Montero’s Backlash and Reclamation

How Lil Nas X is Using Media to Give Queer Audiences Acceptance

Thatcher Fox Richard, Contributing Writer

Author Disclosure: as a queer journalist I will mainly be discussing this video as a form of queer media. This is not to disregard the contributions Lil Nas X has made as a person of color, however as a white journalist I do not believe it to be my place to broach that topic. 

When Lil Nas X’s song “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” was released in early March, there was not much talk around the song. However the song’s corresponding music video released a week ago sparked uproar, throwing the video and its artist into the limelight. The video has heavy religious depictions of heaven and hell, ultimately sending the message that Lil Nas X would rather go to hell if it meant he could carve out a place to love and accept himself as gay. The video itself is sexually charged, but not anything out of the ordinary for the music industry today which points to the fact that the outrage is not the religious depictions nor the promiscuity. The outrage sparks from the fact that there is a popular queer creator revered as being “one of the good gay people” for sanitizing his queerness, which changed with the release of “Montero”. Conservatives are mad Lil Nas X is rejecting the approval of his cis-het male fanbase by creating music exclusively by and for queer people. 

Vicious criticism came for Lil Nas X from all sides. Various right wing twitter accounts. Conservative Christian parents. Rappers like Joyner Lucas, even the governor of South Dakota Kristi Noem made statements regarding the video. Despite the unsolicited commentary, Lil Nas X proves time and time again his skill in using a large twitter platform to swat down venomous hate. 

Governor Noem released a statement on “Montero” saying, “Our kids are being told that this kind of product is, not only okay, it’s ‘exclusive.’ But do you know what’s more exclusive? Their God-given eternal soul. We are in a fight for the soul of our nation.” This is one of a myriad of comments stating Lil Nas X is using his platform to corrupt the youth of America, to which Lil Nas X said, “There was no system involved. I made the decision to create the music video. I am an adult. I am not gonna spend my entire career trying to cater to your children. That is your job.” It is true Lil Nas X’s job is not to censor himself for any audience. It’s also important to take note that queer-coded religious trauma is an experience far too many queer adults had to experience as children. 

Perhaps allowing queer kids the opportunity to see media made by and for queer people will break the cycle of giving ourselves the hate growing up in the church makes us think we deserve. Lil Nas X’s feelings about the hate from Conservative Christians is well said in a tweet stating, “I spent my entire teenage years hating myself because of the shit y’all preached would happen to me because I was gay. So I hope you are mad, stay mad, feel the same anger you teach us to have toward ourselves.” 

The sanctity of religion and corruption of youth never has been such a loud talking point for any other forms of religiously depicted media. No one was outraged at the release of Billie Eilish’s “All The Good Girls Go To Hell”, or even Hozier’s “Take Me To Church”. Billie Eilish and Hozier both make use of religious depiction in each of their respective music videos. Eilish uses imagery of demonic possession, and Hozier depicts graphic religiously charged hate crimes toward gay people. The difference between these two songs and “Montero” is that, while all art forms are writing off the church, “Montero” is reclaiming acceptance the church has forbidden queer people to have. The song is titled “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” because it is about Lil Nas X (whose real name is Montero Lamar Hill) giving himself the acceptance he never received. Lil Nas X made a video that showed homosexuality, something the church rejects more than anything else, in a light of reclamation. The outrage comes from the realization that Conservative Christians are losing their hate-filled grip on queer youth that has caused oppression for so many decades. By making and releasing the “Montero” video, Lil Nas X is reclaiming parts of himself that he has been told to hate and suppress, and is showing so many other queer people they can as well.