Rolling Stone recently asked Eminem about the anti-gay content in his newish "Rap God," song. In it, the decidedly mortal man says "faggot," "fag," and "Little gay looking boy / So gay I can barely say it with a straight face looking boy." He's not homophobic, though—he's just being Marshall. Here is the excerpt from the interview, which was conducted for an upcoming cover story:
You've made it clear again and again that you don't actually have a problem with gay people. So why, in 2013, use "faggot" on that song? Why use "gay-looking" as an insult?
I don't know how to say this without saying it how I've said it a million times. But that word, those kind of words, when I came up battle-rappin' or whatever, I never really equated those words . . .
To actually mean "homosexual"?
Yeah. It was more like calling someone a bitch or a punk or asshole. So that word was just thrown around so freely back then. It goes back to that battle, back and forth in my head, of wanting to feel free to say what I want to say, and then [worrying about] what may or may not affect people. And, not saying it's wrong or it's right, but at this point in my career – man, I say so much shit that's tongue-in-cheek. I poke fun at other people, myself. But the real me sitting here right now talking to you has no issues with gay, straight, transgender, at all. I'm glad we live in a time where it's really starting to feel like people can live their lives and express themselves. And I don't know how else to say this, I still look at myself the same way that I did when I was battling and broke.
I kind of thought you were doing it because when you're rapping as Slim Shady, part of your mission is to annoy people.
Well, look, I've been doing this shit for, what, 14 years now? And I think people know my personal stance on things and the personas that I create in my music. And if someone doesn't understand that by now, I don't think there's anything I can do to change their mind about it.
A few things:
- Eminem has not made his stance on gay people clear. Rather, he's been contradictory and furthermore obscure (and/or shitty-ish) when pressed.
- He has equated and is equating those words with actual gay people. See: "Criminal" ("My words are like a dagger with a jagged edge / That'll stab you in the head, whether you're a fag or lez / Or the homosex, hermaph or a trans-a-vest / Pants or dress, hate fags? / The answer's "yes" / Homophobic? Nah, you're just heterophobic"). Also see the very song in question, in which the words "fag" and "gay" appear in the same verse, and in which the connotation of "gay" is driven home by ironic wordplay with "straight face."
- Even though we're only dealing with words, this still feels like a question of action (in this case rapping) versus words (what he says in interviews). It's lyrics versus lip service. The words Eminem says on record sound a lot less publicist-tailored and phoned-in than his views on our sexual utopia. So yeah, people aren't going to understand what you're doing when what you're supposed to say is still contradicting what you're actually saying over a decade after you declared that you "hate fags." ("I'm just like whatever," a few years later was a poor excuse for a mea culpa.) Eminem may actually be "glad" to live in a time when people are less abused (by the very words he uses, among things) for being themselves, but if he is an LGBT ally, he's a supremely shitty one.
- That past decade considered, the issue of Eminem's homophobia is tired. The is-he-or-isn't-he debate benefits him by keeping him controversial. The discourse-crippling "think about the children" argument aside, what's truly offensive aren't the schoolyard taunts of an idiot who has no real insight into LGBT equality, but his cowardly rationalizations. What's worse than a bigot is a shameful, excuse-making bigot. Fuck this guy.
[Image via AP]