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Chris Brown Looks Innocent

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Chris Brown was never supposed to be this kind of boy. Mothers always warn their daughters about those other types: the Lil Waynes, the Mike Tysons; the “tough guys” with rap sheets as harsh as their public personas. That guy was not doe-eyed, dimple-cheeked Chris Brown.

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Or at least not until seven months ago.

Before the headlines and guilty plea, he had the hearts of many a young girl. He was the very definition of bubble-gum pop. Young and talented, handsome and charismatic: Chris Brown was the black blogosphere version of homecoming king, with a letterman jacket to boot.

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Sitting across from Larry King on Wednesday night, donning a baby-blue sweater and matching bow tie, the 20-year-old singer did his best to look the part and win back his crown.

But the re-ascension attempt was none too successful.

Days before airing the interview, CNN released preview clips of Chris’ reaction to the crazed events that brought him to this point: It’s crazy to me. I’m like ‘wow.’

What's really crazy is how little the interview revealed about what happened that night in February as Chris and his former girlfriend, fellow singer Rihanna, headed to a pre-Grammy Awards party. “It’s personal,” Chris asserts, refusing to go into detail about the incident. But anyone with a Twitter account could tell you the facts.

And the facts weren't pretty. The police report told a battered and bruised Robyn F., later confirmed to be Rihanna. Then came the photo of her with two black eyes and a fat lip. And eight hours after the incident, Chris turned himself in, eventually pleading guilty on June 22nd to felony assault.

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He did it. That much was always obvious. And any questions about legal action were quickly laid to rest during his recent sentencing. (He was ordered to perform six months of community labor and to cease all communication and contact with Rihanna for five years.)

Yet, somehow, despite the headlines and disturbing updates, for his fans, the idea of the baby-faced boy wonder being an abusive boyfriend never sat right. We needed words to remedy Rihanna’s wounds. An assurance, an apology, and mostly … answers.

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But the answers never came.

An apology message was posted on Chris’ Web site late last month. It offered little more than the usual attempt at damage control. A camera-ready star, a somber expression, a prepared two-minute statement to fans that Chris swears “came from the heart.” The overdue “I’m sorry” just didn’t cut it.

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Wednesday night was his only window left for out-and-out absolution from his fans, were it ever to come. But sandwiched between his mother Joyce Hawkins and his lawyer Mark Geragos, Chris did little more than skirt around the very details needed to redeem him. When asked about his last words to Rihanna, his feelings about the attack and prior incidents of violence, he essentially offered the same stock responses. I’m not going to go into that. I’m sorry.

So what exactly was the need for his reappearance if not just for appearance’s sake?

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During the entire segment, it is Chris’ lawyer who says the most, seamlessly stepping in where his client is unwilling to go. Playing the role of mediator, Geragos deflects inquiries into an abusive history as if accounting for a misdemeanor. “That’s vandalism,” he states when asked about a past incident of violence in which Chris reportedly broke the windshield and passenger side windows of a car.

Chris, on the other hand, said more with his silence than he did with the vague answers provided in the taped interview.

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Surprisingly, the most revealing portrayal during the segment was that of Chris’ mother, who began crying at the first mention of her own domestic violence experience at the hands of her ex-husband, Chris’ stepfather. As her son gets asked about the effect that seeing the abuse had on him, she is visibly upset; she closes her eyes and tries to keep it together as Chris attempts to respond.

Hands-clasped, eyebrows furrowed, he maintained a strategic air of stoicism, occasionally betrayed by his emotions, sighing at times and staring off into space. (When asked if he was still in love with Rihanna, he replies without hesitation: Definitely.)

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But despite the staggered sound bites that will surely be played and replayed for weeks to come, it was more than obvious that the man of the hour was essentially meant to be seen, not heard. A visual to appease the need of his fans to have Chris back as he once was: the wholesome, doe-eyed crooner.

At one point in the show, he confesses, “I feel like it’s high school sometimes. …” Indeed, it is. The rise and fall of the popular celebrity couple is enough to make the public salivate over the endless potential for locker room gossip. It’s the basis Chrianna-gate was built on. For the geek in us all, a paparazzi-fueled tragedy like theirs is confirmation that even pretty people have problems.

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Yet, even in his silence, the pretty-boy pop star did his best to make us forget; to bury the ugliness of the past seven months in the image we thought we knew. The bow tie and sweater ensemble even inspired Larry King to come to his defense: You appear rather calm, rather nice.

If only it were that simple.

Saaret E. Yoseph is a writer and The Root's Assistant Editor.

Saaret Yoseph is a writer and Assistant Editor at TheRoot.com. She manages and blogs for \"Their Eyes Were Watching …\"

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