Saturday, February 5, 2011

Talking Eminem, Asperger's and Homophobia With A Reader From Buenos Aires

A reader from Buenos Aires recently left a comment on my blog that actually made me think of several things regarding Eminem that I had never even thought of before:

Hi! At last I've come across a highly interesting, intelligent essay on Eminem. Personally, I think he's an unappreciated genius and his album Recovery is fantastic. "Cleaning out my Closet" is impressive. There's another song that should be a hit, called "When I'm Gone"; can't remember whether it's in Recovery, but I certainly have it on one of my Eminem CD's.

Do you think he has some Asperger characteristics? I'm no expert, but I have a degree in Philosophy that helps me to view the world from diffirent angles... I hope! Eminem could write English perfectly at about 4 years, as well as rhyme words with enormous ease as he grew up. I saw him in an interview once, on video, and I believe he really has difficulty smiling, as well as being unable to grasp why certain truths shock people. He grew up in that area of Detroit where homophobia was openly expressed, as well as other racist opinions, all considered normal. What I mean to say, I think, is that he's unaware of the need to be hypocritcal, as for example Hollywood moguls were (and are), concerning homosexuality. But I believe Eminem has the capability to change, with a little help from his friends...I hope so! I like your reference to Johnny Cash. Elvis, Marilyn and so many others were not able to cope, so sad!
Thank you for a great eye-opening read. How can I follow you? On another blog?

BTW, I have am Eminem video on my blog, the "When I'm Gone" one. I hope it's not premonitory. Greetings from Buenos Aires!

There is alot there. So, let's start off with this one:

He grew up in that area of Detroit where homophobia was openly expressed, as well as other racist opinions, all considered normal. What I mean to say, I think, is that he's unaware of the need to be hypocritcal, as for example Hollywood moguls were (and are), concerning homosexuality.

Like Marshall Mathers, I'm also fairly desensitized to "homophobia." I'm in full support of same sex marriage, don't have any problem with people of the same gender holding hands, etc. Like Mathers, I was exposed to black culture pretty early on by attending a heavily minority middle school in which "faggot" was hurled as an epithet on an almost daily basis. (Geez, what am I on? It was hurled on a daily basis.) At a certain point it loses meaning. So does calling men "bitches" as a way of degrading, which I wasn't even aware was homophobic until someone told me.

I didn't grow up on the outskirts of the worst ghetto in America like Mathers did. I grew up in Seattle's Central District/Madison Valley area. The area has completely transformed over the last decade, with indie rock becoming its soundtrack instead of hip-hop and large swaps of its indigenous population fleeing for Renton or Bellevue. Seattle still has a niche hip-hop scene but its starting to gravitate from surrounding areas like Tacoma, South Park or the Eastside cities I just talked about.

White, liberal hipsters (of the sort that are now dominating American cities) are probably some of the most offended by hip-hop in my experience. The often brutal masculinity, anger, sexism and homophobia that comprises it simply does not match their sensibilities. This isn't meant to be condescending but to simply state a general fact. Kanye West is unusually popular with them because he makes hip-hop that is good but largely free of a lot of what hip-hop has historically been.

I do include Eminem in my upcoming Asperger's book, even though he is not actually diagnosed. I'm not sure that he has a genetic variant of it but I do think that he suffers from alienation dating back from early childhood: abandonment by his father, being dropped over in other people's care by his mother, being one of only a few white boys at his school. As I say in the book, most of our socialization is learned and if someone is alienated from day one, they are going to show signs of Asperger's. His mother has Munchausen's syndrome and told him for years that he was mentally ill, another severely alienating experience. Alot of men of my generation have dealt with this wave of almost non-stop alienation and the success of Mathers speaks to that. If his experience were an anomaly, he wouldn't be so popular.

You're not going to get Eminem to stop using "faggot" or "bitch" to diss other men any time soon, but it seems that he's no longer homophobic (if he ever really was) where it counts. Check out this recent interview with Sir Elton John:

In a recent interview, Sir Elton said that the people who think Em has recently lost his sense of humor are dead wrong.

"He's got a great sense of humor," John
told Rolling Stone. "When David [Furnish] and I had our civil partnership, he sent us a present. In a case, on velvet cushions, were two diamond c--- rings. So there's a homophobe for you [laughs]."

What a bigot!

As for unappreciated genius, Eminem is probably going to go in the books as more like Johnny Cash than Elvis Presley (who he was often compared to because of his making white a black genre of music). Cash, like Eminem, lived in several worlds: friends with evangelicals and religious leaders while also covering songs by Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode. His songs contain the darkness of Cash and recent efforts even seem to carry the same air of redemption. With broken marriages and several children (two adopted), a severe drug addiction and a hatred for one of his parents (Johnny Cash likewise hated his father), a biopic of Marshall Mathers might look alot like Walk the Line.

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Sylvia said...

