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.