Has anyone ever noticed how Eminem’s “Like Toy Soldiers” and its corresponding music video rhetorically shift the meaning of Martika’s 1989 #1 pop hit, “Toy Soldiers”? Various outlets report “Toy Soldiers” is about losing a friend to drug addiction, and it emphasizes a Reagan-era message of personal responsibility for one’s actions:
If I don’t stop, the next one’s gonna be me…
Eminem’s “Like Toy Soldiers,” however, deletes drugs from the song (where it was only implied, anyway), and its music video displaces the message of personal responsibility to one that addresses the external conditions that make martyrs of too many young rap artists. Call it “Don’t hate the player, hate the game” theory.
But is blaming “the game” really code for contemporary Americans’ inability to take responsibility for playing with fire?