Eminem’s new song: egregious material, lyrics

In one of his new releases, rapper Eminem spews these lyrics:

You ever love somebody so much
You can barely breathe
When you’re with them

Got that warm fuzzy feeling
Yeah them chills
Used to get ’em
Now you’re getting fucking sick
Of looking at ’em
You swore you’ve never hit ’em
Never do nothing to hurt ’em
Now you’re in each other’s face
Spewing venom
And these words
When you spit ’em

You push
Pull each other’s hair
Scratch, claw, bit ’em
Throw ’em down

Pin ’em
So lost in the moments
When you’re in ’em

All I know is
I love you too much
To walk away though
Come inside
Pick up your bags off the sidewalk
Don’t you hear sincerity
In my voice when I talk
Told you this is my fault
Look me in the eyeball
Next time I’m pissed
I’ll aim my fist
At the dry wall
Next time
There will be no next time
I apologize
Even though I know it’s lies

I’m tired of the games
I just want her back
I know I’m a liar
If she ever tries to fucking leave again
I’mma tie her to the bed
And set the house on fire

Rihanna, in response, follows with this chorus (a particularly distasteful choice, given the singer’s recent experiences with domestic violence:

Just gonna stand there
And watch me burn
But that’s alright
Because I like
The way it hurts
Just gonna stand there
And hear me cry
But that’s alright
Because I love
The way you lie
I love the way you lie

Frankly, it’s appalling that this song is permissible on the public airwaves. It’s also shocking that two artists (and at least one with personal experience with domestic violence), at least one recording director, and at least one producer thought that the content of this song was acceptable and potentially profitable.  Furthermore, it is strange that “indecent material,” such as comedian George Carlin’s Filthy Words monologue, is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, but this explicit account of potentially lethal intimate partner violence is not.

In a 1978 case Federal Communications Commission (FCC) v. Pacifica Foundation, the court found a compelling government interest in shielding children from “patently offensive material” as well as a right to regulate based on the “pervasive nature of broadcasting.” Justice Stevens elaborated, “prior warnings cannot completely protect the listener or viewer from unexpected program contact… because the broadcast audience is constantly tuning in and out” (Segall, 2009).

FCC v. Pacifica Foundation arose from a father who objected to his son’s exposure to swear words. I would be shocked if that the same father would not also object to his son hearing the lyrics “If she ever tries to f***ing leave again/ I’mma tie her to the bed/ and set the house on fire.” That’s domestic violence at its worst. In just the state Pennsylvania, there were 147 domestic violence-related fatalities between January-December 2008. This attitude of nonchalance about domestic violence is passed onto children and thus carried through the generations.

Eminem’s lyrics implicitly condone intimate partner violence. They are both offensive (one might even say “patently offensive”) and dangerously attitude-shaping for young children who internalize the message. Additionally, for adults who have experienced domestic violence, hearing this song on the radio is a serious potential “trigger” for traumatic memories.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study (National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 1998) reported 12.7% of respondents to have experienced “mother treated violently” during childhood. Moreover, 28.3% of respondents were physically abused as children. The ACE study linked these childhood exposure factors to a risk for a multitude of adult health problems in a strong and graded fashion, including depression and suicide attempts. The ACE project studied men and women as adults. Black and Breiding highlighted the statistic that “nearly one in four women in the United States report experiencing violence by a current or former spouse or boyfriend at some point in her life,” in their related 2008 study. Domestic violence is an epidemic in this country.

It’s no stretch that someone who has experienced domestic violence at one point in his or her life may be triggered by this song to experience negative memories. A 1995 study by Vitanza, Vogel, and Marshall found that 55.9% of their sample of women in abusive relationships of differing degrees (psychological abuse only, moderate violence, and severe violence) met diagnostic criteria for PTSD. A 2000 study by Mertin and Mohr found that 45% of the battered women they surveyed in shelters met diagnostic criteria for PTSD. Protecting children from offensive material is one important facet of this case, but the other (equally) important part is protecting the nearly one in four women in this country who will experience IPV or the 39% of the population who experienced abuse as a child, from repetitive traumatic experiences.

Though it is unlikely that the FCC will regard these lyrics as indecent (which speaks volumes about our prevailing “community standards” regarding domestic violence), if you hear this song on the radio and wish to file a complaint, you can do so here.


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