What's the difference between Eminem and Anthony Hopkins?

Before we even begin, let it be known that I DO NOT LIKE Eminem, but it’s simply because I don’t like his style of rap…I long for the days of Public Enemy…

Now here’s the question. Amongst the bruhaha of the Grammy appearance of Eminem despite protests from GLAAD and NOW, I wondered why we don’t assign musicians and lyricists the same creative and poetic freedom that actors or authors receive?

When I see Anthony Hopkins playing Hannibal Lecter, I say, “WOW, what a great portrayal of a fucked up character”. I don’t actually think that Anthony Hopkins stands for or is representing his love of murdering and eating people.

Stephen King has written several stories from the point of view of someone who is evil, murderous, abusive, crude and generally icky…it doesn’t mean that HE IS ICKY, it means that the character is.

So when bands or rappers like Eminem sing about murder, or rape, or abuse or demeaning women, why do we not accept that it’s a character these song writers and performers are portraying?

There is evil in the world. There ARE people who are fucked up. Some people act it out on stage, some people write it in books and some people sing about it.

So Anthony Hopkins gets Oscar Nominations for convincing us he’s real enough to be perceived as a murderer, and Eminem gets protests. Why?


I suppose it’s because Anthony Hopkins and Stephen King are portraying fictional characters, but Eminem is portraying himself. Supposing A.H. directed, filmed, and starred in a biography pic about himself, in which he portrayed himself as a terrible homophobe and misogynist. We might be more inclined to believe that he meant to be those things.

Well, maybe its the perception that an actor is pretending to be someone. With a songwriter, most people make the assumption that you are writing about something that you can either a) relate to or b) have personal experience with. I think most people feel that songwriting is producing something more from who you are inside rather than using a craft to portray something outside of yourself. Not saying that songwriters don’t use their gift as a craft, just that the perception of putting “who you are” into a song may be greater.

Just my $0.02.

Because it’s blatantly obvious that an actor is only acting, whereas music has always been seen primarily as a means of self-expression. Or to put it another way, the audience goes to a movie expecting to see Hopkins pretending to be someone else. But when somebody sings a song, we expect that the lyrics reflect their personal thoughts and feelings. Most of the time, that’s justified–nobody thought Clapton was just pretending to be sad in “Tears in Heaven,” did they? It’s a lot harder to recognize when a singer is performing as a character rather than as himself.

For anyone interested, I spotted this commentary over at abcnews last night. It contains a pretty solid defense of what Eminem is doing on his album, which boils down to a dialogue between “Marshall Mathers” and “Slim Shady.”

but how do we know that matt? Has Eminem said “these are things I believe in and are true to my actual self”? (I honestly don’t know) Isn’t it possible that he’s creating a character that feels this way? Perhaps Eminem is a character created by Marshall Mathers.

And Bunnygirl

Same question here. Why is it not acceptable for songwriters to pretend to be someone? One of my favorite songs of all time is about BEING A STALKER…do I think the guy singing it IS A STALKER and a rapist? No…he’s said several times that he wrote it because he was afraid that his daughter would be subjected to men that were like that and he wanted to know what went on inside their heads. That’s exactly what any actor or writer would do.

If I believe a song is scary and disturbing enough to be real, isn’t it that the songwriter did a great job at creating the scene?


That only reminds me of my youth, when all the parents and square people thought Alice Cooper or KISS were evil.
But, the difference is, Alice and KISS did make statements that the kids and their fans understood. They Weren’t evil, and most people knew it.
Knew that they were role playing for entertainment.
Has m&m made any statements about its just a role?
I don’t know much about the guy, so I wouldn’t know.

For me, the issue is the perceived intelligence of the artist.

If Eminem weren’t such a trailer trash punk, I doubt that the biographical fallacy would be rearing his ugly head. It is only because people assume that Eminem is too stupid to create art (as opposed to using art as a valve to release his own personal bile) that he is so hated.

If fewer people were ignorant about the process of artistic composition, Eminem would surely be a less controversial figure.


I don’t know much about Eminem, and I haven’t heard much of his work. I think he’s obviously a very talented musician. Now, I’m realize that I’m hearing radio versions with many vital words removed (damn censorship) and that I certainly don’t catch everything that’s said, but when he expresses homophobia or his misogyny, it’s not clear to me that he’s condemning it.

When Anthony Hopkins portrays a serial killer, it’s obvious that he’s a bad guy. He’s loathesome. He’s evil. The viewer does not wish to be like him. I don’t get the impression (based on my admittedly limited knowledge) that Eminem is holding up Slim Shady as bad example, rather than just a fast-talking tough guy with a bad attitude–something listeners (particularly kids) might want to emulate.

