Where’s the outrage now? That was the question Lil Nas X posed on Twitter following news that an exclusive set of skateboards with Tony Hawk’s blood painted on them sold quickly and without any moral outcry. “are y’all ready to admit y’all were never actually upset over the blood in the shoes? and maybe u were mad for some other reason?” the rapper’s tweet read in part.
Lil Nas X is referring to his controversy earlier this year, when he announced that he would be selling a limited batch (666 pairs, to be exact) of “Satan shoes,” customized and repurposed Nikes Air Max 97s that each had a golden pentagram attached and most controversially, contained a drop of human blood. The shoes were inspired by his song “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” and its music video, which famously depicts him sliding down a pole to hell and giving Satan a lap dance.
Conservative uproar ensued, leading even to corporate wrath, as Nike threatened to take action. Part of why detractors were so scandalized had to do supposedly with the shoe’s central gimmick of human blood. The lack of any public ire over the similar concept of Tony Hawk’s new skateboards, then, does seem glaringly suspect. The inconsistency, as Lil Nas X is implying, centers on homophobia toward him as a publicly queer artist. Most were upset about the Satan shoes ultimately because it was peddled by someone who was not only a gay pop star, but specifically an overtly sexual gay pop star. They can stomach most of our stars as sexualized beings, but not if they’re gay (and especially not if they're gay and Black).
Some are claiming that Lil Nas X parallel is unfair because while these skateboards simply have the blood, his shoes were overtly affiliated with satanism. The Satan part is the thing that the critics, mostly religious, are in fact ostensibly mad at. To claim this, though, is flimsy at best — the specific crowd that is pressed about a pentagram dangling from a shoe or that its name references Satan are in fact probably bothered more by something else about Lil Nas X.
That is, in fact, what "Montero" is literally all about — if people like Nas have always been told that queerness equates to deviance and eternal damnation, then he was going to give the ultimate middle finger by leaning in (or more specifically, bending over) to Satan himself. Ironically, by claiming their disproportionate anger is solely about Satan, his critics are implicitly confirming how they really feel about queer identity. For them, the two are one and the same.