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Narcissism is What Eminem Has to Show

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I'll grant that Eminem has talent as a rapper. Musically, "The Eminem Show" is brilliant. Lyrically, Eminem may be able to sling rhymes with a creative verve that is rare in any songwriter. I always appreciate originality and abhor triteness. On these counts, I tip my hat to Slim Shady.

But that is as far as I can go in praising this decrepit and mentally unbalanced person. The genius of a musician does not excuse record companies from inflicting this garbage on society. "The Eminem Show" is full of violence, especially violence against women, and demonstrates not an ounce of empathy for any other soul on the planet. Marshall Mathers may very well be the biggest narcissist to ever hit the big time.

Consider "Hailie's Song," a lyric purportedly dedicated to his daughter, but full of venom, in which he pretty much places himself at the center of the universe.

This boulder on my shoulder gets heavy and harder to hold
And this load is like the weight of the world
And I think my neck is breaking should I just give up,
Or try to live up to these expectations?

The chief object of Eminem's rage in "Hailie's Song" is Hallie's mother. Eminem's enemy list, however, would make Nixon jealous. His persecutors include his mother, father, parents of his fans, his fans, lawyers, cops, any other women he's ever met, other entertainers, critics, journalists… the list seems endless. The only blameless person seems to be Eminem himself.

Narcissism is a noxious mental disease that leads people to grandiose delusions. Narcissism must be fed. It can be fed by fame and adoration, or it can be fed by violence and notoriety. Eminem has a love-hate relationship with fame, but digs the hell out of violence. Gun shots and talk of whacking some bitch or a record executive or two are the subplot to the entire show.

But not to worry, Eminem tells us. This is just rap. He's just an entertainer. He's not trying to inspire imitators. As he raps in another narcissistic tale, "Without Me:"

They say music can alter moods and talk to you
But can it load a gun for you and cock it too?

In other words, Eminem doesn't kill people. People kill people. If a fan buys a gun, shoots somebody, only the fan is to blame. We are each masters of our own fate.

Of course, Eminem doesn't hold himself to this standard. For example, Mathers is blameless when it comes to violence against the mother of his child:

I got a wife that's determined to make my life livin hell
But I handle it well, given the circumstances I'm dealt
So many chances, man, it's too bad, coulda had someone else
But the years that I've wasted are nothing to the tears that I've tasted
So here's what im facin: 3 felonies, 6 years of probation

If you still don't believe that Eminem has a serious narcissistic complex, compare the following passage from a Web site on narcissism with the lyric I quote below:-

The second mechanism that the narcissist employs is the active pursuit of "Narcissistic Supply". The Narcissist actively seeks to furnish himself with an endless supply of admiration, adulation, affirmation and attention. …If fame cannot be had — infamy and notoriety will do.

And from "Say What You Say"

When I was little I knew I would blow up and sell a mill'
and grow up, to be Atilla, go nuts and be a pillar

Another aspect of narcissism is a sense of omnipotence. The following lyrics are from "My Daddy's Gone Crazy."

There's no mountain i can't climb
There's no tower too high,
No plane that i can't learn how to fly

Besides being a narcissist of unprecedented proportions, Eminem is just a plain old whiner. He doesn't like fame and life is pretty miserable. He sums it up best on "Say Goodbye to Hollywood."

But no one ever puts a grasp on the fact i've sacrificed everything I have
I never dreamt i'd get to the level that i'm at, this is whack
This is more than I ever could of asked
everywhere I go, a hat, a sweater hood, or mask
What about math, how come I wasn't ever good at that
It's like the boy in the bubble, who never could adapt, i'm trapped
If I could go back, I never woulda rapped

Now fans of Eminem might object that I'm being a little harsh. After all, "he's just an entertainer; who are you to psychoanalyze him?" I can imagine Eminem himself saying the same thing. In fact, Eminem makes the point more than once that he's just jivin' with us. He's havin' fun. At the same time, however,he admits, "a lot of truth is said in jest." If Eminem thinks he's givin' us some truth, maybe we should take him a little more seriously.

Whenever Eminem is criticized, I hear his defenders say, "Look, it's up to the parents to police their kids." It's a nice sounding platitude, but it's a straw man. No one who has ever been a parent of a pre-teen or teen would ever seriously spout such nonsense. If you are a parent who believes a guy like Eminem shouldn't be filling a kid's ears with filth, good luck trying to keep it away from your children. It's impossible, because there's always at least one kid on the block who already owns the CD. And when your kid secretly buys it to keep up with the peer pressure, there's hell to pay when you confiscate it.