Now, maybe if I were to actually buy his CD and listen carefully to the full versions of the songs I’d heard, I’d realize that he’s just portraying a character, a vile, lampooned bad guy, and this would be obvious to the kids who know and enjoy his music. But if that’s the case, then I think all this controversy is being deliberately manipulated by Eminem and his people. They could make a concerted effort to communicate to the public what the music was about. Instead, I think they’re sitting back saying, “If they don’t get the message, then fuck 'em. The bad publicity is selling records, and as long as we’re getting paid, who gives a damn.”

Eminem does have 2 defined characters. Eminem, Slim Shady and Marshal Mathers.

Slim Shady deals with the violent comedy type “Want me to stick nine inch nails through each one of my Eyelids”

Marshal Mathers/Eminem deals with his attitude to society and his peers, and events in his past.

For example take the song “Stan”. Stan is writing to Slim Shady, and Eminem responds as Marshal Mathers. He makes it clear that what he says is part of the character
“You say you like to cut your wrists too,
I was just Clownin’ dog, how fucked up is you?”

The controversial material comes almost entirely from the “Slim Shady” material. “My name is”, “Guilty Concience” “Slim Shady”

I am a big fan of his music. I don’t think that there should be any “messages” read into his music. I think he is very talented, if misguided.
There is always someone for society to vilify. Last year was Marlyn Manson. the 50’s had Elvis.
Hell, there were riots at Strauss’ debut of his new “Waltz” music. It was condemned as “being of the Devil”.

Here’s a Salon article on Eminem:

At the end of the work day, Anthony Hopkins seems not to have any trouble being Anthony Hopkins again. AFAIK he does not walk around trying to be a bad ass Hannibal Lecter.

Eminem, and many of his conteporaries, often try to live their lives as the characters they portray and glorify in their lyrics and stage personas. Predicatably, they come across as negative IQ punks on stage as well as off.

You might want to go see Hannibal, because Hopkins/Lecter is most definitely the hero of that movie, serial killing and all. I got a big kick out of watching a movie that would challenge its audience’s beliefs that much, and I suspect that’s a major part of why so many people disliked it.

But more relevant to the OP is that even when an actor does play a loathsome character, and even when that character is not presented for the scorn of the audience (again, go see Hannibal), we don’t think the actor is a bad person for taking the role. Yet many people think exactly that when a singer does the same thing. And I think it all boils down to what Maeglin called the biographical fallacy.

First of all, Anthony Hopkins has played MANY roles on film in the past ten years. Sure, he’s played psycho killer Hannibal Lecter, but he’s also played a butler (Remains of the Day), a devout Christian professor of literature (Shadowlands), the President of the U.S. (Nixon), a loving father (Legends of the Fall), a shy, bookish millionaire (The Edge)… in short, he’s played all kinds of roles extremely well, so we know not to confuse any individual role with the real Anthony Hopkins.

Conversely, Eminem has never played ANY role except the angry, violent, white trash punk. That makes it harder for Eminem to claim that, like Hopkins, he’s only an actor. If he IS an actor, he’s an actor with very limited range. He seems to play only one character, and it’s a repulsive character.

Moreover, EMinem comes from the world of rap, where “keeping it real” has become almost a religious dogma. When I was a teen, rock stars like Ozzy OSbourne and Alice Cooper did all kinds of sick things on stage, but as soon as the show was over, they were quick to admit that what they were doing was all an act. Cooper always showed a self-deprecating sense of humor, and had no trouble poking fun of his own image. Eminem, however, works hard to maintain his thug image, even when he’s off-stage. Like most rappers, he wants to be seen as a genuine hoodlum!

Nope, sorry, I swore off serial-killer movies after seeing Se7en. shiver :wink:

How about this tack: Anthony Hopkins played Hannibal Lechter. He also played Zorro, Van Helsing, and Captain Bligh. I’ve heard interviews with Hopkins where he came across as a very personable, intelligent, even gentle man. He talks about how he feels about his villians, how he plays them as evil, how he gets into character, etc. Similarly, I’ve seen many interviews where Sting says that “Every Breath You Take” is a song about a terrible obsessive suffocating kind of love. He talks about what he was saying with the song. He says he finds it incredibly creepy that people use that song at their weddings.

It has been said that Eminem “plays” (if you want to call it that) Slim Shady and Marshall Mathers. However, it seems like he insults his own mother and the mother of his child every time someone shoves a camera in his face. I haven’t seen many interviews, and what I have seen is probably just over-editted snippets, but still, he comes off as a total asshole. If he never speaks out of character, what reason does the public have to suspect that he doesn’t believe what the character espouses? Or maybe Marshall Mathers is less of a jerk than “Slim Shady”–but he’s still no one I’d ever want to meet. If Anthony Hopikins never played anything but serial killers, and all he ever talked about in interviews was how good liver tastes with fava beans and fifteen good ways to hide a body, I’d wonder about him, too.

