris Brown was upset about Rihanna asking about a text message he received from another woman and in the episode Caleb is angered by a very similar trigger, and it’s addressed in the episode (in a really heavy handed way) that the beating isn’t Micha’s fault and she didn’t do anything to make Caleb beat her.  So, different than real life.

3. Sue Simmons!

If you grew up in the tri-state area, Sue Simmons of NBC is a household name.  She co-anchored the 11 pm news my entire life, but was recently was let go by NBC.  Last night’s episode featured Simmons in a big way and it was a sight to behold.  Her presence gave the over the top episode a real New York feel.

4. Bow tie.

Just like in real life, Caleb Bryant wears a baby blue sweater and a bow tie in his first TV interview after beating Micha.  Chris Brown wore the same stupid bow tie when he went on Larry King Live to proclaim that “he didn’t remember” and that witnessing abuse in his childhood was in no way a contributing factor to him growing up to be an abuser (aka bullshit).  The sight of the bow tie make me LOL because it was very clear that the producers of SVU were paying close attention to detail.

5. He Kills Her.

After the beating, Micha decides not to press charges and reconciles with Caleb.  This reconciliation, was clearly done because of the real life reconciliation between Chris Brown and Rihanna but the story didn’t end there.  My favorite detective Olivia Benson says, “Now we wait,” when they realize that Caleb and Micha are back together and she’s not pressing charges, indicating that it’s only a matter of time before he beats her again.  Most experts would agree with this and say that the cycle of abuse predicts another incident, and another, until ultimately many abuse victims are murdered by their abusers.  And that’s what happens in the episode.  In the final scene, Caleb receives a text message on his phone and Micha asks him who it is, setting him off again into a rage, and he kills her.

So while the conclusion of this fictional story is much different than the real life conflict between Chris Brown and Rihanna the SVU ending was all too real.

Did you see the episode?  What did you think?


Join the Conversation

  • http://feministing.com/members/godsey/ Chris Godsey

    “Progression” or “pattern” of abuse seems more wise than “cycle” for illustrating experiences of women who are battered by men. Lenore Walker’s Cycle of Violence (tension-building, eruption, honeymoon) was dismissed many years ago by most credible folks in the movement to end men’s violence against women.

  • http://feministing.com/members/missy43/ Irene

    Hmm…you write “In real life, Chris Brown was upset about Rihanna asking about a text message he received from another woman”. Wasn’t it the other way around? Didn’t she get so upset at the text message that she beat him with her shoe and he lost it and started hitting her? Mind you, I’m not Victim Blaming. I just find it interesting how this part of the story is always left out. Yes, he should have walked away and not put his hands on her! I guess I’m questioning the label that he has been given “abuser”. It was a verbal altercation that turned physical in manner of seconds. Yes i’ve seen the picture and I hope that picture serves as a reminder to him of how unhealthy this relationship had become. It was a wake up call for both of them and I’m glad they took a break from each other. It is wrong for anyone..male or female to put their hands on someone. I think they’ve both had time to think about what part each one played in the downfall of their relationship. I wish them both well.

  • http://feministing.com/members/shoupe33/ Melissa

    Zerlina, the reason why this SVU episode is completely horrible is the fact that the entire globe is waiting for Rihanna to be abused again, and L&O just validated that. A truly feminist and meaningful critique of the episode is not to make silly annotations of whether or not the fictional character Caleb wore a bow tie in his on screen interview. The critique lies within your ability to recognize that in REAL LIFE, Rihanna needs the support of her friends, family, and fans, regardless of her choice to reconcile with Chris. She is an adult who is fully capable of making her own decisions. This SVU episode is not supportive of Rihanna or any other domestic violence victims and survivors at all. Anyone who wants to actually help victims of abuse should help them the way they want you to–and in this case, Rihanna has asked us all to shut the hell up and respect her autonomy. I find this post to be borderline offensive, not to mention completely trivial. You are missing the point.

    • http://feministing.com/members/beccabecca/ Rebecca

      I’m with you, Melissa. It’s sick that we are collectively waiting around for a chance to tell Rihanna, “I told you so.” Rihanna needs to be empowered to make her own decisions, not torn down by victim-blaming. None of us but Rihanna can presume to know what’s best for her.

    • honeybee

      Totally agree. You put to words what I was thinking but couldn’t articulate. Thanks.

  • http://feministing.com/members/veeped/ PV

    They went to far with victim shaming Rihanna and painting Chris Brown as a rapper (coded for thug) who is a serial killer who disrespects cops, Jewish people, etc. Speaking about domestic violence is needed. The subject is never too much, but the content of this episode was disgusting. Having the character dress like Chris Brown and even using Rihanna’s (late) grandmother in the episode to have the characters speak nothing like Chris Brown and Rihanna was a mockery and took away from the intended message. It was just bashing. Rihanna and Chris Brown grew up in violent homes (Rihanna herself was violent with her little brother , she laughed about sending him to the ER in a interview with Giant a few months before Chris Brown assaulted her.) Chris Brown left that violent home about 6 years when he assaulted Rihanna. He was still a teen. Making him the poster boy of domestic violence when Charlie Sheen has a show called “Anger Management” (which would be like Chris Brown having a show called “Community Service”) seems super racialized and not in support of victims at all. The focus is on the celebrity not on the crime and brutality .

    Sean Connery was highlighted at the Oscars during a Bond segment. The same show where a Chris Brown /Rihanna ‘joke’ (because domestic violence is just…hilarious) was made. Sean Connery was an outspoken abuser. He even encouraged it to control women in an interview with Barbara Walters, on television. 
    A year ago Sean Penn was part of the Independent award festivies where the host, another Seth , made a joke about Chris Brown and abuse. Sean Penn hit Madonna with a baseball hat. He also tied her to a chair and beat her. 
    Josh Brolin is relevant, and has a domestic battery charge that the media doesn’t care about even though it was because of a fight with Diane Lane, a celebrity as well. 
    And Chris Brown performed at the Grammy’s where a long term abuser was tributed , Glen Campbell. Glen Campbell beat his wife for two years and knocked two teeth out of her mouth when he punched her. He also was a drunk driver who hit another car. But who cares about a hit and run when we can spend years condemning Chris Brown for what he did at 19. Blake Shelton celebrated Glen Grammy night while his wife went all out against Chris Brown that year. 

    • http://feministing.com/members/kalestorm/ Kaylee

      Thank you! I was going to say the exact same thing. People who abuse others are truly awful and damaged people. Take note though that people have been way more invested in this story and that abuser is a black man. Notice how people couldn’t care less that Sean Penn is abusive or that Mark Wahlberg is a brutal racist who has assaulted people of color time and time again and has even been tried for attempted murder. I guess what I’m getting at is that the media finds it much easy to condemn a young black rapper than a high status white actor.

  • http://feministing.com/members/missy43/ Irene

    Well said PV. Also, good points about the numerous other entertainers whose past DV incidents are overlooked and never brought up. I didn’t want SUV because I knew how they would portray Chris and Rihanna. It was all about ratings!