Parents should rightly be concerned about Eminem. He makes narcissism sound cool, even normal. And narcissism is a seductive mental disorder. Some amount of narcissism is a natural stage for many teen boys. Fortunately, most boys grow into men and learn the value of empathy. They learn because traditionally there has been little in society, even in popular culture, that promoted narcissism as an admirable trait. My concern is that Eminem changes that equation.

It's telling that even Marshall Mathers understands that his music is potentially destructive. At the end of "My Daddy's Gone Crazy," he raps, "i wouldn't let Hailie listen to me neither."

I'm 100 percent behind free speech, and in no regard am I suggesting that Eminem should be banned. But I also believe in corporate responsibility. As good as Eminem is musically, as talented as he is as a rapper, there is a good chance that he would be just another small-label windbag if he didn't get corporate promotion. It is next to impossible these days to become a major star without a record boss stoking the fires of fame. I'm not asking the government to do anything about Eminem and his ilk. I'm asking record companies to realize that they have a responsibility to a civil society. They have a responsibility to future generations. They have a responsibility to look beyond the bottom line.

More on Eminem here and here.

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About Howard Owens

  • heijens

    man you are full off crap, haven’t you anything else to do with your free time then start bullshitting about other poeple???
    “This boulder on my shoulder gets heavy and harder to hold
    And this load is like the weight of the world
    And I think my neck is breaking should I just give up,
    Or try to live up to these expectations?”
    Don’t you ever feel like it’s to much, like you can’t handle some things in your life, I do. He has millions of eyes on him, a lot of people would like to see him failing and there are big expectations, each record has to be great and better as the previous.
    “There’s no mountain i can’t climb
    There’s no tower too high,
    No plane that i can’t learn how to fly”
    this lyric is good because it makes me feel very confedent of myself, I think a lot of kinds feel that way, it’s a big support in my life. So if you don’t feel or understand his music don’t start bullshitting about him.

  • Eric Olsen

    That’s cool, but remember spelling counts

  • Al Barger

    Howard, I appreciate your concern. I’ve gotten to hear my 8 and 13 year old nieces singing Eminem in harmony. Even his less provocative material sounds pretty bad to me in that context.

    On the other hand, your concerns may not be quite so pressing. For one thing, way the biggest influence in a child’s development is going to be his home life, not movies and records.

    Also, you may be underestimating the ability of children to grasp the basic idea of artistic detachment. Even most 10 year olds would grasp that the songs are fiction, and that you wouldn’t really want to be Slim Shady. Indeed, Marshall Mathers ain’t Eminem, let alone Slim Shady. You might be surprised how much of this the young audience picks up.

  • felix

    what are you talking about???! Eminem,a narcissistic? God damn if it wasn’t for him, so many kids would lack confidence and self-esteem. Don’t you undrestand that self-respect and pride are very different from narcissism? Maaaan, let us feel good about ourselves for christ’sake.


  • tj

    you don’t understand what you are talking about

  • A Psych Grad Student

    The tentative consideration of a possible diagnosis of Narcisstic Personality Disorder is a reasonable conclusion. I would also add that there are additional Histrionic and Depressive tendencies shown in this artist’s lyrics and behaviors.

    I was curious as to what my brother was listening to before rejecting it outright, so I listened to these songs. Musically they are extremely catchy. Lyrically, your points are dead-on. Yes, his public persona is narcissistic and probably his private persona is largely narcissistic as well.

    My brother is coping with an abusive mother too so perhaps he identifies with this music. However, obviously, I am coping with the same mother, and I started down the same angry, self-defensive path, but after much learning experiences, I know that letting our narcisstic tendencies develop out of proportion to our empathy, humility, and peace of mind, is a recipe for disaster, and this music therefore is more of a negative and pain-causing factor on humanity than a blessing.

    To his faithful-to-death-and-beyond fans, what feels like “self-esteem” now (and feels good, or at least, feels better than what you were feeling before), at some point you may notice seems inflated and unfulfilling long-term, because it is only an oversized *image* of self-esteem covering up your still-bruised self-acceptance, it’s not the real thing.

    Only when you let yourself be humble, acknowledge your flaws and pain, but know too that you have just as much right to acceptance and love and respect as anyone else — The Right To Be Human, can you develop real, satisfying self-esteem and the peace of mind to build a world for yourself that will bring you joy.

  • Anonymous

    That explains everything, my ex-husband listened to Eminem all the time. He and his mother were both disturbing, and then there’s my father and stepmom. They’re raising little Narks, I know this because they treat everyone who isn’t them like a slave or enemy. I’m just glad I know this and I’m happier without them. For people asking if they should try harder, just forget it, they have a god complex. Run for your life, you won’t be judged for it except by Narks.

