If you went to a movie in the last couple of weeks, chances are it was Straight Outta Compton, the critically acclaimed biopic of legendary rap group NWA. And if you listened to music at any point in the last 10 years, chances are it was either produced by or on a pair of headphones bearing the name of a certain medical professional, and co-founder of that legendary rap group, named Andre.
Yes, Dr. Dre has risen from party DJ on the streets of Los Angeles to one of the highest paid musicians on the planet, along the way becoming a rap icon. But along the way he also did a couple of other things, notably the savage beating of at least three different women. His former girlfriend, R&B singer Michel’le Toussaint, detailed a relationship filled with abuse, which came as a surprise to many. But two of the other assaults committed by Dre on women were, not unlike several of the allegations against Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton, well known yet strangely forgotten by masses of adoring fans.
Particularly notable is the famous beating of rap journalist Dee Barnes in 1991. In that episode, Dr. Dre confronted Barnes, and while his bodyguard held off a room full of horrified onlookers (at gunpoint), the famous rapper and entrepreneur grabbed Barnes by the hair and punched, kicked, and slammed her against a wall repeatedly. This episode, like the countless ones with Toussaint, are completely absent from the biopic, which is leading approximately nobody to care.
This is a sad commentary on the politics of popularity, which allows some to escape justice based on their persona and success, while others are eaten alive by their past. It’s also a sad commentary on the effects movies have on our perception of history. Biopics like Ray and Walk the Line didn’t entirely gloss over the ugly parts of their inspirations, Ray Charles and Johnny Cash, even though both were still alive when the movies were completed. And fortunately most fans of those older musicians are likely to learn their stories from books. Younger fans of NWA will likely never see Barnes, Toussaint, or Theresa Beth (a third victim who suffered a public assault at the hands of Dr. Dre) have their stories told in an inspiring film.
This is not to advocate for dragging down Dre, but instead for lifting up those women, and elevating their stories to the level of importance they deserve. It’s also for learning to appreciate our heroes for who they are and were, not for who we want them to be.
Trust me, if I could separate James Brown, Sean Connery, and Miles Davis from their histories of abusing women, I would. But I can’t. Those stories are part of who they were just like Dr. Dre’s abuse is for him. And they’d make for compelling and important art in telling their stories.
On the Affair Affair
Ask not for whom the bell tolls… or something like that. Am I right, people busted by the Ashley Madison data dump?
Ashley Madison is, of course, the website that facilitates affairs for people, which is, of course, on its face absurd, if for no other reason than that a person who wants to seek an extra-marital encounter can simply take off their ring. Only a complete moron with total faith in Internet security would sign up and give financial information to a website that gathers such potential blackmail victims’ info in one place.
So it was with no small amount of personal satisfaction and finger-wagging moralization that the world reveled in hackers revealing the identities of everyone who had paid to use the service. So far there has only been one really high profile celebrity shaming, that of the already shamed Josh Duggar. And there hasn’t been a wave of former saints who have seen their halos drug through the mud. But it’s only been a week. People will need more time to sift through all the names to find nuggets of shaming gold.
If Bill Clinton’s name came up, and surely it was the first one everyone searched for, that would not exactly be news. But what if it was somebody we didn’t already know to be a bit of a scumbag?
What if the next big name is Neil Degrasse Tyson or Elizabeth Warren, or the Dalai Lama? Where do we really stand as a culture on this topic?
The truth is there is no easy answer. Adultery is morally despicable, and yet we all recognize it’s only too human. Sometimes it’s the only option. And sometimes things are just “complicated.” To say nothing of the people who use such a site because they live in cultures that don’t accept their sexuality, like homosexuals in the Middle East. Or straight women in the Middle East, for that matter?
That’s right, we’re completely ashamed/proud/horrified/inspired/shocked/unsurprised by ourselves yet again. We’re a peculiar bunch, humans…
By Sidney Reilly