Taking a Closer Look at VMA Winner Tyler the Creator
Much of the public was first introduced to Tyler the Creator during last night’s MTV Video Music Awards, after the young rapper won an award for Best New Artist and danced onstage with Will Ferrell, Jack Black, and Seth Rogen. What many of them will unfortunately learn if they now decide to pick up a copy of his album is that he also writes some of the most violently anti-gay and misogynistic music currently enjoying mainstream recognition.
This isn’t a case of a few cursory anti-gay slurs over the course of a career. According to NME magazine, the celebrated sophomore album of Tyler the Creator and his group Odd Future, Goblin, features 213 occurrences of the word fa**ot and it’s variations. Compare that to Eminem’s debut album,The Marshall Mathers LP, which featured 13 total occurrences of the word and the sheer scale of Goblin’s anti-gay rhetoric is frankly staggering.
As if that wasn’t frightening enough, the album also contains numerous references to rape and domestic abuse against women. So many in fact, that when Odd Future was given a slot in Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival, itinspired a coalition of advocacy groups such as Rape Victim Advocates to distribute material at the event to counter the hurtful messages Tyler and co. were gleefully spouting onstage.
One of the best repudiations of Tyler’s lyrics thus far has come from inside the music industry itself, when singer/songwriter Sara Quin of Tegan and Sara wrote an open letter calling out both the rapper and the media for turning a blind eye to the content of his albums in their haste to celebrate a new artist. Quin writes: “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.”
Tyler himself has seemed unfazed by the criticism, responding publicly to boththe advocacy groups and Sara Quin with unprintable insults. When questioned by NME about such criticism in an interview, he employed the thoroughly tired defense of “I didn’t mean it that way,” saying: “I’m not homophobic. I just think ‘fa**ot’ hits and hurts people. It hits. And ‘gay’ just means you’re stupid. I don’t know, we don’t think about it, we’re just kids. We don’t think about that sh*t.”
One group who should be thinking about it, however, is the media and music critics, who often defend Tyler and Odd Future by implying such language is simply part of their musical persona and should be seen as ironic. What’s really ironic is that in a time when the public is becoming more supportive of LGBT people and other major artists are showing their support through their music, Tyler and Odd Future are padding their lyrics with anti-gay slurs and dangerous, violent rhetoric. But there is nothing ironically clever about hate speech, particularly when a significant part of those listening are adolescents seeking to emulate their favorite artists. It’s simply irresponsible and destructive.
“Rather than providing simply a larger platform, MTV and other networks should educate viewers about why anti-gay and misogynistic language has no place in the music industry today,” said Herndon Graddick, Senior Director of Programs at GLAAD. “Given Tyler’s history of such remarks, viewers and potential sponsors should refrain from honoring homophobia and in the future look to a more deserving artist.”
MTV didn’t choose the winner of the Best New Artist category (that’s chosen by public vote) on last night’s show, but they did decide to nominate Tyler in the first place and put him onstage. We hope in the future they will think more carefully about the message they’re sending to their young audience before giving him another platform.
James Franco’s film about the last days of murdered gay actor Sal Mineo and Madonna’s romantic drama inspired by Wallis Simpson will both premiere at the Venice Film Festival and both directors have released official statements.
Franco says of Sal: ”Sal Mineo was 37 when he was murdered and was on the cusp of a new upswing in his career. He had started as a child star and when he was 15 acted opposite James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, for which they were both nominated for Oscars. [Editor’s note: Dean was nominated for East of Eden, not Rebel.] As a young performer Sal was incredibly successful, as both an actor and a singer, and then in his twenties, for a variety of reasons both in and out of his control, he lost the recognition he had enjoyed at the beginning of his career. He struggled through his twenties and thirties to work, never again achieving the level of success he once enjoyed. He lived the common tragedy of so many creative people who are so passionate about what they do and yet don’t have an outlet for their work. But even to the end Sal was fighting for freedom of expression and for ways to create work that was exciting and new. When he was murdered the tabloid magazines groundlessly hinted that the murder might have involved drugs or a lover, and the memory of Sal has been forever tainted by such conjecture in bad faith. This film is a portrait of a sensitive and kind artist in his last hours.”
Madonna says of W.E.: ”I was always intrigued by the story of the King who gave up the throne for the woman he loved. Why did he do it and what was so special about Wallis Simpson? I wanted to tell it from a modern day point of view, so I created the story of Wally — a young woman trapped in an unhappy marriage. She knows she has to change her life and begins this journey from darkness to light with Wallis as her spiritual guide. Wally’s obsession with the love story of Wallis and the King is ultimately what saves her. She lives vicariously through this historical romance. Though it seems childish and obsessive, it forces Wally to ask questions, take risks and take charge of her life. To take the road less traveled. And eventually find freedom.”
Sal, in which Franco costars with Val Lauren and Jim Parrack, will premiere Saturday. The film doesn’t yet have a release date. See photos from Sal here.
W.E., which stars Andrea Riseborough, Abbie Cornish, James D’Arcy, and Oscar Isaac, will be shown out of competition Thursday. It is scheduled for theatrical release in the U.S. December 9.