Depending on whom you ask today, Macklemore is either a hero or something else entirely. One thing that is inescapably, unarguably true: the man behind “One Love” and “Thrift Shop” cleaned up at the Grammy awards last night, and has thus attracted far more attention and scrutiny than he might otherwise.
On Twitter, that’s involved people scouring through Macklemore’s 15,000 tweets for unguarded messages sent before he was a star. And the results, critics claim, prove startlingly at odds with his current image as a proponent of LGBT rights.
We can’t print either of the offending tweets here, but will summarize it this way: One makes an unfunny “no homo” joke, and the other uses a derogatory word for gay women. The tweets would seem inappropriate coming from anyone, but are particularly wince-worthy given that Macklemore sings the gay anthem of our times and, in fact, supervised a mass marriage, of gay and straight couples, at the awards show yesterday.
But let’s dig a little deeper.
Of Macklemore’s 15,510 tweets, fewer than two dozen ever use the word “gay.” They are almost exclusively about gay marriage. (In November 2011, Macklemore tweeted to a fellow musician that he unfollowed him because “you still say ‘gay’ on Twitter … as in ‘that was gay.’”)
The exception is that “no homo” joke, which many have called homophobic. (“Yes, I know it’s a 4-5 year old tweet. But it speaks to his current attitude and engagement with the LGBTQ movement,” one Gawker commenter griped.) But the tweet can also be read as a joke about people who idiotically say “no homo.” It’s hard to tell, given the lack of context and tone online — something Macklemore should maybe keep in mind going forward — but all the uncharacteristic exclamation points would imply a certain level of sarcasm.
As for Macklemore’s other tweet, a quick scroll through LGBT event listings in Seattle, Macklemore’s hometown, suggests the derogatory word he drops in his tweet is, in fact, the official name of an annual charity event. The proceeds benefit local groups that work with the gay community.
The obvious takeaway, of course, is that pulling isolated, context-free snippets out of an artist’s Twitter feed and using that as an argument to undermine his integrity/entire career is neither fair nor particularly reliable. But it’s also yet another good reminder that the things you send out into the Internet ether stay there in perpetuity, even after you become a wildly popular Grammy-winning musician (… or presidential candidate, or parent, or whatever else. It’s honestly difficult to imagine how the Twitter/Facebook generation will survive scrutiny or opposition research later in life.)
In case anyone was concerned about this aspect of Macklemore’s legacy, he has been demonstrably, actively interested in thrift-shopping since his pre-fame days. I repeat: Thrift-shopping was not a political gimmick.
At least that’s settled.
Update: Macklemore confirmed on Jan. 28 that one of his “offending” tweets was indeed just the proper name of an annual LGBT fundraiser. Per the Seattle Gay News, the most recent edition benefitted the Capitol Hill Alano Club, a non-profit that houses groups that work with the LGBT community.