Last week, Mac Miller passed away, unexpectedly and tragically, at the age of 26.
Miller was a talented musician, releasing five albums in his short career, all of which peaked in the top five in US charts. He was beloved, as well as open about his struggle with addiction and his desire to live a clean life. His many fans were understandably devastated at this loss.
Our popular culture is dominated by celebrity. Privacy is more of a suggestion these days, a luxury reserved for us regular civilians. Celebrities are on display constantly. Because of this we have a tendency to grow attached to them as though we know them, loving who they love and despising who we speculate they hate.
This side effect of celebrity culture, this strange loyalty we tend to have to people we truly know nothing about, can be quite toxic. After Mac Miller’s death, many of his fans were left looking for someone to blame. They chose Ariana Grande, his extremely popular ex-girlfriend, who as of late has had a booming career.
Grande’s social media was flooded with horrendous comments following the announcement of Mac Miller’s supposed overdose. Refrains of “this is your fault”, “you killed him”, and some particularly disgusting name-calling, referring to Grande as a “murderous whore”.
The general consensus of these gross comments was that Grande’s current success, happiness, and notoriety is to blame for Miller’s death.This is not the first time Miller’s illness has been blamed on Grande, as earlier this year when he got a DUI, his fans immediately flocked to scrutinize her for leaving him. She responded eloquently, explaining that she was in a "toxic relationship" and felt the blame being placed on her was sexist.
What does it say about us as a society that we become so connected to celebrities that we assume we know the innermost workings of their lives and relationships? To me, this is an extremely dark phenomenon, specifically when it comes to blaming other celebrities, particularly women, for the mental health and illness of other celebrities.
Rolling Stone has recently spoken out on the demonization of women in toxic relationships, referring to this pattern as the “Yoko Effect”. Why is it that we feel the need to blame the downfall of a man on his female partner? Grande, like other women in her position, are not responsible for the faults of our favorite stars simply because we do not like the truth.
Mac Miller was an addict. He had an illness, demons that no one, especially not an assembly of fans online, can define or comprehend. To blame his illness on Grande’s success in her new relationship, or what we perceive as her “thriving” is to delegitimize the experience of an addict. To suggest he died because she did not love him anymore ignores the very chemical and mental effects of long term addiction, something he had likely been struggling with before Grande, during his relationship with her, and after it ended.
The fact of the matter is, we have no idea what led Mac Miller to drugs. Many of us have no idea how hard it is to overcome addiction, or how heartbreaking it is to try and stick it out with someone who is so deeply troubled. It is so harmful to promote the idea that women in toxic relationships are responsible for the well-being of their partners. Not only is this concept sexist, it is absolutely detrimental to the legitimacy of mental illness and addiction.
We must speak out about this, we must create an environment in which it is okay for women to leave toxic relationships without fear of harassment and blame, as well as promote the truth about addiction. Empathy is so important to the continuation of a productive society and we must access it.
Emma Ragusa is a Copy Editor for The Rational Creature.