American rapper Mac Miller died of an alleged drug overdose on September 7. He was just 26 years old. Miller had suffered with substance abuse since the age of 15, famously admitting to Noisy that using drugs was “dangerous, dude. But they’re awesome”. The announcement shook the core of the music industry and, although I wasn’t an avid fan, it shook me. Not only did the industry lose an intelligent, energetic talent, but his death comes at an age so close to my own that it’s also a frightening reminder of our own mortality.
In a statement, Miller’s family described him as “a bright light in this world for his family, friends and fans.” Meanwhile, close friends and colleagues took to the Twittersphere to obituarise the young star. Post Malone said, “You changed so many lives. Had so much love in your heart…Never a more kind and sincere and beautiful person”, while singer Charlie Puth said, “I can’t keep losing friends like this…I wish I spent more time with you these past weeks…I’m so sorry”.
Yet, erupting through these mournful messages almost as quickly as the news broke, was a more sinister and dangerous narrative: The blame for Miller’s death, in the eyes of some, was not his history of substance abuse or his mental health, but his ex-girlfriend Ariana Grande.
In a now edited article by TMZ, the outlet that first reported the death, a reporter wrote: “Miller has had trouble recently with substance abuse…in the wake of his breakup with Ariana Grande.” Fans of the rapper flooded the internet to lay blame at Grande’s feet. One Twitter user was reported by UNILAD as saying, “@ArianaGrande look what you did to Mac Miller! He needed support and you weren’t there for him so he could move on. Instead you got engaged with another after two weeks of dating just to f**k with Mac Miller!” Another said, “[…] Yeah I get why he would be upset and why he would wanna take drugs bc drugs stop all of the pain for a while. So honestly it is sorta her [Grande’s] fault”. Grande has since deactivated the comments section on her Instagram account following a surge of misogynistic, hateful and relentless abuse hurled at her following his death.
Elsewhere, global news outlets published loud headlines referring to the K.I.D.S artist as simply “Ariana Grande’s ex-boyfriend”. These shamelessly shifted the attention to Grande, which diminishes Miller’s legacy as an accomplished musician, producer and artist, to simply the ex-boyfriend of a famous pop star.
“Headlines referring to Miller as ‘Ariana Grande’s ex-boyfriend’ diminish his legacy as an accomplished musician, producer and artist to simply the ex-boyfriend of a famous pop star”
Grande also faced similar online harassment at the hands of Miller’s fans after a hit and run incident that occurred in May 2018. More recently, when cameras caught the moment a pastor touched Grande’s breast at Aretha Franklin’s funeral earlier this month, many focused instead on the length of her dress—as if that was the reason such atrocious behavior occurred.
Grande isn’t the first woman to be demonized for refusing to shoulder and absorb the trauma and behaviors of men. Yoko Ono was famously blamed for the breakup of the Beatles. Rock star Courtney Love is still blamed for her husband Kurt Cobain’s drug addiction and subsequent suicide, too—a deeply harmful phenomenon that blurts out the expectation that women are obligated caretakers.
“Grande isn’t the first woman to be demonized for refusing to shoulder and absorb the trauma and behaviors of men”
Should Grande have stayed with the rapper to see him recover from his addictions before moving on? Absolutely not—especially at the expense of her own mental wellbeing—and she shouldn’t have to feel guilt for it either. It seems it’s easier to ignore the glaring, complicated and insidious disease that is addiction than it is to blame one single person—much easier if it’s an ex.