Can we brush past our favorite artists’ problematic behavior and simply support their music? Well, no — not when they weaponize their platform and target marginalized communities.
When Dustin from Stranger Things found a baby alien, the monster fascinated him. He kept it as a pet, named it “Demogorgon,” and provided the slimy being with food and shelter. His friends warned him about sheltering the alien, but he ignored their advice. Without caution, Dustin’s darling Demogorgon transformed into a ferocious beast, then turned on him. This is what it looks like when we support our favorite problematic musician.
I can never envision an ideal world with ideal people. No one is perfect to anyone, but everyone is trash to someone — especially when we don’t conform to someone’s standard of human decency. For example, a crazed Madonna fan dubbed me a “fat disgrace to the LGBT community” because I called Madonna pretentious. A crazed Trump supporter called me a “field slave” because I called the president a white supremacist. I referred to those individuals as “crazed” because they insulted me. That said, at least one person considers us trash.
I could not feign outrage after Eminem called Tyler, the Creator a “faggot bitch.” He’s homophobic. For 30 years, the rapper has used his biggest platform — his music — to dehumanize the LGBTQ community. When those under the LGBTQ umbrella hold Eminem accountable for using slurs, he and his friends (both queer and heterosexual) defend him — saying that Eminem is not homophobic, that we’re just “too sensitive.” Those people are tiny fragments that form an immense problem when pieced together. They are older versions of Dustin from Stranger Things feeding an already healthy beast. They are a part of the problem.
In a 2017 interview with Vulture, Eminem replied to accusations of homophobia by stating, “The honest-to-God truth is that none of that matters to me: I have no issue with someone’s sexuality, religion, race, none of that. Anyone who’s followed my music knows I’m against bullies; that’s why I hate that fucking bully Trump, and I hate the idea that a kid who’s gay might get shit for it.”
Eminem, who rapped, “My words are like a dagger with a jagged edge / that will stab you in the head / Whether you’re a fag or les’ / or the homo-sex, hermaph’, or a transvestite / Pants or dress, hate fags? the answer’s ‘yes,’” understands how rap largely preserves homophobia. Yet, 30 years into his very successful career, he still has not found better insults; thus, he relies on homophobic slurs. Therefore, he cannot sympathize with the kid “who might get shit for it.” Through his lyrics, he is preserving the “shit” that us abused and mistreated LGBTQ people receive.
Eminem, how do you think the ‘kid who might get shit for being gay’ feels when someone recites your homophobic lyrics in front of them? I’ll tell you because I have lived through this (through your own homophobic lyrics) — it hurts like hell.
Nevertheless, Eminem is not the only problematic musician. There are many. I could probably reach a 10,000,000-character count naming each homophobe, sexual predator, sexist, or racist musician who utilizes their platform to disparage marginalized communities.
However, can we help what music we enjoy? Regardless of how problematic some artists are, some of them are largely talented. Other times, when they’re not talented, they have amazing taste in instrumentals. Are we trash for enjoying their music? I can’t determine that. However, we are trash when we choose to publicly support them, especially when we’re cognizant of how they are affecting often marginalized communities; this is often synonymous with fans shrinking the justifiable outrage of those offended with “you’re just being sensitive.”
For a while, I felt like a hypocrite for secretly enjoying Azealia Banks’ music. She’s highly problematic, but her talent is undeniable. No other artist can duplicate her voice, style or uniqueness. However, she is very anti-queer. I tried deleting her music from my phone (which I had already purchased). I blocked her on social media. I took the necessary steps to unsubscribe from Azealia Banks; however, in doing so, I ended up giving her negative press, which is still a form of feeding a baby Demogorgon. I was part of the problem for many reasons. For one thing, I amplified her voice. For another, through my criticism, I helped unite people with similar opinions. I helped unite people who would call me “sensitive” for expressing my opinion.
So, no — we cannot simply ‘just support the music,’ not when that is synonymous with making excuses for our problematic faves and helping them weaponize their platforms, so they can target marginalized groups. Otherwise, we’re Dustins, and we’re feeding the Demogorgon.