Eminem Defense

Other tracks on the album marvel at the hypocrisy of blaming a musician for moral decay in the midst of a violent and sexually explicit society ("Who Knew"), try to explain how the pressure of fame and the scapegoating that comes with it affect an artist ("The Way I Am"), and examine why kids are drawn to a character as disturbed as Slim ("The Real Slim Shady").

Overall, the album is a treatise on controversial art, and the impact it has on society and the artist who creates it. Yes, he lets the most offensive and disturbing parts of his subconscious out and puts them on display. But it's done in the context of self-examination. To take those excerpts out of context and condemn them is the equivalent of watching the rape scene in A Clockwork Orange and claiming that Anthony Burgess, Stanley Kubrick or Malcolm McDowell endorse violence against women. It's a shallow, narrow-minded interpretation of a great work of art.

Yes, The Marshall Mathers LP is a difficult work. Slim often brings us places that we don't want to go. One track, "Kim," is the most disturbing first-person portrayal of domestic violence that I've ever heard. One friend of mine, after hearing it for the first time, said that while he was definitely going to buy the album, he would never listen to that song again. But to suggest that it glorifies domestic violence is absurd. That's like suggesting that Jodie Foster's gang-rape scene in The Accused gives men the impression that women are asking for it.

Furthermore, gay-rights groups seem to be suffering from an extreme martyr complex when they claim that Eminem is a homophobe. Yes, Slim occasionally says horrible things about gays. But Slim is a psychopath who says horrible things about women, his mother, rival rappers, and anyone else he can think to insult or threaten. At one point he jokes about having killed Dr. Dre, who is Eminem's close friend and mentor. When a character says horrible things about everyone, including gays, it's tough to make a real case that he's homophobic. Rather he stands as an equal-opportunity offender.

If there's any justice in the world, The Marshall Mathers LP will win the Grammy for Best Album this year. None of its competitors is as raw, as challenging, as honest, or as important. But whether it wins or not, I have no doubt that Eminem's critics will continue to misrepresent his work. And the rapper, who has refused to participate in the public debate over his art, will probably continue to stay out of it. He has no reason to speak out in his own defense. The album does that for him. And the critics who have refused to listen to the complete work really don't deserve a response.

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