Saturday, October 2, 2010

Backup Dancers From Hell: Eminem - “Not Afraid”

Quick Note: This is Eminem, so the language gets a little salty. You probably don’t want to blast this if your grandmother is in the next room, crocheting booties for the Baptist Hallelujah Choir bake sale. She would not find it very spiritual. Unless she’s a drinker. Or used to be a rapper. I’m sure somebody out there has a drunken, rapping granny, so we shouldn’t judge.

We start out with Eminem standing on the edge of a roof of a very tall building. At first we think he might just be enjoying the scenery as he gazes out upon some city, since it’s a pretty day and all, and there’s a nice river floating by. But then the camera pans over his shoulder so that we can see straight down to the ground. And that ground is very far away. Ant people are dashing about, and the cars look like pepper flakes.

Eminem is clearly an idiot for standing where he is.

Then again, we all have issues. And perhaps, since the song is “Not Afraid”, Em is trying to show us that he’s… well, not afraid. But come on. I’m thinking there’s gotta be something a little less dangerous he could do to prove his courage. (Like head into rush hour traffic on the Dallas freeways in a car that can’t go faster then 50 miles an hour. THAT takes bravery. Those people will whip out a crowbar and beat your ass.)

We cut to Eminem in somebody’s basement, shoving what is apparently a very important piece of paper at us. (Did he flunk a spelling test again?) But before we can figure out what it is, he wads it up and tosses it to the side, which is kind of rude. (Quick shot of Eminem on the building ledge again, starting to jump around and stuff, which is ill-advised. Dude, save the fancy footwork for the basement scenes. It would be really impolite to fall one someone just trying to catch a quick smoke break. If they live, they probably won‘t buy your CD.)

Now we’re switching back and forth between High-Altitude Em and Dank-Underground Em. Both of them are really angry and waving their hands, but that just might be standard procedure, because most rappers are really pissed off about something. (Maybe it’s all that bottled, restrictive anger that keeps them from actually singing the words instead of just saying them.) Both of them like counting by holding up fingers, but they start with the pinky, which doesn’t seem right. Is that just me?

Quick shot of Basement Eminem sitting off to one side and holding his head. Maybe he’s sad about the really crappy condition of his basement. Man, have you ever heard of a broom? Sweep some of that crap up. And get rid of that lamp shade. It’s not doing anybody any good. But instead of trying to tidy up, Eminem starts throwing things around the room. Like that’s going to help.

Next we’re on a street somewhere, with a third Eminem, and I believe this one thinks he’s in “Saturday Night Fever” because we’re only seeing his feet trotting down the sidewalk. Whoops, there’s his face, and he’s angry, too. (Why are these people so unhappy? Would it kill one of his personalities to actually crack a smile?)

Now we’re cutting between the Three Faces of Em, although the one in the basement is the most entertaining. (He’s doing some very intricate hand-and-arm choreography where he demonstrates how to gut a fish and say the Pledge of Allegiance at the same time.) Rooftop Em is only stepping closer to the edge of the building and then back, which got old before the first chorus. And Em Travolta is just marching along without doing anything.

Oh, maybe I lied, because Streetwalker Eminem is now poised on the curb before a very busy street of traffic. Since he’s “not afraid”, I suspect he will waltz into the speeding river of cars without doing the double-check for clearance like they teach you in Jaywalking 101. And there he goes, angrily stomping to the other side of the street and narrowly missing getting splattered by several cars, a bus that looked like it didn’t have a driver (maybe there was a strike) and a bitter dump truck. He bad-ass. But once he steps on the other curb, it appears that he’s headed to a theater named “Newark”. Why would anyone want to go somewhere that reminds them of Jersey?

Meanwhile, Basement Eminem is really working himself into a tizzy, stomping all over the place and making gestures that one would normally associate with what a London hooker might have seen before Jack the Ripper made her posthumously famous. This might explain why he’s in the basement to begin with, having been locked away from society by a frustrated parent who was tired of him causing a commotion during Tupperware parties.

Oh look, Streetwalker Em didn’t go into that theater after all. Instead, he’s studying his reflection in the window of a parked car. Not sure what this is about, but he touches his jaw like it’s not really his, so maybe one of his other personalities is fighting to the surface. (Quick shot of Basement Em throwing a chair, because he’s really in control of his emotions.)

Street Em has now wandered into one of those funhouse hall of mirrors things, and he can’t figure out where he is. (If that damn cameraman would quit jump-cutting all over the place, maybe all of us could determine what’s going on.) Street Em finally has had enough of running about in the mirrors, and decides to just dive through one of the plate-glass walls. (Not an option I would take, but I’m not a rapper.) This causes Street Em to find himself laying in the middle of a street. Okay, then.

Meanwhile, Basement Em is punching away at the brick wall of his basement, letting in enough sunlight that half the cast of “True Blood” would disintegrate and cause some serious script revisions. Basement Em steps through into the light. (That sound you hear is his parents flooring the station wagon as they head for Florida.)

Back to Streetwalker Em, who follows the street he landed on and finds himself at the edge of the world. (Didn’t really see that coming.) The camera pulls back to show that, yep, if he takes another step he’ll be in a freefall that keeps on giving. Then again, Eminem’s “not afraid” so he plunges downward. We watch him plummet past some pretty waterfalls (just like TLC told us not to chase) until he suddenly stops falling and then boings back up into the air over the street he had just tried to leave. Poor guy can’t even kill himself.

Oh look, now Eminem has superpowers and is flying through the streets of the city. (Think “Iron Man 3: Flight of the Rapper”.) He zips along with enough force to shatter car windows and irritate those people outside coffee houses who insist on using laptops while sucking down caffeine. Before you know it, Eminem is back on top of the building where this whole mess started.

The song winds down with Rooftop Eminem and yet another personality who we’ll call Angel Eminem, because he’s bathed in white light, singing to everybody that if we just follow them, we’ll make it through whatever life has to offer.

But I don’t wanna. Because you people are doing things that just don’t seem all that healthy. It’s nice that you can sing a song about overcoming, glad it works for you. I’ll just sit here in my house. And take pills. Thanks, though.


Click Here to Watch the Video on YouTube.

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