A young white kid grows up in a black neighborhood. At the age of ten, he is beaten so badly, he ends up in a coma. The experience affects him deeply, and shapes his attitude toward life and his ultimate direction. He sets his sights on the subculture of hip-hop and goes on to make records about raping his mother, killing his wife and committing various acts of violence against women, gays and rival artists. He is Marshall Mathers, a.k.a. Eminem, current exploit of the music industry.
It is difficult to tell whether his life is imitating his art or vice versa. He recently pleaded guilty to the charge of carrying a concealed weapon, and faces additional charges that include brandishing a firearm in public. His mother has sued him for defamation. His wife has sued him for divorce. Like many pop icons of the past, he has tapped into the rebel streak of adolescence. But Eminem has used profanity, outrage and scandal to anger any and all authority figures and fashion himself into a recording cash cow.
One of the most curious things about Eminem is the diverse range of enemies he has managed to attract in the process. Conservatives have long engaged in robust criticism of rap, and its kindred hip-hop, for the depravity that masquerades as poetry, the glorification of criminal behavior and the delight taken in fomenting hate. Not so long ago, Charlton Heston stood up at a shareholders'meeting of Time Warner and read aloud the lyrics of Ice-T's notorious "Cop Killer." When confronted with lewd reality, the company was persuaded to sever ties with the artist and promptly dropped Ice-T from its roster.
And so the genre itself has a jagged pedigree. The sexist, misogynist and homophobic nature of the lyrics was initially portrayed by the Hollywood intelligentsia as urban performance art with just the right splash of revolutionary spirit. But the left's love affair with Marxist principles obscured its own moral prism and what followed was not supposed to happen. The cutting edge symbol of rebellion evolved into a multimillion-dollar enterprise, as young white suburban teens embraced the base messages that were being spewed forth and the contemptible personae that went along with the rhetoric. Eminem seized the moment and rode the filthy wave to fortune.
So great was Eminem's success, he was nominated for four Grammys this year and is set to perform at the prestigious awards ceremony. Now for the twist. Eminem's concerts have been stirring up protests, primarily from feminists and gay rights organizations. The gay rights crowd is furious because Eminem's lyrics about homosexuals are invariably inflammatory and revolting. Not that this is anything novel for rap or hip-hop performers, but the level of antagonistic speech is. Gay rights activists have been consistent in their expression of indignation.
On the other hand, feminist cries about misogyny are laughable. Radical women's groups that are now voicing outrage over Eminem's worldview are the same organizations that were missing in action when rap and hip-hop artists first began their sexist rants. These are the same feminist organizations that remained silent when Larry Flint was deified on the big screen. And the same feminist organizations that looked the other way when a number of women stepped forward to reveal the wretched pattern of behavior on the part of the former president. Feminists of this brand deserve a badge of dishonor for their unrivaled display of hypocrisy.
Still it has got to be very uncomfortable, for both feminists and homosexual rights activists, to find themselvesstanding shoulder to shoulder with, dare anyone say, conservatives on this issue.
In September of 2000, while testifying about the media, the vice president's wife, Lynne Cheney, spoke specifically about Eminem's recording "Kill You." In this piece, Eminem endeavors to convey the joy that can be found in murdering a string of women. He uses a flurry of less than creative pejorative phrases to describe intended victims.
But the power elite in Hollywood does have its priorities. The movers and shakers became animated when certain invisible borders of political correctness were violated. In a brash attempt to manipulate public perception, the Grammy Awards decided to feature a duo more suitable for Saturday Night Live, Eminem and Elton John.
The unintended parody was spurred on by a nomination for album of the year. But it actually ends up revealing the real gauge from which the music industry now seems to operate. Mealy-mouthed, ribbon touting, limousine liberals genuflect for any profit producing lout, with no regard for the harm done to impressionable adolescents.
When, as predicted, Eminem is showered with multiple awards, his stature will undoubtedly be raised while others will be motivated to continue down this ugly path.
We can expect to see further assaults on human dignity and fiercer blows to sublime creativity.