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  • Writer's pictureAlexis Morillo

Mac Miller, Ariana Grande, and “The Yoko Effect”

Updated: Sep 14, 2018

The night of September 7, every single pregame and party in Ithaca had one thing in common — at least one Mac Miller song was playing on aux. Mac Miller was the soundtrack to our generation’s awkward middle school years and formative high school years, and his discography followed us all the way through college.

When I was sent a screenshot of a TMZ article on September 7 with the headline “Mac Miller Dead at 26 of Apparent Overdose” I couldn’t believe it. The journalism student in me needed a better source than TMZ to believe it. And then all of the stories started clogging up my social media feeds: E! News, People, Rolling Stone, LA Times, and so on. News of an admired artist passing away is always heartbreaking but his age and his impact on my demographic specifically made it all the more personal.

In light of his death, not only was Mac Miller’s name a trending topic on Twitter but his ex girlfriend Ariana Grande was also trending. Trolls took to social media to place the blame on Grande for his untimely death saying her quick engagement to Pete Davidson worsened Miller’s drug and alcohol addiction. This sort of media blame isn’t new to Grande. After her split from Miller, Grande spoke out against a Twitter troll regarding the role his illness played in their relationship while still wishing him the best. (Tweets below)

Headlines with Grande as a main subject like “Ariana Grande Is 'Distraught' by Ex Mac Miller's Death and 'Can't Believe' He's Gone” on People made social media rounds. Media outlets were quick to call on her to speak out on his death or to portray her as the damsel in distress when they should have been honoring the legacy of Miller himself. This negative portrayal of widowed celebrities is unfortunately not a novel concept in the media. Coined the “Yoko Effect,” the idea that female partners are connected to the actions of their male counterparts has been pervasive in the entertainment industry, according to Rolling Stone.

Rolling Stone was one of the first outlets to call out fans and other outlets for their manipulation of Ariana Grande’s reputation. Their headline and sub read:

‘You Did This To Him’: Ariana Grande, Mac Miller and the Demonization of Women in Toxic Relationships

The lasting legacy of the “Yoko Effect” and the powerful — and damaging — myth that women are responsible for their male partner’s actions

Rolling Stone wrote that using Ariana Grande as a periphery plot point in Mac Miller tribute articles diluted his legacy “to be that of a once-boyfriend to a popular singer.” Writing about the past relationship of Miller and Grande is not newsworthy and should have not been allowed to be sensationalized by tabloids and credible mainstream entertainment news outlets alike (I’m looking at you, People). As journalism becomes all the more instantaneous via mobile devices, the media has to do better in deciding what is newsworthy to their readers. Women are already more likely to be highly scrutinized and there is no space for that in the realm of pop culture news anymore. While outlets should have been honoring Mac Miller’s work in the music industry and philanthropy with charities like Make-a-Wish they tarnished this opportunity by problematic, sexist content.

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