No, that's not hyperbole. Why do you ask?
Chris Brown and Rihanna have been back in the news recently, and the pair's will-they-or-won't-they tension is the worst development in the history of love. This is because as a couple, Chris Brown and Rihanna are more toxic than Whitney and Bobby, or Tammy and George, or nearly any other famously dysfunctional couple (musical or otherwise), mostly because they're so distinctively "now."
Chris Brown and Rihanna are the first abusive relationship for the iPhone generation. Since they first became sweethearts, they've had virtually every phase of their relationship documented. They were such an adorable couple when they first got together, it seemed like they were destined to be the Corey and Topanga of contemporary pop and R&B. Then things went screamingly south.
In the aftermath of the original incident, we were treated to the new media cycle of an abusive relationship. You could credit the pair's fame for the very fact that someone in the LAPD leaked the photograph (which goes against domestic-violence-case protocol). But we also saw constant Twitter updates from Brown expressing irritation that people kept asking him about that night, and we watched Rihanna's recovery through her own Instagram and Twitter. Everybody chats with Oprah about their trauma; but these two aired their grievances as only this generation can.
Brown and Rihanna are both compulsive exhibitionists and oversharers, and they're both the darlings of a media thrilled to have such willing lightning rods. But they've also both had the occasional freakout, telling people in no uncertain terms to butt out of their relationship and that no one can tell them how to comport themselves. (Rihanna's new single is the grammatically questionable "Nobodies Business," which is a standard "Keep out of my relationship" sort of deal.) It's that conflict that's uniquely current about them. Everyone knows everything about everyone else nowadays, but we still cling to the idea that we're entitled to make it all go away at any given moment, no matter how much we've shared.
But the average person doesn't have an army of fans following their every move, and this is where we arrive at the real problem. Brown's antics are accompanied by flurries of tweets from young women, often along the lines of "I'd let Chris Brown beat me." This is why Chris Brown and Rihanna are The Worst. It's that we can literally see their toxic effect on young people, live-blogged in front of us. You can witness an entire generation devastated before your eyes, as if by the hand of some sexy Vietnam War. Whitney and Bobby were a televised freak show, but at least we could imagine that no one was actively looking to them for cues.
But Chris Brown and Rihanna are two of the biggest pop stars in the world right now, and they're adored by the most impressionable, vulnerable age group. Rihanna has balked at being called a role model, but that's not enough to stop girls from looking up to her, and trying to fluff-talk that label away doesn't change the fact that millions of young girls have watched her run back into the arms of a man who beat her. Chris Brown is actively campaigning to take the title of role model, but still throws childish tantrums whenever someone brings up the behavior that will forever make him anything but.
Maybe it's a waste of breath to ask for accountability from celebrities, and it's not like I'd ever expect Chris Brown to suddenly give a press conference in which he apologizes for his entire career thus far, and then announces he's going to live in Tibet. Rihanna will never withdraw from Instagram and Twitter; will never stop giving interviews in which she pleads for privacy before tweeting a topless pic. They're not going to go away, and they're not going to suddenly become unpopular and have their influence wane. The best we can do is try to make young people realize that they are not cute, they are not the perfect example of true love, and no matter how many Instagrams they take, they will never be a positive image of love for people to look at. They can't be. They're history's greatest monster.