Ariana Grande, Mac Miller, and Misplaced Blame

By Madison Baker

By now, you’ve probably heard about the May 2018 breakup of Ariana Grande and Mac Miller. Arguably, it has become one of the defining moments of summer 2018 in Hollywood. This breakup is the first in a series of events that has received more public attention than their relationship did over the course of two years.

Grande in particular has come under fire after this breakup for a multitude of reasons: Miller’s intoxicated car crash and subsequent DUI arrest in May; her quick engagement to comedian Pete Davidson in June; and even for Miller’s apparent overdose and death in September. Fans and social media users almost immediately began blaming Grande for his death after the news broke. She received so much criticism that she even disabled the comment function on her Instagram profile.

This blame is frustratingly misplaced. Miller has never been shy about sharing his struggles with depression and substance abuse, which date back to 2012 — well before he and Grande began their romantic relationship. He owned up to his addiction, so why are people choosing to blame his former partner for his heartbreaking downward spiral?

Misogynistic, Misplaced Blame

Blaming Grande for his overdose is dehumanizing and misogynistic. Grande, who has only wished him well even after their breakup, asserts that she tried her best to help him overcome his substance abuse. Not only does placing the blame on Grande ignore Miller’s history of addiction, it invalidates all the support she provided.

Women are often expected to change or “improve” the men in their lives — especially their romantic partners. That kind of expectation ensures that men won’t be held accountable for their own actions. Instead, it forces women into a difficult position where they are simultaneously responsible for their partner’s behavior and for maintaining their own well-being.

Women are typically put in this position more frequently than men. They are socialized to perform emotional labor for others around them, especially men who are or were their romantic partners. But being romantically involved with someone does not require fixing their problems for them, or even helping a partner work through them.

The Pressures of Addiction

One of Miller’s close friends, Shane Powers, said that Grande was one of the biggest supporters of Miller’s sobriety. However, there’s only so much one person can do. Addiction is a complex, difficult disease that millions of Americans struggle with. Despite Grande’s efforts, professional medical help from nurses, doctors, therapists, and other drug recovery specialists is often more effective at helping patients find and maintain sobriety.

Not only are qualified medical professionals trained to help people overcome addiction, they are not personally invested in a patient’s sobriety the way a friend, family member, or loved one is. Being so close to someone battling addiction can actually make it more difficult to help them. Substance abuse takes a heavy toll on the user and their loved ones. Watching someone you care about struggle with their addiction is emotionally exhausting and can put a great deal of stress on your relationship.

Grande has alluded to the fact that Miller’s struggles with substance abuse was a contributing factor to their breakup. She called their relationship “toxic” and said that though she was not open about their struggles at the time, it was often “hard” and “scary.” Just because you don’t notice signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship doesn’t mean a relationship is thriving.

Choosing to be in a relationship is just that: a choice. It is not a requirement to stay with a partner for any reason, and especially not if things become toxic or begin to negatively affect your well-being. And watching a loved one struggle with substance abuse is heart-wrenching. At a certain point, you simply have to put yourself first. No woman, including Grande, deserves to be shamed or criticized for doing that, especially as she copes with the loss of a significant presence in her life.

Though celebrities have chosen to give their fans access to them and their personal lives online, keep in mind that they are still human. They are people who you don’t know in real life; even though they may not feel like strangers to you, they are. It’s highly inappropriate to harass a stranger on the internet for the death of her ex-partner just because she is famous, accessible, and easy to blame.

Grande is a human being with real feelings who is currently dealing with the death of a person she loved. Instead of insulting and blaming her, let her grieve in peace.

Helpful Resources

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please reach out and get help. For more information or assistance, consult the following resources:

Narcotics Anonymous

Al-Anon Family Groups

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens