Circumstances, by their very nature, are rarely the same twice. I realize that. Yet, this morning, after watching Justin Bieber deftly and appropriately address the recent paternity suit filed against him, live on the “Today” show, with hundreds of fans surrounding him and millions more watching at home, I couldn’t help but think about Chris Brown. And how, hopefully, he was taking notes.
You probably remember earlier this year, when Brown stopped by another morning show — in this case, ABC’s “Good Morning America” — to promote his just-released F.A.M.E. album, and got (depending on your opinion of him) understandably or irrationally angered by host Robin Roberts’ repeated questions about his 2009 assault of then-girlfriend Rihanna. And you probably remember everything that happened after that appearance, especially the parts where Brown allegedly broke a window in a dressing room and exited the “GMA” studios shirtless (and then played a pickup basketball game on West 4th Street). Needless to say, it wasn’t a good look for Brown, a guy who has sort of turned the phrase into an art form.
And, again, I understand that the circumstances surrounding the two events are different. Bieber has, up until this point in his career, largely avoided the sordid side of celebrity. At the time of his “GMA” appearance, Brown had spent a full two years apologizing for his assault, and probably felt blindsided by Roberts’ line of questioning. Of course, the magnitude of their infractions — purported or otherwise — aren’t exactly equal. I don’t know their backgrounds, how they were raised, and I can’t pretend to understand what was going on minutes before the cameras started rolling, what was agreed to by publicists and producers in the weeks leading up to each artist’s appearances. But I do know how I feel after watching Bieber, and how I felt after watching Brown, and just how different those two feelings really are.
To his credit, Bieber did not shrink from the questions; he stepped up and answered them, dealt with the issue at hand, then got back to promoting his various endeavors. To his detriment, Brown did the exact opposite – he let his emotions get the best of him and the whole thing spun out of control. You can argue he’s been doing damage control ever since. There are, of course, no shortage of rather sticky sentiments attached to all of this, questions of public perception and media fairness. Then again, on “Today,” Matt Lauer wasn’t exactly tossing softballs to Bieber, while Roberts, well, let’s just say she was basically serving as Brown’s personal Jennie Finch. And while one handled it appropriately, the other faltered. Those points are not up for debate.
And, in the process, they made me consider whether a 17-year-old kid facing his first bit of adversity may actually be more mature than a 22-year-old man who’s (in theory) been facing adversity for years now. Or at least has had better media training. And in the era where we think we know everything about every celebrity — even if what we think we know is nothing more than what the machines surrounding them deem it worthy to release — that’s what’s important. I don’t know if Bieber smashed anything or stormed into Rockefeller Center shirtless (though, if he did, I’m reasonably sure I would’ve read about it by now). I’m not saying Bieber is good and Brown is bad, and I’m not attempting to compare their situations in any way. I’m simply pointing out that Bieber showed a maturity and professionalism beyond his years, while Brown, well, he’s still trying to figure this whole thing out. Which is why, I really hope he was paying attention this morning … turns out, he could learn a lot from the kid.