If I’m speaking from ignorance here, by all means, give me some links to examples of Eminem saying that it’s wrong to beat your girlfriend, or that homosexuals are due the same respect as hetrosexuals.

p.s. I’m not saying that nobody should listen to Eminem, or that he doesn’t deserve awards, or whatever, just that no one should expect the public to be welcoming of his work if the only public persona he puts forth is that of an asshole.

Marshall Mathers is a jerk. But a fairly intellegent jerk. He knows that the only way he can succeed is to be so much of an asshole that people will talk about him and try to ban him. He has no real talent, except for self promotion.

First of all, thanks everyone for the input. I’m getting some solid explanations…but I just want to clear something up about what my REAL question is here.

I guess my point is…why does any musician have to do this? (Eminem is the current ‘unholy’ musician, but this applies to everyone, Ozzy, Marilyn Manson, Rammstein, ICP…) Music, theatre and books are the same. They’re all entertainment.

You don’t see Ralph Fiennes doing interviews saying “By the way, I’m not really a sadistic NAZI, that was just an act…” but we’re always waiting around for musicians to tell us that THEY’RE just an act.

Alice Cooper should be able to go out on stage, cut his head off in a guillotine and never mention it again. WE KNOW IT’S AN ACT.

Podkayne I’ve seen Eminem in interviews on MTV and the like where he comes across as, not a genius mind you, but relatively conversational and intelligent…and I’m sorry I don’t have a direct cite for it, but he DID say on mtv news that “these are just characters, just like actors” in referring to slim shady and the song ‘stan’. I remember because I looked at my husband and said, “please don’t tell me I’m agreeing with Eminem right now”


Considering that he openly berates his own wife in his music, calls her a whore, has a tattoo that says Kim, Rot In Pieces, has pulled a gun on a friend of her’s, flips off his fans, pulls guns on other fans, and pimps his daughter to get attention…yeah, sure. He’s just playing a role.


THEY may have been actors-Slim Shady and the likes. But Kim? I don’t think so. And I don’t ever recall Stephen King writing a novel where he offs Tabitha.

Any artist who does not want their egos to be confused with their creations bears the responsibility of making that distinction clear. Some media lend themselves to that more readily than others. Actors who play many different types of characters, for example, will have a very easy time convincing fans and critics that they are not the characters they play. Fans who watch an actor play the same role over and over again will probably start to associate that characters traits as belonging to the actor. This is especially true if the actor does not present the public with a “true” representation of his/her self via interviews or whatever. In the case of Eminem, he “plays” an incredibly abrasive, hate-filled, angst-ridden character exclusively. Not only that, but, as many people have said, he apparently lives his life off stage/album in a way that does very little to deliniate himself from his adopted persona. If he truely is nothing like Slim Shady and it’s all a well crafted social commentary, then he has the responsibility and duty to make that clear (something he has thus far failed to do). Just complaining that people don’t “get it” doesn’t hold water when those people have no data to show them otherwise.

That is indeed true, but what about soap actors / actresses who play one role for many years and then never appear on TV again (this is mainly the case in England)
The number of roles played is not related to the real person.

Have you ever known the real Eminem - not in public, in private? I seriously doubt it.

Another example is Vince McMahon, owner of the WWF, who plays a character on WWF TV called Mr. McMahon, who owns the WWF and hates most of the “good” wrestlers. As soon as the cameras are away, you KNOW that he has no animosity towards them. How is this so different from Eminem?

Most people aren’t really that hip. We DON’T think “Oh, it’s all an act” about everything we hear. When someone says things, we assume he means them, unless he says them in a context which we recognize as “Oh, this is make-believe.” A movie is such a context. A song may not be.

Popular music is often not presented as a fictional narrative, removed from the artist. I always assumed that Public Enemy meant to be understood as talking about their real political beliefs. Unless you give a cue that says, “I’m telling a story”, many people will assume you are serious until they figure out otherwise.

If “Slim Shady” were an opera, it would be no big deal. It would be a recognizable narrative structure. But we get songs thrown out onto the airwaves which purport to be the actual thoughts of this guy. How are we supposed to know he doesn’t mean it? Because “people aren’t really like that”? You wanna bet?

“Eminem” obviously doesn’t have an ounce of sense or he’d have considered the possible “misinterpretation” of his songs before burning them onto millions of CD’s. His record label should have its right to publish revoked. I could go on.

As for Anthony Hopkins and the “Hannibal” franchise, if I said what I think, this thread would go to the Pit in a flash. In short, some things are indefensible in any form, “free speech” and “artistic expression” be damned.