By Clay Thompson | Intern
A week ago, Lil Nas X and MSCHF announced a partnership where the company would produce custom Nike shoes with satanic imagery, including a pentagram, an inverted cross, a Bible verse reference to Satan and one drop of human blood in every shoe. All 666 pairs of shoes sold out in less than a minute after becoming available, but this announcement stirred up quite a lot of controversy.
Many people online were outraged by this move by Lil Nas X, a famous singer well known for his hit song “Old Town Road,” who recently posted a music video about his new song “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name).” This video was fraught with religious imagery, especially of hell and of Satan, with Lil Nas sliding down a pole into hell and giving the devil a lap dance. Fresh off the release of the video, which was controversial unto itself, the “Satan Shoes” were announced. This brought on a whole new wave of controversy, with many people holding religious beliefs especially offended by both the video and the shoes.
The shoes’ announcement and release to the public started what can only be described as a sort of “social media war” between those who supported Lil Nas X and the shoes and those who believed both the video and shoes to be inappropriate and offensive. Many opposing the shoe, believing them to be produced by Nike, called for a boycott of the company. Nike has refuted these claims, saying the shoes were not only produced without their authorization and approval, but they have sued MSCHF for trademark infringement and dilution. As of now, the court has granted Nike a temporary restraining order of the shoes while the case continues.
Being a Christian and conservative, I have some particular opinions about this decision, but I’ve decided to start off my argument through the eyes of a regular consumer.
The decision to produce the “Satan Shoes” by MSCHF and Lil Nas X was in very poor taste. The company had to realize that this announcement would receive at least some major level of controversy — maybe that was the intent. The controversy most likely caused the shoes to sell out so fast online. However, these decisions will likely harm the company more than it will benefit. Sure, it made its shoe sales and likely forged a business partnership with a celebrity, but in doing so, it alienated and insulted millions of consumers in the process. Hindsight may be 20/20, but even MSCHF should have seen this mistake from a mile away. Also, the suit against them from Nike spells out serious damage to the reputation and credibility of MSCHF.
Satanic imagery and products, while not always a market commodity, are something that consumers have previously experienced and dealt with. What makes this product so unbearable to many Christians today is not only the drop of blood in the shoe (in the air bubble, but still), but it is the fact that this has been mainstreamed. Many if not most satanic products in the past have been fringe items for buyers. Items that were not marketed so blatantly and in the open, and yet these “Satan Shoes” were. This not only shows Christians how far companies like MSCHF will go to make money but how far they will go to profit off of religious hate and intolerance towards Christians.
Yes, I went there. Lil Nas X has been very vocal after the release of the music video and the shoes about how he feels about the Christian community, first with a tweet saying that he wanted Christians to “feel the same anger” that he claimed to feel about himself based on his sexual orientation and that Christians preached what would happen to him because of that.
While his feelings of hurt and anger are sad to see, he is using popular stereotypes and is scapegoating all Christians for the words and actions of only a few. Many, if not most, Christians do not hate the LGBTQ community, but are called by God to love everyone. It is not a Christian’s job to judge others on how they live their lives, but to show everyone God’s love and preach his word to those who will listen. While I do not believe that Lil Nas X is a bad person or that his anger against Christians doesn’t come from a valid place given past discrimination against the LGBTQ community, he should not group all Christians into the category of those who had hurt him personally.
He is a person people look up to and respect. His influence can sway many people’s perceptions and opinions. So by glorifying Satan with the “Satan Shoes” and by directing a hateful message towards Christians, he is, hopefully inadvertently, causing many others to feel intolerance towards Christians as well.
Some may argue that Lil Nas X was just venting his frustration and didn’t really mean to offend the Christian community. Just watch his “apology video” on YouTube about the “Satan Shoes,” where he pretends to offer an apology about the shoes, then it suddenly cuts to his music video. If this doesn’t show his lack of respect for the Christian community, then I don’t know what does. It seems like every day another celebrity is apologizing to a different community for saying, doing or posting things that were regrettable and controversial. While I personally do not agree with this “cancel culture” ideal, I find it ironic that the Christian community is the one celebrities don’t seem to mind offending.
All in all, there were multiple reasons why producing the “Satan Shoes” was a bad idea, but ultimately, the real problem is that the shoes are causing an even greater divide between Americans. I realize that a lot of people don’t mean to cause these controversial events which further divide us, but that is the end result. Companies like MSCHF don’t care who they offend with their product as long as they keep raking in profits and clout. I’m certain Lil Nas X feels the exact same way based on his recent posts and behavior.
Even though we all believe in different things, that does not mean we cannot get along. While there have been many internal political disagreements and discords throughout American history, there have also been times of great peace and cooperation. If we don’t start working towards being kinder and more understanding of each other, America looks like it could be in a lot of trouble very soon.
As for MSCHF and Lil Nas X, both celebrities and companies need to listen to the complaints and opinions of their fans and consumers. All of them. Instead of focusing on what will make them more money, focus on what the consumers want or do not want. This will not only make the people more loyal to your brand but will likely bring in more buyers as well.
Lastly, I just hope that MSCHF and Lil Nas X can see where they went wrong and strive to fix things. There are so many other great ideas and products that can be made that most people will actually enjoy, but the “Satan Shoes” were just not one of them.