Earlier this week, I began listening to the new Eminem album, “The Marshall Mathers LP 2.” I like Eminem, despite the hard edges; I think he’s very talented and I’m mature enough (a.k.a. old) to not be overly offended by the language and content of his songs. So I wasn’t necessarily surprised by the harshness of the lyrics when I started listening, but I did ponder what his high school daughter, Hailie, must think about it. She surfaced in my brainpan because last month she was crowned homecoming queen at her Detroit area school. I’ve read that Eminem is a pretty involved parent, but the dichotomy between being a hardcore rapper and raising a teenage daughter or two perplexed me. Let’s examine how that might play out:
Eminem has always seemed like a really dedicated father, although the drug addictions and rehab stints give me pause. He and Hailie’s mom, Kim, have been married and divorced twice, and Kim has battled her own drug problems, resulting in Eminem gaining full custody of Hailie at some point. In addition, he adopted Kim’s twin sister’s daughter, and he also adopted Kim’s daughter from a previous relationship. Over the years he has referenced his daughters in a number of his songs, including “Hailie’s Song” which includes the lyrics “But when I see my baby * Suddenly I'm not crazy * It all makes sense when I look into her eyes.” Just because he sings about his kids doesn’t make him a good dad, but he has made no secret of how dedicated he is to his girls.
In an interview with Anderson Cooper on “60 Minutes” three years ago, Eminem noted that he does not allow swearing in his house. During that interview, he said, “I feel like it's your job to parent [your kids]. If you're the parent, be a parent. You know what I mean? I'm a parent. I have daughters. I mean how would I really sound as a person walking around my house (saying) 'Bitch pick this up'?" Not good, I guess.
Last month when Hailie was crowned homecoming queen at her high school, she was accompanied by her mom while her dad watched from inside the school so as not to steal his daughter’s moment in the spotlight. HuffPost Live quotes Eminem as saying, “I’m a father first, before anything […] I’m a father before I’m a rapper. So, you know, my daughter comes first no matter what. If there’s important things going on in her life that I need to be there for, then I’ll drop what I’m doing or reschedule around it.”
But wait! Eminem was made famous for the profane and often violent lyrics in his songs, often as his raping, misogynistic alter ego, Slim Shady. Among the worst are “Kill You” and “Kim.” In the former, he describes in graphic detail raping and killing his own mother among others, while in the latter he describes killing his ex-wife in the presence of Hailie, who he refers to by name. He has also described violence toward gays in his songs. Hardly the material of a model father.
While Eminem claims to have softened somewhat in recent years (he says he doesn't hate gays anymore, for instance), he’s still got plenty of sharp edges, as is usual for a rapper. All 21 tracks on “The Marshall Mathers LP 2” contain an ‘explicit’ warning, and one track is entitled “Asshole.”
So how does that work? How can you sing about killing and violence and rape and all the other things he sings about and on the other hand be a protective father? The Onion, a satirical publication, did a piece a few months back about Eminem experiencing the conundrum of Hailie introducing him to a boyfriend who had been raised on and possibly influenced by his music. But is that really so far outside the realm of possibility? Can he really have separated his two worlds completely?
How can Eminem preach against his daughters using drugs when he and his ex-wife have had drug problems? How does he enforce a no swearing rule in his house when his songs are practically built around profanity? According to the HuffPost Live article, “members of the community described [Hailie] as a ‘smart, athletic, and caring young woman’.”
I’m almost perplexed as to how that is possible. It would seem someone like Hailie would have been battling both nature (two parents who have struggled with drugs intermittently throughout their adult lives) and nurture (tumultuous relationship and multiple divorces between her parents, a father who practically made a career of singing about violence).
But upon further reflection, maybe it makes some sense. Eminem is a smart guy, gifted with words anyway, although he claims not to be book smart and did poorly in school. Certainly his brain works in a way that most aren’t able to. And what about the description of Hailie as caring? Is it possible that Em built something of a cocoon around his daughter and really was able to separate his “job” from his home life? He has said he was bullied throughout school, so maybe he taught her empathy. He moved around a lot as a kid, so maybe giving her stability in a nice community was a priority. A lot of it still flies in the face of everything I’ve believed about parenting, that you need to somewhat be the kind of example that you want your kids to emulate.
But Eminem seems to be doing something right. Who would have guessed?
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Filed under: Parenting