Today, we will once again continue our discussion of applying Joseph Campbell’s narrative model to the life and work of Eminem. At this point, however, we reach an interesting moment in Eminem’s journey. While it’d be easy to end our discussion with “The Marshall Mathers LP 2”, and call that a journey there and back, it isn’t quite accurate.
Last time, we looked at The Road Back, a stage in the Hero’s Journey where the hero crosses a return threshold. We discussed how this stage lined up with Eminem’s “The Marshall Mathers LP 2”, and how for him, it was a chance to return to his roots and reevaluate where he stands.
Now we’ll look at the next stage, The Resurrection, in which the hero is reborn, and set free from the past that once weighed on him/her.
At this point in the Hero’s Journey, the hero becomes the master of both his/her inner and outer worlds. Often in stories, this is represented in a final climactic moment, in which the hero must prove him/herself, and overcome an obstacle that he/she would not have been able to overcome without undertaking their journey. This final battle also represents something far greater than the hero’s own life, and its outcome has far-reaching consequences to the rest of the world.
In “Star Wars: A New Hope”, Luke’s resurrection moment is the final attack on the Death Star. As he flies down the trench, he represents the last hope for the rebels to defeat the Empire and restore peace and order to the galaxy. Due to his training and his journey with Obi-Wan, Luke is able to “let go” of the material world (his targeting computer), and trust his instincts and feelings. In that moment, he is reborn, and proves himself a true hero, for his actions may have caused his death, but were ultimately for the sake of the rest of the galaxy.
Again, we have another very appropriate title by Eminem for this stage in the hero’s journey. “Revival” stands out as a very different album for Eminem. For one thing, there is no presence of Slim Shady. It seems that “The Marshall Mathers LP” was Eminem’s way of killing off his unhealthy characteristics represented by the alter ego. In “Revival”, Slim Shady is dead, and there is only Eminem. The album reflects Eminem at a time when he is trying to bring a positive influence to the world, rather than lash out with his anger.
One needs to look no further than the track, “Untouchable” for evidence of this. On it, Eminem attempts to tackle the complex problem of race in America, showing support for Black Lives Matter and attempting to shed light on the sad state of American society.
Throughout “Untouchable”, Eminem switches back and forth between a voice representing white cops, and one representing black men. In the opening lines, Eminem manages to capture a major aspect of the problem.
“Hands up, officer don’t shoot / Then pull your pants up, promise you won’t loot / We may never understand each other, it’s no use / We ain’t ever gonna grasp what each other goes through”.
Towards the end of the track, Eminem takes a macro view of our society, and points out the hypocrisy found in our nation’s history.
“Home of the brave is still racist ‘ville / So this whole nation feels like a plantation field / In a country that claims that its foundation was based on United States ideals / That had its Natives killed / Got you singin’ this star-spangled spiel / To a piece of cloth that represents the “Land of the Free” that made people slaves to build”.
It’s easy to see that in “Revival”, Eminem has let go of the cares and concerns that used to plague his previous albums. Instead, he turns his attention to issues that are larger than his own ego and reputation. At the same time, he continues to experiment and change his style.
I know this album was criticized by a lot of people for being too pop-heavy and not focused enough. I may be wrong, but I suspect that Eminem was just trying to evolve as an artist, and move away from anything that felt like his previous work. Because it seems like his intentions were to address real issues, this seems like a small price to pay for fans who just wanted more of the same.
Regardless of what others may say, I think “Revival” was a way for Eminem to feel like he was bringing some good to the world, and playing a part in solving a problem that has plagued this nation since its birth.
Next time, we’ll finally wrap up our discussion with a look at Eminem’s most recent album, “Kamikaze”.