Making Mac Miller's Death About Ariana Grande Is a Sexist Distraction
"It was not Ariana Grande's responsibility to save Mac Miller in the relationship, and it’s not her burden to carry now. The entertainment industry needs to find a way to support victims of drug abuse."
In September, TMZ broke the news that Mac Miller (born Malcolm James McCormick) passed away at the age of 26 from an apparent drug overdose. The Pittsburgh-bred rapper, musician, and songwriter whose hits included "Self Care" and "My Favorite Part" was found unresponsive in his Los Angeles home.
The County of Los Angeles medical examiner said in a statement: "Authorities were called and Miller was pronounced dead at the scene at 11:51 AM. At this time, an autopsy is pending and a cause of death has not been determined."
Immediately after the news broke, there was a wave of social media posts and conversations about Miller's musical evolution and ex-girlfriend Ariana Grande. The couple went public with their relationship in September 2016 and Grande announced their break up in May 2018 citing "work schedules" as the issue. Later that month, Miller totaled his Mercedes G-Wagon truck, wrapping it around a utility pole, after driving intoxicated with a blood-alcohol nearly level twice the legal limit, as reported by TMZ.
For years, Miller had been transparent about his substance abuse issues —specifically with his consumption of lean (a combination of codeine and promethazine). "Weed didn’t relax me from everything, it made me more paranoid about all the shit happening," Miller said in a 2016 FADER documentary. "So I needed to get a drug that was a little more numbing if you will. And less, like, in your head. So yeah, that’s what sparked me doing other drugs because I hate being sober. I wanted a drug to do."
But despite his honesty about his dependency issues, people on social media used Grande as a scapegoat for his car accident.
"Mac Miller totaling his G-Wagon and getting a DUI after Ariana Grande dumped him for another dude after he poured his heart out on a ten song album to her called the divine feminine is just the most heartbreaking thing happening in Hollywood," said Twitter user Elijah Flint. Flint’s tweet went viral with 31,000 retweets, 140,000 likes, and lengthy discussions in the thread about what part the singer played in his accident.
In response to Flint's tweet, Grande tweeted a statement reading, "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, which btw isn't the case..."
After the news broke, people on Twitter and Instagram were quick to attribute Miller's death to Grande, and the singer received so much online harassment that she eventually turned off comments on her Instagram page.
"Women carry a tremendous burden of being held responsible when things go wrong in their families," trauma psychologist and associate professor at Yale School of Medicine Dr. Joan M. Cook told Broadly over email. "We’ve been overly blamed for causing our children’s dysfunctions as well as preventing their tragedies. Blaming the victim (often a woman) and exonerating the perpetrator (often a man) is a well-known phenomenon in cases of sexual assault as well. These incidents are perfectly in line with blaming Ariana Grande, over the overdose of her ex-boyfriend, Mac Miller's overdose."
National Organization for Women (NOW) president Toni Van Pelt had similar sentiments. "What happened to Ariana Grande was appalling, dehumanizing, and blatantly sexist," Pelt said in a statement to Broadly. "Harassment, including online harassment, of women, is driven by misogyny, fear, and the need for power. Why are women often blamed for moving on from unhealthy relationships with men? Historically, men are traditionally seen as being providers and therefore the breadwinners in a relationship while women take on all of the emotional burdens of being at home with the kids (if any), cooking, cleaning and providing emotional support for men."
Pelt also explained that Grande's role in her relationship with Miller wasn't as his guardian/caretaker. "Mac Miller’s death from an [alleged] overdose is unfortunate and of his own doing. It had absolutely nothing to do with Ariana Grande. It was not her responsibility to save him in the relationship and it’s not her burden to carry now. The entertainment industry needs to find a way to support victims of drug abuse."
While family, friends, and fans mourn the loss of Miller's short-lived career, Cook believes it's also vital that we remember not to let grief cloud patriarchal/sexist lines of thought when we're looking for answers in the cloud of loss.
"It’s likely easier, more convenient, or baked into society’s norms, to scapegoat a woman as opposed to holding an adult man responsible for his own behavior. But the time has come to work on this as a society."