Music Features

M.I.A. and MBE: When Rap's Bad Girl Joins the Order of the British Empire

The controversial British rapper rose to fame in the shadows of the Sri Lankan Civil War. Does this accolade go against what she stands for?

This week, Maya Arulpragasam—the British rapper best known as M.I.A.—received her MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) from Prince William.

The MBE is awarded to Brits who have made major contributions to the arts, welfare organizations, and public service; previous recipients include Adele, Jackie Chan, and Ringo Starr. Though it's a coveted accolade, M.I.A. feels like a slightly ironic choice for the award.

The ribbon given to M.I.A. was sewn by her mother, Kala Pragasam, a refugee from Sri Lanka who began working for the Queen in 1986. At the time, jobs like making those ribbons was one of the few positions women who didn't speak English could hold (M.I.A. described it as the "classiest minimum wage job ever").

Despite the familial ties, M.I.A. accepting an MBE seems to conflict with her outspoken stances on world politics. After the end of the Sri Lankan Civil War in 2009, she criticized the BBC for downplaying the number of casualties. Her infamous 2010 video for "Born Free" graphically depicted a genocide of red-haired people, inspired by the real-life extrajudicial killing of Tamil males by the Sri Lankan Army. In 2012, she got into a Twitter argument with TV news personality Anderson Cooper after his blog inaccurately suggested she supported terrorism; the blog was hardly the first instance she was accused of being pro-terrorism, and it certainly wasn't the last. Throughout her career, she's had numerous spats with a number news outlets.

M.I.A. - Born Free www.youtube.com

Although the British Empire is now extinct, the Order of the British Empire has been criticized for the connections their name implies. In 1969, as part of his peace protests, John Lennon famously returned his MBE (30 years later, M.I.A. cited Lennon and suggested Obama should've done the same with his Nobel Peace Prize). In the 20th century, the British Empire was responsible for countless deaths due to famine, concentration camps, massacres, and more. Direct ties between that cruelty and the modern day Most Excellent Order of the British Empire are difficult to parse, but arguably, there's still a relation between them.

Even the record label M.I.A. founded, N.E.E.T., pulls its name from an acronym often used to describe impoverished people in Britain—"Not in Education, Employment, or Training"—a symbolic nod to her destitute, refugee roots. Just a month ago, she tweeted what seemed to be her own analysis of how England functions: "I will think only rich pretty people deserve to live...This is England now. F--k u you peasents. [sic]" Doesn't accepting an MBE clash with her opposition to class disparity? Does participating in these antiquated (and arguably arbitrary) traditions strip M.I.A. of her ruthless edge?

CULTURE

Sharon Osbourne Might Be the Worst Person on Earth

Ozzy used to seem scary, but Sharon's story about endangering and firing an assistant is pure nightmare fuel.

The Sun

As a child, I remember the Osbourne family getting a reality show, and hearing that the shuffling, mumbling Ozzy Osbourne had once bitten the head off a dead bat in front of a crowd of Black Sabbath fans.

At the time it was hard for me to process how this shambolic man could once have been capable of such a horrific act, and the mystery of that transformation made him somehow even more terrifying. I was much less concerned with his wife, Sharon, whose cheery screeching would have seemed at home in a HOA meeting anywhere in the world. To me she seemed like an ordinary suburban mom, unwittingly wedded to an inhuman fiend.

Ozzy Osbourne

Today, that's no longer the case. I have grown up, Sharon has unmasked herself, and I have come to realize that Ozzy was the innocent victim all along. His dazed shuffling was no act. It wasn't concealing anything. The recent rumors that he had taken to his deathbed were unfounded, but they reflect a deeper truth. He has long been drained of the dark energy he once held by extended proximity to a more powerful malevolent being. Sharon Osbourne is my new nightmare fuel.

She revealed her true form on a December 26th episode of the BBC game show Would I Lie to You? The format of the show involves celebrity panelists telling stories about themselves that the other panelists have to judge to be either true or lies. The story Sharon told about herself spoke of such outrageous and oblivious cruelty that there was no question she was telling the truth. Her summary of the events tells the story plainly enough: "I once sacked a member of my staff because he showed absolutely no sense of humor during a house fire."

Did Ozzy Osbourne on FIRE get his assistant sacked?! | Would I Lie To You - BBC www.youtube.com

Generally the summaries on this show—when the stories are true—are revealed to be slightly hyperbolic versions of the actual events, exaggerated so their fellow panelists will mistake them for lies. But as the panelists dug into Sharon's story, the details become more and more upsetting. She describes a mishap that unfolded with a candle gifted to the family for Christmas, with the result that she woke up to find their living room and half of Ozzy's hair on fire. After a failed attempt of whacking him with a magazine, she managed to douse her husband by pushing him into the fountain.

