I felt like utter crap today, so I sat around watching television all day long. Yay me.
And, ahead of watching a VH1 Ultimate Albums thing on The Marshall Mathers LP, I was starting to think that there might be some redeeming value in Eminem’s music that I had missed.
I would like to officially declare that a wrong answer.
I listened to stories about how songs like “Stan”, “Kim”, “Criminal”, “Kill You”, and “The Way I Am” were crafted, how the label hacks and the producers and the public responded to ‘em, and I repeatedly heard the argument put forth that the anger expressed was artistic in nature, not homophobic or woman-hating or any other kind of hating, for that matter.
And I’m dizzy as sin, so I can’t remember the exact quote, but it’s like Eminem says something to the effect of “I write about raping or killing five or six times, then write the flashing-neon lyric that says that I’m kidding, and it’s like the critics ignore the lyrics that say I’m kidding and focus on the rape and the killing.”
I have a friend who just got pregnant. Completely by accident, mind, but the life is on its way nonetheless. The son or daughter in question is coming into a world where different elements of the culture are out to destroy themselves, where too many people running massive businesses like lining their pockets with ill-gotten dough, where we’re still not sure as a culture whether we have a religious faith that binds us together or not, where kids kill themselves every day and other kids think about killing themselves every minute of their lives and have to fight to find reasons to live in every moment.
And that’s just in these here United States. If we go to Europe and beyond, matters are even more effed up. (Ah, if only Amelia didn’t know how to find this page…another expletive works there far, far better…)
All right, here’s the crux of the matter: which lyrics does this kid need to hear worse in his world?
“These *********** are thinkin I’m playin
Thinkin I’m sayin the **** cause I’m thinkin it just to be sayin it
Put your hands down *****, I ain’t gon’ shoot you
I’ma pull you to this bullet, and put it through you
Shut up slut, you’re causin’ too much chaos
Just bend over and take it like a slut, okay Ma?
‘Oh, now he’s raping his own mother, abusing a whore,
snorting coke, and we gave him the Rolling Stone cover?’”
“Mom, your baby is on his way; he’ll soon be at your side
‘Cause he’s forgotten all he’s known; a part of him has died
Mom may never understand why baby’s come and gone
He left home to find his own, now all he has are lies
In your eyes I see a darkness that torments you
And in your head where it dwells
I’ll give you my hand if you’ll reach out and grab it
Let’s walk away from this hell.”
They both come from very dark albums. One is, of course, from “Kill You” from The Marshall Mathers LP. The other comes from The Juliana Theory’s “Into The Dark”, from the album Emotion Is Dead. Neither is an ideal song for a baby to hear early in his life, granted.
But here’s the thing: One song has hate at its core, the other has love. Forget the arguments about whether Eminem means the hatred or not – it’s there. And any kid who hears that learns it. Learns how to hate early on, and well. The latter song has anger in it as well, but the emotion of love – reaching into this messed-up environment and pulling somebody out of it – overrides.
And that’s why, at the end of the day, I still reject Eminem, and I stand with everybody who wonders why Eminem is getting given a pass despite his violent lyrics. Because there are better options. There are far more important options. You can stand on your soapbox all you want, and you can preach “artistic freedom” all you want, but when you vent your anger so publicly, so explicitly, and with such clear intent to make profit from it (lest we forget: Eminem is under contract to Interscope Records, and he’s changed albums to make his label bosses happy) there’s a better word for it: irresponsible.
Kristin relates this story about my youngest daughter, asking a question about her older sister unprompted: “Mommy, do you love Amelia?” “Why, yes, Anna, I love Amelia.” “And Daddy loves Amelia?” “Yes, he does.” “And I love Amelia, and Mamoo loves Amelia!” (Mamoo = paternal grandmother). And Anna gets entirely excited about the fact that her sister is so loved, moving past the purely selfish and into excitement about the fact that love can be found around our house, in such quantity.
We should not – we must not – ignore how postive the simple emotion of love can be on a younger generation trying to find its way through the world. If there’s a parent who doesn’t want their kid to be so happy, I don’t understand it. And while working to expose a child to love is difficult at times, the end product is so incredibly worth it.
Now, at the same time, I’m not proposing ignoring reality. I don’t begrudge any artist the right to record their emotions frankly, to address the anger and the venom swirling about their world. What I do stand against is the context of hate and the glorification of the violent. Eminem needs to be shouted down not because of his subject matter, but the hateful interpretation of the subject matter.
But I suppose hate and shock are easier to market than love and hope.
Hopefully those takes make sense in my physically ill state. I need some chocolate, I think. Drumsticks ho…