[As a side note--Am I turning into a 20 year old boy? Worrying about Eminem, making jokes about sexual falafels, trying to pre-buy Grand Theft Auto? What's next? Keg stands?]
[Also, one should point out that you might not want to take a girl who doesn't even know the names of the songs she's critiquing too much to heart.]
As most of you know, Eminem has managed to cause yet another uproar with his latest video, called… something… apparently I’ve not yet managed to bother to pick up that little important bit of information. The song basically goes “boys, I mean, girls, girls, girls, girls. Awh, Awh, Awh.” So, if you’ve heard it, that’s the song I’m talking about.
The outrage has come from the Michael Jackson camp, who is (are) offended because the video spends a great deal of time making fun of Michael Jackson.
The first couple times I saw the video, I thought it was pretty stupid. It doesn’t just make fun of Michael Jackson; it also pokes fun at Madonna and MC Hammer and checks Santa, PeeWee Herman, the phenomenon of streaking, Eminem’s movie 8 Mile, and a bunch of other stuff. But, for the most part, it seems, on it’s surface, to just be making fun of the 80s. And, big deal. They’re over and we already know they’re corny.
But, today I think this video is actually one of his most brilliant meditations on his own fame. Usually, most folks point to that “I am whatever you say I am” song or “Stan” as being his most interesting takes on the perils and stresses of fame. Fair enough. Clearly those are serious songs.
Yet, look at the people he impersonates in the video–Michael Jackson, Madonna, MC Hammer, PeeWee Herman (if we accept that it’s a vocal impersonation, not a physical one, as I think that is actually PeeWee Herman in the video. If it’s not, then all the better for my point.)
What do all these folks have in common? They all were unstoppable, inescapable cultural phenomena. What else do they have in common? They all were brought down because their private conduct couldn’t match up with their public image.
And so, I think, in bringing up 8 Mile and quoting from his other big hits, which were so damn catchy and also seemed to be inescapable cultural phenomena, he’s kind of asking a question. At what point does he become like them? At what point does the private person decay under the weight of the public persona, and, once that rot sets in, how will it express itself? At what point does Eminem stop being the jester and start being the joke?