The Bottom 40: #3


3. Eminem, Superman

I blame George W Bush.  At least, I blame his opportunistic framing of September 11 into a battle of good and evil.  How else can you explain the abundance of terrible Superman metaphors that kept popping up this decade?   Sure, 3 Doors Down released Kryptonite two months before Bush was even elected handed the presidency, but 9/11 paved the way for Five For Fighting’s kinda charming yet ultimately very wimpy Superman (It’s Not Easy).  And about the same time that puddle of goop hit radio, tedious drama Smallville started on the WB.  By 2007 it seemed only natural that Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em should appear to turn Superman into a verb.

Eminem, as he constantly reminds us in this terrible 2003 single, is not Superman.  He’s just a man.  But he’s not just any man.  No, Marshall/Slim reminds us yet again that he is a uniquely condescending, childish, abusive asshole. And apparently we’re supposed to care.

Eminem–the myth, the man, the hitmaker–has been exhaustively critiqued from pretty much every angle, including from within.  Feminists hate him and it’s generally acknowledged that he’s severely Bad For The Gays.  He’s also bad for lots of other people, including his family, whose flaws he has made a career out of judging with a flagrant lack of narrative distance.

Surely Mr. Shady himself would be the first to tell you that he isn’t perfect, that he doesn’t really hate gay people, that he had it rough growing up, that he has feelings too, etc.  And that’s all fine.  But that doesn’t get to the heart of the fact that his songs are almost all really terrible.  Even if I thought it was sensible to like a song about ripping Pamela Lee’s tits off, that wouldn’t excuse the fact that My Name Is is an abrasive mess.  And maybe, maybe, I’d accept his talk about shooting his kid’s mother and grandparents (by name) in Cleaning Out My Closet if that song had a catchy hook.

Superman, right now anyway, is my least favorite of all.  Not because Anthrax and Tampax can’t make a clever rhyme, but because the song–with no trace of subtlety, let alone irony–is about an abusive dickhead and lacks even the narrative pull of his family episodes.  Unlike his previous single, Lose Yourself, Superman tries to shock listeners.  But by this point the man was three singles into his third album, and the point had been made.  With a little bit of restraint and a little bit of perspective, it might be provocative for a rapper to go into the reasons why he might want to race around leaving a trail of drunk bloody bitches.  But Eminem never allows that; he’s always too busy complaining about his hard life.

I recently heard some douchebag sing this at karaoke, and I was immediately brought back to awful parties featuring everyone I hated in high school: the Sublime-loving Family Guy enthusiasts.  They didn’t hate women, they were just drawn to lots of different media where women were constantly abused and ridiculed.  I’m not saying that Eminem causes boys to hate women, or that the millions of people who bought his albums are inherently bad.  But I am saying that he’s a one-trick pony, and that his trick wasn’t a very good one to begin with.


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