Today, we continue our discussion of applying Joseph Campbell’s narrative model to the life and work of Eminem. If you’ve been following this series, you’ve probably noticed that we’ve departed slightly from the hero’s journey according to Dan Harmon’s story circle. Just know that even though we aren’t following it to the letter, it is an extremely simplified version of Joseph Campbell’s work. The cliff notes version, really. But regardless, it still captures the same arc of growth and change.
Last time, we looked at the stage of the hero’s journey where the hero receives his/her reward. We saw how Eminem’s motivations and message changed from “Relapse” to “Recovery”, as well as a shift in style.
Now we’ll discuss The Road Back, a stage in the Hero’s Journey that signals another threshold. We’ll see how this stage lines up with the release of “The Marshall Mathers LP2”, in 2013.
The Road Back
This stage in the Hero’s Journey is an echo of the Call to Adventure. This time, however, instead of leaving home and crossing a threshold into a new world, the hero returns home with his/her reward.
This doesn’t signal the end of the hero’s journey, though. On the contrary, Challenges still lie ahead for the hero in the form of villains, roadblocks, and inner demons. The hero must deal with any unresolved issues at this stage, in order to cross back into the ordinary world. Continuing to look inward and making self-inquiry, the hero can identify moral weaknesses and come to terms with his/her shadow.
In “Star Wars: A New Hope”, Luke, Leia, and Han escape the Death Star, and strike out for the rebel base. But before they can safely reach their destination, they need to take care of the squadron of TIE fighters. This only signals the first part of the road back. The second comes later, after Luke and Han receive their reward for rescuing Princess Leia. Han decides to take the money and run, and Luke is faced with a choice. It is here that he decides to not just look out for himself, but fight for a greater cause.
The Marshall Mathers LP2
Now remember that earlier we matched up “The Marshall Mathers LP” with the first Crossing of the Threshold. And just as the Road Back is an echo to that threshold, so is “The Marshall Mathers LP2” an echo of the first. In it, Eminem returns to the album that launched him into fame, older, wiser, and just as sharp.
“Bad Guy”, the first track on “MMLP2” connects the two albums together. The song is a sequel to “Stan” from “The Marshall Mathers LP”, in which the brother of Stan, Matthew Mitchell, hunts down Eminem and locks him in his trunk, and drives around listening to “MMLP”.
In the second part of the song, Eminem battles his alter-ego Slim Shady in his head. At the end of this, the song ends with a declaration of what exactly “The Marshall Mathers LP2” is.
“So, one last time, I’m back / Before it fades into black and it’s all over / Behold the final chapter in a saga / Tryin’ to recapture that lightning trapped in a bottle / Twice, the magic that started / It all, tragic portrait of an artist / Tortured, trapped in his own drawings / Tap into thoughts blacker and darker / Than anything imaginable; here goes a wild stab in the dark / As we pick up where the last Mathers left off”.
As a nice cherry on top, the following track, “Parking Lot – Skit” picks up with the skit from “Criminal” on “The Marshall Mathers LP”. Instead of getting away with robbery and murder, we find out that he’s caught by the police, and turns the gun on himself at the skit’s end.
Just from looking at the first two tracks of “The Marshall Mathers LP2”, we can see that Eminem has already set out on the road back. Throughout the recording of “The Marshall Mathers LP2”, Eminem took a deep look into his past and present self, trying to reconcile his behavior, and come to terms with the changes he’s experienced since the release of “The Marshall Mathers LP”.
Many critics expressed disappointment at Eminem’s use of homophobic slurs and misogynistic rants, considering his skill, intellect and apparent desire to redeem himself. I’m not here to excuse any of his hateful words, but I do think that some may be missing his intentions. By looking at “Bad Guy”, we can see that Eminem was diving into his innermost cave in an attempt to cleanse his conscience.
Next time, we’ll look into the next stage of the Hero’s Journey, and see how it matches up with Eminem’s “Revival”.