If you don't like the message, don't bother to find out where it comes from, just kill the messenger. That seems to be the lesson of the public condemnation of musical artists whose lyrics remind us of the uncomfortable truths of our society. This time, the chosen targets are a superstar white rapper and a suburban "alternative" band. The last few months have seen enormous public outcry against the violent, homophobic lyrics of multimillion-selling phenomenon Eminem. Those who have listened to his second album, The Marshall Mathers LP, tend to be disturbed by his profanity-laced diatribes against women, homosexuals, his mother and anyone else he doesn't like. Considering that Eminem's first CD, The Slim Shady LP, is equally vulgar and perhaps even more misogynistic, I don't understand how anybody could be shocked by his follow-up release. But the crude gay-bashing of two songs on his latest album -- including the by-now infamous line "Hate fags? The answer's yes" -- has set a coalition of gay-rights advocates and groups against violence toward women on a crusade against this latest poster boy for hate. Amazingly, these activists -- along with self-righteous music critics -- have seen fit to skewer the skinny, blond-haired kid from Detroit, without once considering the larger environment of prejudice and hate that he reflects. Even Jim Carrey, that Hollywood role model, has joined in the feeding frenzy, lamenting at last Thursday's MTV Video Music Awards that "Eminem's lyrics are socially irresponsible." No kidding, they're pretty sick. But didn't social irresponsibility make Eminem who he is? Leave aside for a moment the simple fact that, as he has repeatedly emphasized, Eminem's lyrics are to be taken with a giant heap of salt; anyone who listens to "Kill You" -- the song which led the rapper's mother to file a $10 million defamation suit -- ought to be able to tell that he's kidding around in his usual twisted way. Why the media and "activist" campaign now, after Eminem's nearly-as-offensive first album? Because, as the white rapper, he makes a convenient scapegoat? Because, with violence against women on the increase in the U.S. and prejudice against sexual minorities gaining the upper hand in U.S. politics, it's easier to blame the messenger than those who write the message? After all, why risk offending a record company or right-wing politicians when an entertainment figure -- one already involved in his own personal problems -- will do? MTV's slant on the "Eminem controversy" has revealed that his true sin has been to attack a particular minority group, gays and lesbians. After all, the station broadcasted nary a peep about Eminem's painful song "Kim," in which he describes killing his wife, or his smash hit "Guilty Conscience" with Dr. Dre, in which Eminem's character advocates raping a drunk, passed-out 15-year-old girl. And MTV could care less about the Bloodhound Gang's "Yellow Fever," which include such socially acceptable lines as "She's like an oriental rug/ 'cause I lay her where I please." Whereas Eminem at least hasn't attempted to justify his gay-bashing, lead singer Jimmy Pop of the former Temple University band feels no shame. As he bragged, "OYellow Fever' is a song about me wanting to bang Asian chicks." Last spring, it seemed as if all Asian-American would-be college activists could think about was the Bloodhound Gang and their unprovoked attack. Never mind that Republican presidential candidate John McCain had recently defended his use of the ethnic slur "gook," explaining that the "gooks" had imprisoned and tortured him in Vietnam. (My favorite Asian-American speaker, Helen Zia of the Asian American Journalists Association, spoke at Penn last April and recounted how the fear-ridden group had failed to respond. That's why you didn't hear about it.) In view of McCain's popularity, this gook finds his racial hatred far more dangerous than the demeaning lyrics of an alternative pop group. Furthermore, no one seems to question where Jimmy Pop and company got the notion that their attitude was acceptable. MTV, whose videos and politics consistently degrade Asians? The stereotypes of popular culture at large, which teach white men to treat Asian women as obedient property? There are mounting social problems in the U.S. today, from domestic violence and hate crimes to school shootings and drug use. They are compounded by a political leadership that has not only avoided, but even turned its back on the hopelessness and resentment of the white lower working class, from which Eminem hails, and the boredom and arrogant prejudice of the suburbs, home to the Bloodhound Gang. One day, we will have to wake up and ask ourselves why it is so laudable to ignore these creeping ills of society in favor of cheap shots at the entertainers who reflect them.Comments powered by Disqus
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