A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Chris Brown: Welcome to My Life is a 2017 documentary about the controversial entertainer. What's disheartening about this movie is how Brown's well-known acts of assault and battery on Rihanna and others are described in terms of what they did to Brown's music career instead of how terrible the actions were. The opportunity for a meaningful dialogue on these issues is squandered in trying to show the world that Chris Brown -- according to the celebrity testimonies in the movie -- has suffered enough for his crimes and is really, according to Rita Ora, a "loving, caring, and gorgeous person." While fans of Brown will see what they want to see, the fact that this documentary was produced by Chris Brown should tell you something. There's graphic talk of Brown's violence toward Rihanna and others, and images of Rihanna's beaten face. "F--k" and variations are used many times, as well as the "N" word. There are mentions of taking Xanax, drinking, and smoking marijuana. Brown talks of how a boyfriend of his mother's beat his mother when he was a little boy, and how the boyfriend also tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head, and instead of dying, the boyfriend lost his vision. There are mentions of Brown's fight with Frank Ocean over a parking spot, a fight with Drake, and his destroying a backstage room while on the set of Good Morning America.
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What's the story?
CHRIS BROWN: WELCOME TO MY LIFE shows the singer trying to move forward in life. It chronicles the meteoric rise of Chris Brown as a young teenager and the heir apparent to Michael Jackson, his overnight fall in the aftermath of assault and battery charges after he punched Rihanna while they were in a heated argument in his Lamborghini, and the trials, jail time, and continued issues with anger and violence, and how he used these experiences to write songs and return to the top of the charts. He discusses how he made it in the music industry, and graphically discusses the notorious incidents that made headlines everywhere, and what he has tried to do to become a better person. Through interviews and testimonials of well-known celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Usher, the documentary attempts to place Brown in the upper pantheon of great, and perhaps iconic, performers of our times.
Is it any good?
This music documentary goes to incredible stylized lengths to present an entertainer who has learned from his past mistakes, is sorry, and is ready to move on. The biggest problem with Chris Brown: Welcome to My Life is the context. As producer of his own documentary, Brown devotes far more time to the negative impact his terrible actions had on his musical career, and far less time to the cycle of domestic violence he experienced as a child that carried over into his actions as a man. Instead of a genuine discussion about violence in general and violence toward women in particular, such depth is overlooked in favor of various celebrities speaking to his talents as a performer.
Which leads to the question: Why was this so-called documentary even made? Brown's fans have obviously forgiven him, or the cult of celebrity makes him beyond blame to them. At the beginning of the movie, while backstage in a packed arena playing video games, Brown talks of how he no longer wants to be seen for his crimes and courtroom appearances but for his artistic abilities, and then the entire second act of the movie is devoted to these very crimes and courtroom appearances. It makes no sense. Does he want forgiveness from those who still think jail time and some contrite words were not enough? It's hard to believe any skeptics will be taken in by the carefully crafted presentation. Is it an attempt to show Brown's side of things in contrast to how the media covered him? If that's the case, what amounts to a movie-length infomercial about Brown's musical career with so many fawning testimonials from other performers reeks of desperation. And while there's some mention of real issues of domestic violence, the common issues child and teen stars contend with, anger management, and what someone who committed terrible wrongs must do to earn forgiveness, so much of it is made to portray Brown as some kind of "comeback kid," as if he just climbed back to the top after losing his voice for several years. A real opportunity to have a discussion of how to find ways to end domestic violence is squandered, and what stands in its place is self-centered damage control and an inability to see a bigger picture that goes far beyond the career of an entertainer.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about music documentaries. How does Chris Brown: Welcome to My Life compare to other music documentaries?
Why do you think the image of Brown painting a large portrait of his daughter is used while the audio plays news reports of his arrests and voice-overs of celebrities discussing his problems?
Do you think this movie showed Chris Brown to be truly contrite for his actions, or did it seem to place the actions more in the context of the damage it did to his career and image?
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