Why Outrage Over Lil Nas X Hits Differently

Donald Trump’s election loss predictably outraged conservatives. That outrage has lasted for months and taken on several forms, from buying Dr. Seuss books en masse to renewed voter suppression efforts. Old vestiges and symbols of mid-century power of white influence are on the chopping block, and conservative media has taken up the fight against “cancel culture” as its main battle in the post-Trump era.

The media reaction is almost always the same, and somehow growing dumber. Some have even begun claiming conservatism is “cool since it allows and actively encourages the taboo and politically incorrect.

But Lil Nas X seems to have broken their brains entirely.

The rapper’s new music video for the song Montero (Call Me By Your Name) features some evocative visuals before concluding with Lil Nas X performing a lap dance for Satan himself. Lil Nas X also collaborated with Brooklyn-based custom shoe company MSCHF to created a limited number of “Satan Shoes”—Nike Air Max 97s  complete with pentagrams and human blood—which sold out instantly. Nike is now suing Lil Nas X and MSCHF for appropriating their brand, but the effect has already been achieved.

The entire rollout was coordinated with the reaction in mind. Lil Nas X knew that American outrage culture—specifically conservative media—would blow its collective top over such provocative sexual and satanic imagery. And that’s exactly what happened.


Right wing reaction to Lil Nas X’s video closely mirrors the outrage surrounding Dr. Suess’ and Mr. Potato Head’s supposed cancellations. But he flipped the power dynamic. God-fearing conservatives are now offended and outraged. And the introduction of Satan has taken their frothing disgust to an entirely different level. Satan possesses no moral redeemability whatsoever. Mentioning his name or evoking his image is arguably the biggest possible affront to perceived conservative morality. They believe the devil, and evil in general is who they’re railing against when they protect things like antiquated racist imagery and stereotypes in children’s television. Protecting the Muppets’ integrity is their mission from god, because, well, how could it not be?

But that perceived morality makes it even more difficult to play both sides of the coin. You can’t claim that transgressive conservative culture is cool when its leaders fill their diapers as soon as devil is mentioned. (A 1990s-style Satanic panic is decidedly uncool, per our sources.) But there’s also no intellectual or moral superiority here, either. Lil Nas X’s video is evocative, but it’s also obviously, almost painfully, designed to produce this kind of reaction. Getting Fox News hosts and Candace Owen-types to lose their shit is the point. In retaliation, they invoke obviously not immoral topics in American society—gay marriage, trans rights, protesting police brutality—as the real transgressions. The entire act reveals them as the exact whining cultural reactionaries they claim to hate so much. But the main difference is they’re whining about pop culture, not things that that actually oppress and kill people.