August 13, 2001
Double-standard deserves a smackdown
It was only last October that Ontario's Attorney General, Jim Flaherty, joined Liberal justice critic Michael Bryant, Mayor Mel Lastman and social activists in calling for someone - anyone - to prevent the rapper Eminem from entering the province.
He was to play the SkyDome, perform his potty-mouth music and, like the Pied Piper, presumably lead our children down to their doom. Not in our city, declared our leaders. (The concert went off without any extracurricular rowdiness.)
Now, imagine what would happen to Eminem if he didn't just sing violent and/or sexist songs, but actually engaged in acts of (real or simulated) violence onstage, inspired a stadium full of kids to salute authority with their middle finger and call his fellow performers "sluts" and "whores."
You'd hardly expect our civic leaders to roll out the red carpet for such a spectacle, would you?
So why are some of the very same politicians who denounced Eminem's visit last October now bending over backwards to draw the World Wrestling Federation's Wrestlemania to the SkyDome next year?
Let's compare the two events.
Eminem sometimes sings about violence. The WWF shows men and women engaged in acts of violence - piledrivers, choke-holds, chairs and ladders used as weapons.
Eminem's words can be particularly vile toward women. The scantily clad female performers at WWF events have been called sluts, whores and worse.
Some critics have charged that Eminem's music and image has a negative impact on his young audience. Anyone who has seen kids imitate the moves or behaviour they see at pro wrestling events will wonder if there's not a double standard at work here.
Here's Mel Lastman on Eminem last October: "This guy is singing about violence. What kind of an idiot is this? What kind of fools are the SkyDome people to permit this?"
Here's Mel Lastman last month on pro wrestling: "Wrestlemania would be a terrific event for our city in 2002 and I would hope the WWF would decide to hold the event at SkyDome."
Here's Ontario AG Flaherty last October on Emimen's music: "(The songs) were violent, they advocated violence, they praised violence against women, physical assaults, batteries on women and that's not acceptable to me."
Here's his boss, Premier Mike Harris, this week, on Wrestlemania: "This is a hot commodity. This is the Super Bowl or the Olympics ... of wrestling," he said, adding the event is "good fun."
But wait, I can hear wrestling devotees complain: With hip-hop the unofficial soundtrack to gang violence, it's easy to draw a line between violent youth crime and rap stars like Eminem, and there's no comparable injury associated with wrestling, right?
et the very day Lastman was pitching for Wrestlemania, the Sun carried a story about a 9-year-old North Carolina boy who was killed after he was dropped on his head by another boy. The pair had been imitating wrestling moves they'd seen on TV. Last year, a Florida teen who was convicted of the first-degree murder of a 6-year-old girl said the incident occurred while he was imitating moves he'd learned from pro wrestling.
One of Eminem's best known songs, Stan, is about an obsessed, pathetic fan who murders his girlfriend. Far too many women fall victim to their male partners, but to date, there have been no reports of anyone committing such an act in imitation of the song.
For the record, I haven't seriously followed wrestling since my early teens and I don't enjoy Eminem's music. But what I really dislike is hypocrisy and double standards.
Kids will surprise you with how sophisticated they are. The people who denounced Eminem need to seriously consider whether the little wrestling fans in their lives are any more or less in peril than Eminem's fans. And they should also wonder about politicians who exploit parental fears of hip-hop music, and then accommodate Wrestlemania because its tawdry morality play hides behind the respectability of sport.
Paul Cantin is the Senior Reporter for JAM! Showbiz. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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