Eminem’s New Mother’s Day Video Is About Forgiveness Not Apologizing

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Eminem Headlights Screenshot YouTubeRapper Eminem‘s latest music video dropped today, and seeing as it’s Mother’s Day, I think the subject matter is very appropriate. The video, “Headlights,” was directed by Spike Lee and it’s basically an apology/tribute to Eminem’s mother, Debbie Mathers, who he made infamous in earlier tracks like “Cleaning Out My Closet,” and “Brain Damage.” The song was co-written by Fun front-man Nate Ruess, and while I wouldn’t go as far as calling it complimentary, I will say that if you are an adult with mommy or daddy issues like me then you’ll probably need to keep a box of Kleenex close by. It’s the ultimate “I’m sorry/not sorry” for his earlier works, and I think it’s perfection.

I’m sure there are many of you who detest Eminem, aka Marshall Mathers. Not just for the way he’s treated his mom over the years, but for a ton of other legitimate reasons that I won’t get into here. But I will always have a soft spot in my heart for him for giving words to the feelings of abandonment and pain I had growing up. Holidays like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day aren’t easy for those of us with less-than-happy relationships with our parents, and I think this is something incredibly difficult to understand for people who do. Theresa Edwards summed it up nicely earlier this week when she wrote her own piece on being estranged from a parent:

“I have never, ever met an estranged adult child who cut off contact with someone that was “less than perfect”. Most of them would have settled for flawed, because it beats the hell out of abusive, addicted, and pathological. Many of us are parents ourselves now and realize that there is absolutely no way to achieve perfection. To imply that we are in a snit because our parents didn’t buy us the right things or say the right words is deeply insulting. The fact is, many people forgive their parents over and over again, only to watch the cycle repeat. It isn’t until their quality of life is completely nonexistent that they finally excise themselves completely.”

So yeah, I think it would be easy to vilify Eminem for using his platform as a recording artist to take shots at his mom, or worse for using her abuse and neglect to sell records. But for those of us unfortunate enough to understand where he’s coming from, it isn’t that easy.

I’m sure it took a lot of guts for Eminem to take stock of all the things he’s said about his mom publicly over the years and release a single like this. It’s not a clear cut apology, however, and I appreciate that. I think you can forgive someone for their wrongdoings without forgetting or pretending the pain has gone away. I think this lyric perfectly describes the type of childhood Marshal had and how he feels about his mom:

“Mom, I know I let you down

And though you say the days are happy
Why is the power off, and I’m fucked up?
And, Mom, I know he’s not around

But don’t you place the blame on me
As you pour yourself another drink”

I like that Mathers isn’t putting on a huge show of forgiving his mom. They aren’t making the talkshow rounds or putting out a mother and son self-help book. According to the lyrics, they aren’t even seeing each other, and she barely knows her grandchildren. This is what actual forgiveness looks like and I’m glad the Mathers family is finally getting there.

(Photo: YouTube)