November 13, 2002
THE GOLDSTEIN CONFUSION:The Eminem Consensus: Why We Voted for Slim Shady (Richard Goldstein, November 13 - 19, 2002, Village Voice)
Two events of lasting significance occurred last week: the breakdown of the Democratic party and the breakthrough of Eminem. His debut film, 8 Mile, became the highest-grossing movie in America just days after Republicans won control of Congress. These two events may not seem related, but they both reflect the mainstreaming of ideas that seemed extreme just two years ago. Bush's right-wing agenda and Eminem's violent misogyny were once considered over the line. Now they have crossed over and become the line.
Not that Em is a Republican (though he might favor ending the estate tax). But he and George W. Bush do have certain things in common. Both draw their power from the compelling image of the strongman posing as the common man. Both played the populist card to win the nation's heart. And I would argue that both owe their success to the sexual backlash. [...]
Though 8 Mile is being described as a blue-collar inspirational in the tradition of Rocky, it's more like a classic war movie with a white alpha male and an interracial unit. In this spectacle of the street, the sun never shines and the nights are tinted lurid blue. It's the perfect setting for a film about male combat and solidarity. All evidence that women play a powerful role in working-class society is repressed. The good bitches help their men; the bad ones betray them-end of story. Worst of all is our B-boy's dissolute mother. There's no attempt to reckon with the reasons for her haplessness. The social context is reserved for the men. They are full-blown characters; the women are full-bodied foils.
This distortion would have been noticed just a few years ago. But as the backlash advances, it gets harder to argue against the flattening of women without being pounded with the cudgel of p.c. A lot of men-and women-like it that way, at least in bed. It sure beats sex-role anxiety. What's truly alarming is the extra-libidinal dimension of this fantasy. There is growing pressure on women to cede their autonomy, and last week's election hinted at the result. The gender gap, which played a major role in recent elections, seems to have narrowed considerably this year. It's not just the reflex to close ranks behind the leader in a time of crisis; it's an impulse to stand by the Man. Bush benefits from this retrenchment, and so does Eminem, as the large female audience for 8 Mile attests.
In a weird bit of psychological displacement, Mr. Goldstein attributes to George W. Bush the kind of misogyny that the author just a few years ago said made Bill Clinton a "Culture Hero" and then has the audacity to express alarm at the main-streaming of the same attitudes he himself celebrated and to argue that the movement of women voters towards Mr. Bush reflects some kind of masochistic surrender on their part.
Posted by Orrin Judd at November 13, 2002 10:14 PM