Last month, popular singer Lil Nas X depicted himself descending into Hell on a stripper pole in his new hit music video “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name).” The graphic imagery immediately shocked many people, especially Christians. In the video, Lil Nas X performs a lap dance with the devil in the fiery landscape of Hell. And as many people have an aversion to the devil, the video met with backlash from all corners of American society. Many fans of “MONTERO,” including a columnist at The Student Life (TSL), claimed that “[t]he panicky response to ‘MONTERO’ exemplifies the outdated yet still culturally present fear that queerness is both contagious and corrupting.” But that is a misrepresentation of the controversy surrounding the video. More than just a debate over art, the controversy surrounding “MONTERO” reveals cancel culture’s troublesome double standards favoring the political left and punishing the political right.
The TSL writer stated that those offended by “MONTERO” were primarily outraged by the depiction of homosexuality rather than the endorsement of Satanism. The truth, however, is more complicated. People, especially Christians, who dislike the video generally cite the Satanic imagery as the main problem, not Lil Nas’ homosexuality.
The link between Satanism and music is nothing new. In the “Satanic Panic” that occurred in the 1980s, when heavy metal bands that embraced Satan in their music rose to mainstream prominence without any depiction of homosexuality, many Christians were as outraged then as they are now.
While it is an important part of many Christian doctrines that marriage is between a man and a woman, this tendency does not mean that Christians do not respect people’s freedoms to do whatever they want in their own lives.
In fact, data points to the contrary. Members of the Catholic Church, the largest Christian denomination, support gay marriage by a margin of 52% to 37%. Even Christians who do not support homosexuality are unlikely to want to force their beliefs on others, as Christian teaching gives “no justification for Christians or churches to treat LGBT people any differently from anyone else.”
In modern popular culture, artists from Tyler, The Creator to Lil Uzi Vert have used Satanic imagery in their songs and music videos. Even more mainstream artists such as Billie Eilish have released Satanic-inspired music videos. What makes Lil Nas X’s video unique is that it drew much greater attention than previous efforts to incorporate Satanism into art, due to the fact that Lil Nas X is one of the most popular artists active today.
Moreover, when Lil Nas X publicly came out as gay in 2019, he drew praise rather than the sort of shock controversy generated by the MONTERO video. The TSL writer’s misrepresentation of the cause of the controversy of Lil Nas’ video is an example of a larger trend in modern society—the double standards regarding cancel culture.
As pointed out above, part of the problem with the TSL point of view is that it assumes the motives of the people it is calling out. The assertion that the outrage towards the MONTERO video is primarily rooted in homophobia is based on the assumption that all Christians are homophobic. This same principle can motivate the cancelation of someone for a mere assumption of the motives behind one’s point of view.
Tiktok user typical_democrat made a video stating “If you don’t like Lil Nas X’s video, don’t watch it! Don’t listen to his music! It is not a big deal!” Those who agree with typical_democrat must follow their own advice and maintain a consistent standard of respecting other people’s viewpoints even if they are controversial, and not just listening to speech that offends them. By failing to do so, they contradict themselves.
The media world today is full of instances of this double standard. According to CNN, “[liberal] comedian Samantha Bee called Ivanka Trump a ‘feckless c***.’ Roseanne Barr, a conservative-leaning comedian got the axe for inappropriate tweets directed at a former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, saying “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.” Unlike Barr, TBS hasn’t yet fired Bee for her comments.
ABC, the same network that canceled “Roseanne” after her offensive tweets, allowed anti-Trump television host Joy Behar to keep her job after saying Christians who believe Jesus speaks to them are mentally ill. In the minds of ABC executives, it appears that some bigotry is allowed if you’re criticizing the Trump family or many Christians as you march to your personal drum.
Either the three people above should have been fired or kept their jobs. Some might claim that people like Roseanne Barr, with her net worth of $80 million, are not truly suffering from being canceled. But it isn’t just celebrities damaged by cancel culture; many non-celebrities get canceled and lose their jobs and livelihoods, too. The Washington Post points out: “the paradox of cancel culture is that one only ever hears about it from those unlikely to be harmed by it.” And as bad as these cancelations are, inconsistent standards in determining who gets canceled and why only make the problem worse.
In the end, Lil Nas’ music video does not really matter. It’s okay to disagree about the “MONTERO” video. What is truly important, though, is that people respect each other’s viewpoints when they disagree, and work towards unity rather than stoking the fires of division. The backlash against people who dislike the video reveals much about modern society’s cultural flaws and the divisions that plague it.
The end of inconsistent cancel culture lies in not assuming the motives of the opposing side. Not all Christians are terrible homophobes. Lil Nas’ video and backlash should be used as part of an effort to end unfair and inconsistent cancel culture. As former President Barack Obama stated, “if all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far.”
Image Credit: Yahoo Entertainment
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