Ten years ago, I was crammed in the back of a small car with my sister and her friend, driving to Punchestown race course to see our favourite rapper live in concert. During the drive down, we blasted the Marshall Mathers LP with the windows open, rapping along to all that vitriol. In my defence, he was super-talented. A further excuse is that I was 15. Eminem was rebellious because he used curse words and his CDs had parental advisory stickers. I won’t lie – his music was a vehicle for my teen angst. We knew that his lyrics were a bit off. Like he wasn’t serious about murdering those women right? He...he...that stuff was unreal. We didn’t read into it.
Ten years later I’ve learnt to read. I’ve learnt about the power of language and cultural messages, of privilege and its discontents. Eminem’s made no progress though. In fact, he seems to think he can wave his working class background like a get-out-of-jail-free card in the face of criticism for lyrics that are no more enlightened than they have ever been, despite being a rich 41-year-old white guy and the father of a daughter. You know that “when [he] came up battle-rappin' or whatever,” everyone used that language. And even now that he’s loaded, he just can’t shake the homophobia. And of course, “[he] never really equated those words . . .” with their meanings. He never associated the f-word with gay people. He never really thought about it because he’s not gay. Similarly, he’s not a woman so the b-word’s also meaninglessly easy for him to use and abuse. Are you a member of the LGBT community or a woman? Well, Eminem doesn’t really get your problem with him...
Except that he does. The very worst part is that we know that he knows about the power of words. With his brand of lyrical genius, there’s no way he doesn’t understand what he’s doing. For him to claim that the f-word is just something thrown around, not aimed at offending gay people is just disingenuous, because he knows that the reason the word is used, the source of its power, is the idea that gay men are lesser men, that they’re illegitimate and shameful. They become a target of legitimate masculine rage, and violence against them a display of male power that he’s using to metaphorize his power over words as a “Rap God”, when he says he’ll, ‘break a motherfucking table over the back of a couple f*****s." The same argument applies to women in Shady’s world except rather than being lesser men, they’re lesser humans.
But let’s consider Shady, the bigoted straw man Eminem wants to hide behind. Yes folks, it’s that old ‘I know that you know that I know I’m being racist/homophobic/misogynist so therefore I’m actually not’ argument. He’s said, “I think people know my personal stance on things and the personas that I create in my music.” Even if Shady were just a persona, divorced from Eminem and nothing like him, why lend such an offensive persona airtime to spew that crap? However, we all know that Shady isn’t in anyway divorced from Eminem. He’s the alter-ego, the dark side that Marshall sees fit to let run on wild, murderous and politically incorrect rampages through his songs.
Let me tell you a little secret friend, if you’re aware that you have a hideous, homophobic, misogynist and evil dark side, why not just keep it to yourself? By letting it out all the time, you’re making us all think that you’re a hideous, homophobic, misogynist and evil human being. You’ve got to grow beyond those parts of yourself. Sure, Shady won you a lot of battles and made you a lot of money in the past, but now it’s time to move on. You’ve said that you support gay rights, so get onboard and SUPPORT GAY RIGHTS! Because every time you use offensive language and degrade members of the LGBT community you’re sending exactly the opposite message. Your lyrics are what’re played over and over again. So in this case, lyrics speak louder than words.
The quotes came from:
- Emma Regan
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