¡Hi again!
I just stumbled in here by chance, because I still haven't figured out how to follow your entries and get updates. In my blogspot I have a whole lot links to blogs I follow and they move up the list whenever somebody posts something. I'm new with Wordpress and haven't done much at all around here.
Once again, I've found your remarks on my comments to you highly interesting. You've said just what
I meant to express, but better! What I will do, is try to find the video interview that made me think of Asperger. I know people with that syndrome and that's why Eminem struck me as possibly affected in that way. Natch, his childhood lead to his alienation and being a "loner" in spite of his fame (he was found about 2 hours away from death, by some miracle). I forgot to mention Michael Jackson, whose father used to strike him with a wooden stick to make him sing & dance as a child (some people, jokingly, say that's why he became so nimble onstage, he'd had lots of practice evading his father's blows...). Michael was another very sick person indeed, and had a serious image problem, basically a loner as well. The fact that these guys spend their money wildly and build pharaonic palaces (Elvis & Jackson), points to their deeply rooted depression. Eminem has won and lost lots of money...but I'll get that link for you, must go now. I see that if you answer this comment, I will get an e.mail warning. All the best!

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rasmus said...

I have also very often thought about the possibility that Eminem would have aspergers syndrome! I know a lot about the disorder and additionally I have it myself.
He seems to always have had social anxiety especially as a child and an obsession with words. Systematical things usually fascinate aspies and rhyming words gives a sort of "clicking" satisfaction as I would explain it myself. Which would explain his obsession with words. Aspies don't have natural reactions, are not easily affected by social memes or the social behavior of the majority and usually to fit in with the rest of the group they "act" and often develop good acting skills like he has. Humor is also a common tool for aspies to cope with being different and Eminem is always joking around which of course will help for social anxiety.
These things could also due to introverted personality and since many of the factors required to diagnose someone with aspergers syndrome would require details about his personal life that are not interesting enough for him to share even in his music.
The three main things in aspergers is routines (mostly obsessive), obsessive interests and social anxiety. Without all of these a diagnosis is rarely given.
So if he still has obsessive routines he might just have aspergers syndrome.

Sylvia said...

Hi rasmus! Such a long time has passed since I've received any comments from this thread. Thanks for pointing in the right direction, if you're an aspie then nobody better to give a qualified opinion. I wasn't able to share that interview with Eminem coz when I returned to the newspaper's website, it was not available anymore to the public. I searched a lot, but nothing.
I don't think Eminem would submit himself to a diagnosis, would he at his age? Aspies are usually diagnozed early in life, so with his childhood surroundings he just had to fight his way thru' alone. But his latest hits do relate to his intimate life. Like "Cleaning out my closet". Actually, I've been wondering whether Eminem is OK? He's hardly mentioned in the media, there's no news of another album, so I hope he hasn't had another relapse. Do you know anything about his present life? I live in Argentina. Today Elvis was mentioned a lot, and not long ago, Marilyn.
I hope Eminem can survive the drug addiction, the way Cash did! I'm always interested in what I call the famous "losers", if you understand me. At the moment I'm all heated up about the Assange issue. He's also a different sort of person. Apparently he was a maths genius as a child, but always got into trouble with school authorities. In his case, he was "saved" when he met a hacker who taught him the tricks of hacking...and that's why he's where he is now, walking the tight-rope between political enemies. Cheers!

SirNas said...

Rasmus, All these traits you have mentioned seem more like personality traits than 'disorder' traits, having a systematical interest or passion in certain subjects or an over all categorical way of thinking isn't a disability/disorder, that is just how somebody's natural personality preferences are operated,'disability' is the opposite of 'ability', therefore for something to actually be a 'disability', it has to be something(s)that prevents someone or something completely or not at all, i.e., if the latter, you may be able but unwilling due to disinterest, or a naturally tailored preferred set priority, because you just don't prefer to operate in the same way some other types of people do. People here seem to be too subjective and not objective enough to make an accurate analysis about things of that nature or even certain terms and their correct matching definitions.
As for 'social anxiety', again, this is very subjective in practice as well as theory, yes Eminem was known to be particularly anxious socially and over all plain socially awkward in general (check the AKA Eminem documentary on Youtube for a suggestable example on this - Eminem was said to like his own company a lot to most of the time growing up)but anxiety isn't a disability either, it's far more closely related to shyness.

It seems many people who talk about this subject try to look for/create and/or suggest patterns that aren't even there from the start in the first place, and then fit them all together to fit their already preferred set of personally pre-conceived notions.
Maybe it's not the place to mention this, given that you posted that comment some time ago, but are you aware that Aspergers, after just under 17 years of research, and only one single/term DSM inclusion, has now been eliminated and no longer exists?
DSMV, is the leading authority on it, it was the first to create the term as a diagnoses in the first place, by simply lumping a couple of personality traits together and stamping a label over it, placing a box over it, attempting to define it as a single entity.
All subsequent revisions are to follow with their latest revisions also, such as the current work in progress ICD11.

golf wang said...

Several of his songs actually reference his asbergers.

golf wang said...

Lyrics from "wicked ways"
"Guess I got a way with words, I could get away with murder
Ever heard of Aspergers? It's a rare condition
It's what you're suffering from when you simply don't care if it's an
80 degree day and there's no fricken air conditioning..."

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