  • yo mama

    the whole basis and foundation of hip hop is bragginess, swagger, grandiosity. these people come from not much and then in turn brag about what they got. Eminem, like all celebrities, must posess some amount of narcicism, but to act like it’s unnatural or uncommon is rediculous. In his music, he has the ability to tell real life stories and actually not just brag about bling and bitches and now u crusify him for it? get real.

    “Do you fools listen to music or do you just skim through it?”-JayZ on eminem’s renegade

  • Marcia Neil

    ‘Eminem’ is an album theme. Marshall Mathers can sue to have his name removed from it.

  • Don

    you are acting like it’s a bad thing i’m a narcissist it doesn’t make him any worse than he is infact HE DESERVES TO BE A NARCISSIST it’s a blessing to be one most of the narcissist sucess

  • Chris

    Utterly wrong and I would question your motives. A lyric is simply a lyric. Eminem makes some very good points about people and I guess he’s hurt you. I’d throw the narcissism back at ya simply for that point. Since Eminem is capable of reflection and we’ve heard a lot of what you think, I suggest you try doing what he does. Reflect.

  • stan rationale

    i think i agree with howard here…..eminem does make a lot of money by whining abt his lyf…pickin on other ppl….nd victimising self…makin it look lyk the whole worlds after him….earns sympathy allright….but whats truly respectable is his lyrical ability nd the beats….sucks u in…id say hes a very good manipulator….an extremely talented one…..’endorphins he affects’ fr those hurt teens lyk me out here….but theres also that teeny conscience inside that doesnt get along with his rantings….btw im a fan

    • Jeremy Powell

      I’d rather eminem make money by rapping about his life than all these stupid ass pop stars making songs with the same beat and meaningless lyrics.

      • Rayyan Khan

        I agree with Jeremy Powell. Haters can go suck a dick

  • clark olinger

    Just to show how much you really know, your supposed quote from “without me” is actually from “sing from the moment.” So, when you get your facts straight and your head out of your ass, maybe you’ll realize why Eminem is the best selling rap artist of all time. Unless that is, you want to call 100 million fans wrong.

  • Patrick Wiley

    While I appreciate your opinion, a lot of this is just blatantly incorrect. Not only have you misquoted lyrics, as others have alluded to, you have also taken lyrics completely out of context and attempted to use them to support your point. The Lyrics from “Say What You Say” contextually are not narcissistic. Also, your argument that Eminem never targets himself is false. He often talks about his flaws and what he could and should have done better.

    Taking into consideration the culture around Hip Hop, including battling, “Grandiose claims” are normal. It’s part of a rapper’s mystique.

  • ccdepuy

    Absolutely horrible , this is what happens when you get 1 semester of pop- psychology and feel empowered to analize one of the most complex minds of a generation. Your main point of Eminem being narcissistic is laughable. For one any hip hop star has a sense of self importance, that’s part or the culture. Biggest rock,hottest chicks, ext… Eminem however is extremely open and does not seriously boast about these things. Only his lyrical ability. He tells everyone , everything about his life and struggles of the time. and therefore he fails to meet your psy 101 criteria of a narcissist. Next i am offended of your compressing of his entire and vast body of work(your track list is horrible) this discredits you on its own. He speaks about his flaws, all of his flaws, if you watched 8 mile you would get a sense of this in his final battle. Em often disarms his opponents by calling out his own flaws, he does this in the warning about Marriah Carrey. His so called “whining” is an artist expressing his frustration with the isolation that comes with Mega superstar status. Something that most stars of his status experience but do not express. I am Done with you but please stop writing this garbage.

  • Rayyan Khan

    Eat Shit Howard Owens

  • Slim

    Damn. First of all, this part is from Sing For The Moment, not Without Me:

    “hey say music can alter moods and talk to youBut can it load a gun for you and cock it too?”

    Second, go hang yourself you’re just a little asshole listening pop music all day. GOD..

  • Jason

    Are u a retard? Rap all about bragging about your self maybe if u weren’t a low paid intern blog writer u would know that. And I didn’t know having self esteem was considered narcissism.

  • leanna

    u don’t know a thing. instead of quoting the 5 songs you know how about u realize he makes fun of himself just as much. you used those lyrics completely wrong and interpreted them so falsely this shouldn’t even be allowed of he internet. eminem is the best selling hip hop artist ever so i don’t think if he has a little pride is considered narcissism. by the way next time if your gonna write a ridiculous false stupid blog about diagnosing a lyrical genius at least get the right song because the song was “sing for the moment” not “without me”.