That part is fine—even if she does claim to have been laughing at his suffering. Where the horror begins is when Ozzy's assistant enters the picture. When panelist Liz Bonnin—known for presenting wildlife programs in the UK—asks where the assistant was throughout this first part of the story, Osbourne responds, with disgust twisting her features, "Sleeping!" She seems to think that it's this assistant's responsibility to operate at such a pure level of subservience that sleep ceases to be a basic bodily function and only serves as a standby state for such times when assistance isn't needed. Bonnin's baffled, "How dare he…?" summarizes the natural human response to this level of entitlement, but Osbourne is just getting started.

Sharon Osbourne upset Getty Images

Her next step was to rouse the assistant from the guest house and send him into the burning building to retrieve the family's dogs, but not before grabbing valuable paintings. It's certainly understandable that a person would want their pets rescued in a situation like this, and maybe even ask someone else to do the saving if you don't feel up to it yourself. It may not be a reasonable request, but emotions run high when pets are in danger. But the paintings? Do they not have insurance on these valuable works of art? If I were the kind of person who valued my things above the safety and well-being of humans, I would definitely get those things insured. But maybe for Sharon Osbourne, having a disposable underling on hand is the best kind of insurance. That seems to be her thinking when she complains that he was "hemming and hawing" at the order to re-enter the burning building that she herself would not go into.

The most disturbing part of the story comes after the arrival of firefighters, who provide the assistant with an oxygen mask to ameliorate the risk of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. In her own words, Sharon Osbourne's response was to say, "How very dare you! You work here, and you get more paintings out right now!" and to pull the oxygen mask from his face and give it to her dog instead. The hierarchy of value in her head is so clearly warped to only account for what serves her needs and desires. A dog has value as a companion, a painting has value as an asset, but a worker has no value as a human—only as means to their employer's ends. Their reliance on her wealth renders them subhuman.

sharon osbourne gif

Later on, when Sharon and Ozzy were laughing about the incident and the assistant expressed some small portion of their resentment at this inhumane treatment and the trauma Sharon Osbourne had inflicted—as well as some concern about the health of their lungs—Sharon, rolling her eyes, recounts saying, "If you don't think that's funny, do you think this is funny… you're fired."

No one thinks it's funny, Sharon. You seem to think this is a story of you being sassy and tough, but the truth is that you are the kind of monster that keeps sane people up at night. At this point, biting the head off a bat would humanize you.

Nintendo/ The Pokemon Company

With the launch of Pokemon Sword and Shield only a day away, Pokemon fans are absolutely fuming.

According to them, the long-standing Pokemon development company, Game Freak, lied to them about all sorts of things, and they've taken to Twitter to air out their grievances under #GameFreakLied. But what did Game Freak lie about specifically? Let's find out.

1. Dexit was a result of all new in-game models

Grookey Nintendo/ The Pokemon Company

In every other mainline Pokemon game, throughout the entire history of the franchise, all previous Pokemon could be obtained in the newest entry. But, in a move that fans have dubbed "Dexit" (a play on Pokedex and Brexit), Sword and Shield will be lacking over 400 different Pokemon species including favorites like Blastoise, Mewtwo, and Garchomp.

While Game Freak asserted that this was, in part, a practical decision due to the necessity of creating new, updated in-game models of every Pokemon for the Nintendo Switch, fans aren't buying it. Dataminers have synced up newer models with older models from Sun and Moon, seemingly showing that some models were, in fact, reused.

2. Playing Pokemon will make you popular

Pokemon Go Nintendo/ The Pokemon Company

Game Freak has always suggested that playing Pokemon games will help you to become popular. That's why they put such an emphasis on trading and battle, to encourage social interaction, right? Maybe it's time we put this Game Freak lie to rest, too.

Talking about Pokemon games does not necessarily make you friends, and setting all my online dating profile pictures to me holding a giant Pikachu plush does not seem to be upping my game. This is just a blatant marketing tactic by Game Freak to convince lonely, socially anxious people (like myself) to buy yet another product that will increase their social clout.

3. Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide

Epstein and Trump PORTRAIT OF AMERICAN FINANCIER JEFFREY EPSTEIN (LEFT) AND REAL ESTATE DEVELOPER DONALD TRUMP AS THEY POSE TOGETHER AT THE MAR-A-LAGO ESTATE, PALM BEACH, FLORIDA, 1997. CREDIT: DAVIDOFF STUDIOS/GETTY IMAGES

Game Freak keeps pushing the narrative that Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide, but that's not what the autopsy says.

Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself. Regardless of what Game Freak says, don't believe for a single second that the cameras outside the guarded prison cell of a billionaire pedophile with ties to some of the richest, most powerful people in the word, who is also on suicide watch, would just randomly "malfunction" and that, during that small period of time, said pedophile would be able to hang himself. No way, Jose. Jeffrey Epstein was murdered. Jeffrey Epstein's death was an inside job. #GameFreakLied