Once again, Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly attempted to anger the hip-hop community by criticizing Eminem’s latest music video and the media corporations that produced the work. The rapper recently stepped out of a Michael Jordan-like retirement to release the new single “We Made You” for his comeback album “Relapse.” The famous conservative commentator responded with harsh criticism. These critiques are unwarranted due to the video’s artistic value and the hypocrisy of O’Reilly’s accusations.
O’Reilly, who has a history of criticizing the hip-hop community, claimed that the video was completely without value and is shown to children because no adult would ever lower themselves by listening to the most popular rapper in history. He then had a self-proclaimed conservative feminist leader on the show to explain that the left-leaning media does not protest Eminem’s rant because they are afraid of Sarah Palin. Next, he drew a counter example to the incident by saying that if Travis Trit came out with a song criticizing Michelle Obama, the media would have a stronger reaction. O’Reilly concluded by saying that Eminem and the video both mean nothing.
Eminem and much of his life’s work are artistic in an extremely non-traditional matter and O’Reilly obviously fails to see how Eminem’s satire and message have artistic merit due to his constant criticism of rap music. O’Reilly seems to be confused about how art should be defined. Many art critics would consider the primary determinant of art to be self-expression rather than its overall message. O’Reilly was correct in asserting that Eminem displays an incredibly negative image, but one can’t dismiss an artist based on the message of their productions.
For example, country artists have sung about such topics as drinking and fighting for decades. Johnny Cash even shot a man in Reno just to watch him die in his classic “Fulsom Prison Blues.” Eminem clearly produces a misogynistic message, but many of his songs like “Kim” and “Cleaning out My Closet” are filled with such raw emotion that they are undeniably a form of art, even if they are overwhelmingly negative.
“We Made You” serves the same purpose as many of Eminem’s previous videos. Much like the work of past satirists, they publicly embarrass public figures. This video mocks women who have become more famous in the last year for reasons other than talent or ability. Lindsay Lohan’s sexuality, Kim Kardashian’s enormous rear end and Amy Winehouse’s rehab are all lampooned. A porn star who looks like Sarah Palin dances with a polar bear and an Eskimo as Eminem offers to introduce her to his “little friend.” Here’s a hint, it’s in his pants and is not an action figure.
While unsubtle, the video successfully illustrates the conflict between the image Palin wanted to portray to the nation and how many people saw her. Palin’s scene begins with her sitting in a small office as Eminem walks in dressed as a shirtless lumberjack. The first Republican female vice-presidential candidate wanted us to see her as a home-town girl from Alaska with simple values, while much of America saw her as a ditzy ex-beauty queen who achieved popularity based on sex appeal. If writers like Voltaire and Mark Twain both used satire and parody as a means to criticize public figures, why cannot Eminem utilize it to mock Palin?
Besides being wrong, O’Reilly’s comments are hypocritical. The video gives comical portrayals of almost a dozen women and yet O’Reilly only complains about Palin. The host bashes the left-leaning media for not defending Palin and exclaims they should be more objective in their protest policies. By not bringing up objections regarding the other lampooned women, O’Reilly becomes a part of the media he protests. O’Reilly does not help his case when he calls Eminem a media hound, ignoring the fact that he himself is a talk show host with millions of viewers who starts feuds for ratings while Eminem has spent the last three years in almost total seclusion.
One could argue that O’Reilly’s actions illustrate that these feuds are not started to benefit America but for ratings. Eminem’s video was released on April 6, while O’Reilly’s manufactured outrage was made shortly afterward on April 7. These comments were not a heartfelt cry for help, but a pre-planned feud meant to drive up ratings.
Eminem’s newest video may not be the most high-brow form of entertainment, but it successfully lampoons the ridiculous and already almost irrelevant Palin. O’Reilly, desperate for ratings and attention, planned in advance to start a feud for ratings with the rapper. The portrayal of the Alaskan governor gave him fuel to do so. The critiques he provided were poorly conceived, unfounded and illustrated his own flaws: intolerance and hypocrisy.
Kevin Pease is a fourth-year psychology and social behavior major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.