  • Mellowasfack

    For a bit I thought this article was being sarcastic and instead was showing lyrics that proves the points he made wrong ..-.-‘ poor choice of examples !! some of eminem’s lyrics are violent but honestly most of “us” feel that anger and that’s why so many ppl relate to him.: it doesn’t mean anyone does take that to the next level .. They just use the music as an outlet ( or like me use it to feel better about their situation :) don’t over think the lyrics most of it is written that way cuz it rhymes
    Bottom line is some ppl like it some ppl don’t .. If ppl are prone to being violent it really has no relation to the type of music they hear

  • John

    Those lyrics you quote from without me are actually from ‘Sing for the Moment’. Just shows you how much time you probably put into this pseudo-psycho babble.

  • Jasmine

    Dickhead. Do your research….

  • Nothing personal

    The part you quote from “Say What You Say” has incorrect lyrics too. It has a different meaning:

    “When I was little I knew I would blow up
    And sell a mil or grow up to be Attila
    Go nuts and be a killer”

    He’s saying he expected his future to be an successful rapper or on the contrary never make it in rap and end up being a crazy killer.

    I can’t imagine what do you think of “Rap God” if you consider THIS narcissistic:

    “I joke when I say I’m best
    In the booth, but a lot of truth is said in jest”…

  • KnowYourself

    I totally agree with this article listening to his lyrics and other drama’s that have been exposed. He definitely seems to be on the severe end of the narcissist continuum. He saying goodbye to Hollywood because his fake façade has been exposed. He is mental and these people are destructive and abusive to others.

  • Scapegoat

    Great article, I found it after searching “eminem narcissism” after watching the Youtube video of Stephen Colbert interviewing Mathers on a public access show.

    During Colbert’s improv’ Mathers demonstrates textbook body language of narcissistic injury. (They both know that it’s a skit like “Between Two Ferns” where they pretend to not know each other is famous, while they do the public access interview, but Mathers gets genuinely offended while Colbert makes him uncomfortable by teasing his lyrics on “Phenomenol” and teasing his brand image. ) Mathers succumbs to a disassociated state of narcissistic injury to the point where he can’t contribute anything funny to the skit. There is a GQ interview where Colbert confirms that Eminem seemed genuinely confused at times and how [Colbert] refused to break from character because he thrives on taking his interviews to an uncomfortable place.

    I was in high school when Eminem became famous and I enjoyed when friends would bump his CDs in their cars as we smoked blunts on the backroads, I’ve even become verklept, feeling it was so revolutionary and progressive to have this unique itch scratched for an emotional cultural hero for a certain type of white trash, highly troubled, dude/bro that fall through the cracks of society. But now my peers are 30 and these troubled dude bros have a left a trail of ex-girlfriends and kids who are half-siblings and they don’t seem to have channeled those ’empowering’ boosts of temporary self esteem from listening to eminem’s fight songs, into success. they just pull the hoody up, take pouty selfies of their iconic jawline, and become a tragic hero in their own mind, while unleashing damage and dysfunction in their personal lives. they are thwarted from maturing by having their paranoid fantasisies coddled by the Eminem Brand of manhood that is masterfully designed to resonate with their deepest psychological scars and desires.

    My next point is that comments that say that Eminem is self-deprecating, he makes fun of himself all the time so he isn’t narcissistic…. To that I say: come on naw suckers, let’s deconstruct what’s actually happening: humble-bragging, when you seem to be humble on Point A but youre actually implanting a desire in the listener to respect you even further on Point B. Highly controlled skits that humblebrag are not the same as handling subtle disses from someone improvising an interview with you.

    • Scapegoat


      • Scapegoat

        Anyway, Mathers clearly has a personality disorder, whether it’s malignant narcissism, or borderline personality, or a mixture not-otherwise-specified, he has a personality disorder and that would have been created by the conditions of his childhood while he was adapting to having an effed up mom and no father. Critical infant attachment phase with his mother would have wired his brain in the type-D style of infant attachment.

        • Scapegoat

          Pathological narcissism is, theoretically, an overcompensation and survival mechanism to cope with the unbearable vacuum that is left when the subject’s parents didn’t/couldn’t adequately guide them at critical stages of personality/brain development and rumors have it that Kanye listen’s to Eminem’s “Phenomenal” when he needs a mood boost.

  • Scapegoat

    poor boundaries, hunger for vengenence, persecutory delusions, grandiosity, a feast of personality disorder traits in the glamorously ruined psyche of a man once neglected severely by his parents!