Brave! Subversive! Roasted!
These are just some of the adjectives used this morning to describe Eminem's Donald Trump diss track. Cool, let's talk about it.
I woke up to a slew of articles across social media with a "hell yeah" reaction to this apparently amazing re-emergence of Eminem and his subsequent roast of #45. At the same time, the internet was still reeling about how the Harvey Weinstein's of the world could possibly happen; how, even in progressive circles like Hollywood, we let a man so evil, so manipulative, so misogynistic wield his power without consequence.
Indeed, just hours after Ronan Farrow's New Yorker article came out, the internet seemed anxious to celebrate another successful man, famous for his rapping talent, but also for his misogynistic art and his real-life domestic abuse, all because he dared to be critical of Trump: Eminem, a man famous for lyrics like, "You think I won't choke a whore? 'Til the vocal chords don't work in her throat no more," and, "Ain't no one safe from, non-believers there ain't none, I even make the bitches I rape cum"; a man who openly discussed the volatile relationship he had with ex-wife, Kim Mathers, and later lamented that he wished he could have "controlled his rage better"; a man who went on to rap about his fantasies of killing and burying Kim Mathers, as hundreds of thousands of young people sang along to the lyrics fetishizing the potential escalation of domestic abuse.
Farrow points out that Harvey Weinstein has been thanked more times in Oscar speeches than God. Harvey Weinstein, like Eminem, was good at his job. He produced incredible movies and launched the careers of some of our biggest stars. Harvey Weinstein, like Eminem, hates Trump. He was one of the largest donors to both the Obama and Clinton campaigns respectively. We, the liberal elite—better than those dumb-dumb conservatives—agree with Harvey Weinstein's politics. And now, we collectively disagree with his abuse of women. We condemn him together. We implore our representatives to return and reject his donations. We pat ourselves on the back and congratulate ourselves that his career is over. We took the bad guy down! Us! The liberal elites!
But night fell on Tuesday, October 10th and we fawned over Eminem's Trump diss-track. Hungry to celebrate genius and political angst, we eagerly elect to forget who Eminem is and what he's done—both in his art and his life. Great at his job and with his sins comfortably enough in the past, we've decided it's safe to celebrate the man.
There's a question that we, as a society, are going to have to answer at some point in the Trump era: what do we do with the politically sympathetic outrage of prominent, unsympathetic men? What does it mean for liberal culture that we still can't help but celebrate men whose talent echoes the kind of political art we're thirsty for, but who have committed deplorable acts in their personal lives?
The truth is, I don't know. I am a woman. I've never known the privilege and luxury that goes with being able to be both incredibly talented and personally awful. Everything I've done in life—jobs, relationships, etc—has always been under the requirement that I do it well, but also that I'm well-behaved. My particular talents are only palatable as long as they're delivered in a package that the world finds tolerable. I grew up understanding my place as a woman in the world, understanding that even with Halloween costumes catering to boys AND girls (girls can be firemen, too!), I had to be good in every single way if the powers that be were going to permit me success. Let's be clear— men are allowed to be bad people and still maintain their high-profile jobs (good afternoon, Mr. President) and women, by and large, are not.
So I think I get it. Bad men are only held accountable when it's culturally (or financially) convenient. When their art and their work doesn't serve our needs. Then, and only then, are their sins enough to cast aside their art. And as night falls tonight, little girls around the country will slide under their blankets and whisper softly to themselves about how they hope to grow up to be a talented man so they can do whatever they want without consequence.