By Ruby Liles
In the wake of Mac Miller’s unexpected and tragic death earlier this month due to drug overdose, many have desperately been searching for someone to blame. The person they’ve decided on? Ariana Grande, Miller’s ex-girlfriend who is now engaged to SNL actor Pete Davidson. Here’s why this sets a dangerous precedent for the demonization of women in relationships.
“her ex-boyfriend just died, and she’s still off rebounding with pete davidson.”
This is a text that was crafted and then promptly sent September 7th, 2018, but I, unfortunately, must admit that it was not dispatched from the phone of some apathetic, Ariana-hating internet troll. Nay - the author of this text is me, and though I’m no troll, I evidently have been biased by the legacy of the damaging myth ingrained in our culture that women are to blame for their male partner’s actions.
I can go on to make several excuses for my comment that refute any sign of those deep-seated misogynistic tendencies we all seem to harbor, but none of them excuse the wrongful correlation between a tragic and gut-wrenching loss of life and an entirely separate person who had absolutely nothing to with it. The situation remains completely unjust even when you strip it of any notation of gender. The same Friday Miller was reported dead, Grande’s name was immediately trending on Twitter with countless mentions blaming her for his death, some even grossly claiming that “she murdered him.” Even well-known pop culture media publications such as TMZ worded their reports on Miller’s death in a way that implies that Ariana’s dumping him was a direct cause of his spiral back into addiction and subsequent suicide.
One thing I couldn’t help but notice is that where there were pictures of Mac, there were pictures of Ariana. Despite the couple having parted on amicable terms back in May - a welcome rarity in Hollywood to begin with - the accurate timeline or any other facts for that matter lost value when the juicier story, the more palatable story, included someone to blame for Miller’s death. Over the course of human history, both in literature and real life, women and other minorities have consistently been designated as this “someone to blame.” This trend transcends any specific set of circumstances; generally, our culture tends to dictate that if there’s anyone at fault, it’s the woman.
The tendency in pop culture to connect women to men’s harmful actions and confusing tragedies applies not only to women in or on the tail end of relationships, though. In a situation mirroring Miller’s in many ways, singer and actress Demi Lovato was hospitalized after an alleged overdose earlier this year, culminating her spiraling battle with addiction. Not surprisingly, while social media showed an outpouring of love and support for Lovato and her family, it also proved a vehicle by which to further perpetuate the myth of the woman at fault. Even though Lovato herself had recently broken off a six year relationship with her boyfriend Wilmer Valderrama, his name was nowhere to be found in the trending Twitter tags. In this circumstance, it was obvious and implied that it would be unfair and incredibly disrespectful to suggest that Lovato’s former partner could be responsible for an entirely isolated event. Instead, the masses jumped straight to the much more logical response - blaming Demi, saying she didn’t seek help when she should have.
At least to me it’s evident that we as a society don’t blame drug addictions and overdose; we blame women.
Ariana Grande was receiving hate on Twitter even prior to Miller’s death back in May, after the couple had gone public with their split. Many were accusing her of callously dumping Miller for another guy after he “poured his heart out on a ten song album [Divine Feminine] to her,” blaming her for a DUI Miller received shortly after. But Grande released a public statement responding to the situation that holds true with the blame she faces today. Grande wrote, “How absurd that you minimize female self-respect and self-worth by saying someone should stay in a toxic relationship because he wrote an album about them...I am not a babysitter or a mother and no woman should feel that they need to be. I have cared for him and tried to support his sobriety and prayed for his balance for years (and always will of course) but shaming / blaming women for a man’s inability to keep his [expletive] together is a very major problem. Let’s please stop doing that.”