Mac Miller’s Death Is Not Ariana Grande’s Fault




On Sept. 7, 2018, famed American rapper Mac Miller was found dead in his San Fernando Valley home from an apparent drug overdose. Shortly after the world found out, the public immediately pointed its collective finger at Miller’s ex-girlfriend, Ariana Grande.

Miller’s death awakened an outburst of anger in many fans. If she tried harder to wean him off his addiction, he would still be here. If she waited for him to get clean, he would have. Ultimately, those judgments, even in their grammatical construction, lay the responsibility of Miller’s emotional difficulties on Grande.

This celebrity drug overdose death is certainly not as shocking as it would seem, and it is not going to be the last. And it is certainly not Ariana Grande’s fault.

The American rapper has a rather extensive history of substance abuse, dating back to before his relationship with Grande. In recent years, Miller had spoken openly about his past drug-related issues; he even referred to his own death on “What You Do” from his 2014 mixtape: “A drug habit like Philip Hoffman will probably put me in a coffin,” Miller rapped.

After Grande and Miller split in May 2018, fans started to connect the fallout with his dangerous habits. In the week following, Miller was arrested for DUI and hit-and-run after crashing into a power pole with his SUV. One fan on Twitter blamed Miller’s car incident on Grande, claiming that “she had dumped him for another dude after he poured his heart out on a ten-song album to her.” Grande responded on Instagram that her relationship with Miller was toxic and that “shaming a woman for a man’s inability to keep his s— together is a very major problem.” This would not be the last time that women would have to defend their decision to leave an unhealthy relationship.

Following Miller’s death, Grande’s social media platforms again were inundated with crude insults blaming her for the rapper’s death, prompting Grande to disable her comments on her Instagram platform. One user told her that Miller “did this because of you.” Another wrote, “thankx [sic] for killing a legend.” #ArianaKilledMac even started circulating on Instagram.

A close friend of Miller’s, Shane Powers, spoke out in response to the backlash. On his podcast, he explicitly stated: “She was a f— G to him. There could not have been anybody more supportive of him being sober than Ariana.” In light of Powers’ message, it is absolutely ridiculous to place blame on Grande, who was clearly a positive figure in his life.

Still, people wrongly blame Grande, not just for failing to heal him, but also for breaking up with him at a time when he needed professional rehabilitative help. Grande is neither a therapist nor an addiction counselor, and she should not have to be.

Mac Miller was a grown adult who was responsible for himself, his decisions and his life. Instead of being referred to just as “Ariana’s ex,” whom she had to look after, he should be recognized for his achievements but also held accountable for his actions. And although he had some low points — as we all do — he was an accomplished rapper at a young age and an extremely talented musician. He continually evolved as he was also battling mental illness and addiction. That his fans were so quick to blame Grande after his untimely death is indicative of a larger problem.

There is a misogynistic pattern when men, especially high-profile stars, find themselves in trouble. They and those around them all too often search for a woman to blame, even when the woman is not at fault. Questions such as “What was she wearing?” override “Is she okay?” In the case of Grande, much of the public questioned her responsibility to Miller instead of the nature of the relationship and her right to leave. This conclusion is drawn again and again. Its circumstances will vary, but the conclusion is always that it is somehow a woman’s fault.

A month prior to Miller’s death, Grande was receiving criticism for her outfit choice at Aretha Franklin’s memorial service. She was criticized for dressing provocatively, once again the focus on her, and not Pastor Charles Ellis’ hand on her waist that eventually slid further up to the point where he was visibly groping her breast. Once again, the public was asking the wrong questions.

Just a month ago, Demi Lovato also experienced a drug overdose. Though she recovered and had been committed to rehabilitation immediately after, many social media users were quick to harass Lovato and her fans for being so distraught, claiming that Lovato “did it to herself.” One Twitter user stated, “she’s a druggie and it was her decision.” Another user tweeted: “Demi Lovato can shove a massive tree trunk up her a—, her own fault and we don’t give a s—.” In yet another high-profile drug overdose, the woman is found to be responsible, not anyone else.

The expectations that our patriarchal society places on women to serve their male partners, instantly heal past trauma from abuse and continuously forgive them for that abusive behavior result in a vicious cycle that lingers as we perpetuate the idea that women are to be blamed for men’s mistakes. What people need to understand is that another person’s behavior is out of anyone else’s control. In regard to Miller’s overdose — as well as Lovato’s — it is important to recognize the real issue of drug addiction and the stigma surrounding mental health. The issue of addiction is a tragic and frightening epidemic that is proliferating at an alarming rate. The fact of the matter is that unless we, as a community, take action in solving the opioid crisis, the tragedies will not end. We need to stop blaming women, and we need to start asking the right questions.

If you are looking for someone to be angry at for Miller’s death — in addition to other fallen addicts — do not let it be the person who tried helping him. In the case of Grande and Miller — and innumerable toxic relationships the world over — abuse is combined with issues of mental health and addiction, at which point it gets even messier. We must respect a woman’s right to be independent and able to leave a toxic relationship in which they feel unsafe. We cannot just sweep another opioid-related death under the rug until the next one, constantly searching for something or someone to blame other than who is truly at fault.

Plenty of things deserve criticism: a government that is complicit in the opioid epidemic, doctors who over-prescribe patients and pharmaceutical companies who push their products at the cost of human health. When tragedy strikes, too often we point fingers at things simply based our own preconceived notions. We must accept responsibility when necessary and work to prevent further victim-blaming. The energy it takes to craft misdirected hateful comments would be much better spent coming together to find solutions to the real issue at hand.