The real Slim Shady: The 60s and Generation "M"
By A. C. Kleinheider
Conservatives frequently have a negative knee-jerk reaction to pop-culture. Television shows, such as the X-Files, whose premise is explicitly anti-government and underlying themes implicitly religious, are condemned because of violence. This conservative response to culture, to immediately condemn and dismiss popular culture that is profane, sexual, or violent in its content, is misguided. The mainstreaming of sex and violence and marketing it to preteens is one thing, but to dismiss our profane pop culture as evil and irrelevant without examination makes it difficult to learn about the society surrounding us. The media elite, the highly educated and impeccably dressed folk (conservative and liberal) who critique the culture, almost never actually understand or learn anything from the expression they condemn. Sure they talk about the personalities. Then the conservatives blindly castigate the work, the liberals wholeheartedly embrace it, the children consume it and no one stands back objectively to understand the various cultural phenomena being witnessed.
Eminem, the white rapper whose album the Marshall Mathers LP has taken the country by storm, is one of these cases. Eminem's work is profane sexual and violent to the extreme. Michelle Malkin encapsulates the conservative response perfectly by calling him; "A thuggish performer armed with a 9mm Smith & Wesson in one hand, two Grammy's in the other, and a filthy mouth full of expletives." This while the entertainment press praises him as "peerless rap poet with a profound understanding of the power of language."
I am not, as Michelle Malkin accuses some, an Eminem groupie who is "willing to overlook his twisted misogyny and relentless hate because it's all in the spirit of harmless creativity and hip irony." The press has reported more than once on the some of the lyrical gems in his album, ranging from fantasies of raping his mother and killing his wife to the comparatively mild and routine glorification of drug use. I will not go into the explicit lyrical atrocities in this space. I do not overlook the wickedness of his words, but I do attempt to understand and explain them. How did mainstream culture get so far out of line that we have middle class 12-year-olds embracing the excesses of the hard core rock and rap propelling these "art forms" to the top of the pop charts?
The truth is twelve year olds have been consuming such things for quite some time. We are just recently reaping what we have sown. Suburban kids have embraced rap since NWA told them to F*** the Police. I am only a few years younger than Marshall Mathers AKA Eminem AKA Slim Shady, and I went to high school with fairly conservative upper middle class white kids who, while college bound, could quote quite liberally from Eazy-E. Hip-hop culture with its adolescent rage and emphasis on "representing" one's geographical location provided them with something they had been lacking: a cultural identity.
In Eminem's video for "The Real Slim Shady" there is an "Eminem" factory. Guys go in one end looking like individuals and come out all looking and dressing exactly like Eminem. While in reality the process is not that rapid, American culture has been running an Eminem factory for the past twenty years. The baby boomer generation drew up the blueprints and oversaw the construction of this factory of cultural degradation and is now amazed at what they created. This generation must take responsibility for the sons they bore but did not raise. The revolt of the 60's squandered Western Civilization leaving Generation "M" with no direction or identity. People wonder how these kids could embrace the angry, misogynistic posture of the rap culture. G. K. Chesterton once said, "When one stops believing in God, the danger is not that they will believe in nothing; but that they will believe in anything."
The counterculture threw out what they viewed as an oppressive and debilitating culture, which not only led society astray, but also left no real culture in its place. The 60's counterculture only destroyed; it did not create. The Baby Boomers left to pursue their yuppie dreams of flash rides, big houses, and nice clothes all financed with credit cards and mortgages paid for by the "enlightened" two-income family. No one raised Generation "M". The elites helped the process immensely by making the one-income/stay-at-home mom lifestyle culturally passé and financially impractical. After all, we have a consumer culture to uphold. The Boomers don't spend much time with their kids. It's okay though; they are in day-care. The Boomers can always make up for the lack of parental attention by buying Generation "M" nice gifts like designer clothes, or maybe some CDs.
The consumer culture compels us to consume products in order to be happy. Some are caught in this two-income culture that leaves children to fend for themselves; others choose it. Either way, this is the culture that bred the Eminem Generation. The cookie cutter, rootless, middle class, suburban, consumerism gives you no identity. Children robbed of their own culture will naturally be attracted to a culture that feeds their anger and exploits their lack of guidance. These angry children, left with daycare providers and maybe some cash, were told, "Find your own identity." Well they did.
A. C. Kleinheider writes from Nashville, Tennessee. An archive of his writing can be found at www.ThePotatoe.com. He can be reached at Kleinheider@nashville.net.
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