Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tegan And Sara point out that critical opinion is giving rape gags and homophobia an easy ride

While the NME was comfortable having Tyler The Creator on the cover a couple of weeks back, the stench of Odd Future's dependence on misogyny and homophobia is starting to rankle with people who thought we'd somehow got further than this. That we were all somehow better than this.

Tegan And Sara have had enough. Sara wrote this:

When will misogynistic and homophobic ranting and raving result in meaningful repercussions in the entertainment industry? When will they be treated with the same seriousness as racist and anti-Semitic offenses?

While an artist who can barely get a sentence fragment out without using homophobic slurs is celebrated on the cover of every magazine, blog and newspaper, I’m disheartened that any self-respecting human being could stand in support with a message so vile.

As journalists and colleagues defend, excuse and congratulate ‘Tyler, the Creator,’ I find it impossible not to comment. In any other industry would I be expected to tolerate, overlook and find deeper meaning in this kid’s sickening rhetoric?

Why should I care about this music or its “brilliance” when the message is so repulsive and irresponsible? There is much that upsets me in this world, and this certainly isn’t the first time I’ve drafted an open letter or complaint, but in the past I’ve found an opinion – some like-minded commentary – that let me rest assured that my outrage, my voice, had been accounted for. Not this time.

If any of the bands whose records are held in similar esteem as Goblin had lyrics littered with rape fantasies and slurs, would they be labeled hate mongers? I realize I could ask that question of DOZENS of other artists, but is Tyler exempt because people are afraid of the backlash?

The inevitable claim that detractors are being racist, or the brush-off that not “getting it” would indicate that you’re “old” (or a faggot)? Because, the more I think about it, the more I think people don’t actually want to go up against this particular bully because he’s popular.

Who sticks up for women and gay people now? It seems entirely uncool to do so in the indie rock world, and I’ll argue that point with ANYONE.

No genre is without its controversial and offensive characters- I’m not naive. I’ve asked myself a thousand times why this is pushing me over the edge.

Maybe it’s the access to him (his grotesque twitter, etc). Maybe it’s because I’m a human being, both a girl and a lesbian.

Maybe it’s because my mom has spent her whole adult life working with teenage girls who were victims of sexual assault.

Maybe it’s because in this case I don’t think race or class actually has anything to do with his hateful message but has EVERYTHING to do with why everyone refuses to admonish him for that message.

It is not without great hesitation and hand wringing that I enter into the discourse about Tyler, the media who glorifies and excuses misogyny and homophobia, and the community of artists that doesn’t seem remotely bothered by it. I can only hope that someone reading this might be inspired to speak out. At the very least, I will know that my voice is on record.
She's right, you know.


Daniel said...

She's right? Really? Really?!

Hip-hop has been singled out for homophobia over the years more than heavy metal ever was and she's right?

Simon Hayes Budgen said...

It's been a really long time since someone with such anti-gay and anti-women lyrics has been given such a free pass by the critics. Tyler The Creator has had an NME front page.

This isn't about which genre is the most homophobic, it's about which genre is being lauded while the critics turn a blind eye.

Daniel said...

I'm sorry, but the cold hard facts would beg to disagree with you.
Heavy metal has a history of misogynistic and homophobic lyrics that can't be ignored. Yet, if heavy metal has been persecuted (and it has), it was over other matters, namely its Satanic overtones.
I'm not saying hip-hop doesn't have its own issues - it certainly has. But the one undisputable fact is that Tyler The Creator is hardly the first hip-hop act being singled out for homophobia. Eminem has had his fair share of criticism too, you know.

But, you know, if this has to do with any non-PC lyrics, then a perennial critical favourite like Nick Cave would have to be singled out too. If you remember, he glorified murder in his lyrics well before even Murder Ballads, much less gangsta rap.

Daniel said...

Besides, this part of her open letter is quite suspicious, I must say.

Maybe it’s because in this case I don’t think race or class actually has anything to do with his hateful message but has EVERYTHING to do with why everyone refuses to admonish him for that message.

If this doesn't sound like ruffling the feathers of racism, then tell me what this is, then. Not to mention that it completely obliterates some of the right things she says.

Simon Hayes Budgen said...

You're right that Tyler The Creator isn't the first hip-hop artist to get this sort of criticism, and you're right that Eminem has a pretty spotty record of his own. But Eminem got called on his "raping lesbians" "jokes" by the wider music community, whereas everyone seems to be quite relaxed about the bleaker stuff in Goblin.

You're right about Nick Cave - he was given an easy ride over Murder Ballads, and I think a lot of that was down to the cloak of literary respectability he brought to the work.

But I don't understand why you think that because heavy metal was homophobic that that means Tyler's work shouldn't be scrutinised? Especially when it's Tyler who is currently on MTV News, and the cover of the NME.

I don't think mentioning that it's possible that race and class has led to some white, middle-class journalists choosing to not raise the questions is "ruffling the feathers of racism" - it's actually pretty much an echo of Eminem on 60 Minutes last year when he suggested the reason why his lyrics were held to higher scrutiny was because he was white. It's a suggested motivation for the apparent lack of interest in what he's rapping.

Daniel said...

First of all, I'm not saying (not even suggesting) that Tyler's work shouldn't be scrutinized. In fact, that is another bone of contention one might have with Tegan & Sara's letter. If anything, I don't think there isn't any critic who hasn't not only pointed out the OTT misogyny and homphobia in his lyrics, but pretty much made it the centrepiece of their analysis (apart from all the hype, of course). Plus, I haven't read any of them even suggesting that his race and class background could explain his stances or whatever. So there's another strike for Tegan & Sara.

So with all this, it's pretty hard not to take that particular passage as the manifestation of something in itself, thus completely shooting themselves in the foot.

And yes, I already know about Tyler's Twitter reply. Oh well, what do you say about something so... something?...

Simon Hayes Budgen said...

Daniel, don't know if you read the NME cover story from a couple of weeks back, but the misogyny and homophobia weren't at the centre of the piece; it turned up on the fifth of five pages and basically let him completely off the hook - effectively, he was given a chance to run through a "defence" which was basically going "people don't understand what I'm doing" like he was Nick Clegg and "I'm a kid" (which is an odd thing for a twenty year-old man to say).

A lot of people might mention it, but they still stick him on the front cover and hail him as an anti-establishment anti-hero.

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