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Thursday, February 1, 2001

Rather Sad to Be GLAAD
The Eminem Controversy

by Clinton Fein

As the controversy continues to rage over Eminem -- now with the Grammy's taking center stage -- more than a few good gays are steamed at the icon upon whom they have bestowed award upon award. Elton John, the esteemed Sir whose song before the Queen of England and her brooding brood at the funeral of Princess Diana became the largest selling single ever, has agreed to team up with the namesake of the candied chocolate variety.

While allusions to M&Ms may be quite apt in terms of describing the music of Eminem -- the black roots of Dr. Dre's influence sugar coated with the platinum blonde dye job of the lily-white trailer trash -- it is quite understandable that M&M makers, Mars, Incorporated, have not stepped up to sponsor any shows and risk any possible confusion that could permanently and irreparably harm their famous trademark.

So Eminem may lack the literary genius of a Roger Waters. Consider the subtler:

Run to the bedroom, In the suitcase on the left, You'll find my favorite axe. Don't look so frightened, This is just a passing phase, One of my bad days.

From Pink Floyd's The Wall to the slightly more vivid yet similar enough theme on Eminem's Marshall Mathers LP:

Don't you get it bitch, no one can hear you? ...Now shut the fuck up and get what's comin to you......You were supposed to love me!!!!! ....NOW BLEED BITCH BLEED....BLEED BITCH BLEED...BLEEEEEED!!!!

"Why Elton John is performing with him is baffling. Gays and lesbians are particularly upset at this," said Scott Seomin of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) who aside from protesting the Grammy's is slamming Elton John along with Lynne Cheney.

Two words: bull shit.

The days of rich white organizations with their token minorities locked in nineteen sixties strategies representing gays are long over. Scott Seomin and his merry band of ineffective losers may be upset. But they speak only for themselves. Did they do a survey of any kind asking gays and lesbians what they thought about Eminem? Or asking what they thought about Elton John agreeing to perform with him? Where exactly is all this data coming from, and which the mainstream media appears to have no problem publishing ad nauseum without checking? For all anyone knows, just as many gays and lesbians don't give a damn about Eminem and what he's singing, or are interested to see which song is performed and how it will play and sound.

In a television interview on MSNBC, a GLAAD representative expressed dismay that Eminiem had turned down an invitation by GLAAD to participate in a town hall meeting sponsored by the group. A town hall meeting? One doesn't have to be particularly intelligent to realize who and what we're dealing with here.

GLAAD raises obscene amounts of money to counteract negative portrayals in the media, (rather than producing their own media instead.) Indeed, whining is the mandate of this organization. However, a group that is focused on influencing mainstream media should know better than to think some lame, dull-sounding town hall meeting is a worthy venue for a superstar. If you're going to play with the entertainment industry, create an event and find a venue worthy of the attention of the subject. Or pay attention to the time and energy Eminiem has invested in the construction of his image. Of course Eminem turned down the invitation. Paula Abdul would have too.

One of Eminem's most prolific songs Stan is about a fan who has vested a little too much of his identity in Slim Shady, a character constructed by Eminem as conduit through which to express the hateful lyrics and ideas that permeate his head. (This construct would be that much more brilliant if Marshall Matthers, Eminems real name, didn't present the artist with an actual identity crisis that has the various identities forgetting which personality is supposed to be saying what, dissing who or thinking how.)

The song, if actually listened to, explores the notion of a fan paying too much attention to the lyrics, imitating the violence in them and blaming the media -- in this case -- Eminem. Violently expressed perhaps, but presenting themes current and relevant that raise First Amendment questions and offer fresh perspectives into the age-old phenomenon of life imitating art or art imitating life.

Eminem however, is understandably angry. His music is a channel of expression through which he is able to articulate his isolation, confusion and the anger that the society he lives in thrusts upon him. The media hypocrisy that surrounds him. The trappings of fame and glamor. The struggle between mainstream legitimacy and outsider credibility.

Ironically, his pairing with Elton will do more to defuse his outsider credibility by mainstreaming him with the likes of Sir John than any picket protests or pathetic town hall meeting could ever hope to accomplish.

In a letter to the Los Angeles Times, Madonna, herself a creature of controversy wondered what the big deal about Eminiem was. "Since when is offensive language a reason for being unpopular?" she wrote. "I find the language of George W. much more offensive."

As long as shrill pseudo-moralists like Lynne Cheney claim to represent women and impotent throwbacks like GLAAD claim to represent gays and lesbians, it becomes increasingly clear where the misogyny and homophobia being spewed forth by Slim Shady stems from to begin with.


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