THE OBENSON REPORT

Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora

Manufacturing Pimps: Rewarding the Violent Repression of Black Women from Hip Hop to Hollywood

I lifted the following from a critical essay called Manufacturing pimps: Rewarding the violent repression of black women from hip hop to Hollywood by Ewuare Osayande, a political activist and author of several books including Blood Luxury and the forthcoming Misogyny and the Emcee. He is co-founder of POWER (People Organized Working to Eradicate Racism) and is creator of ONUS: Redefining Black Manhood (http://www.osayande.org/).

A lengthy but worthwhile and thorough critique of the film, Hustle & Flow. as well as the black Hollywood elite. I never did see Hustle & Flow. Everything I heard and read about it, from its Sundance glory until its theatrical release, turned me away from it altogether. I included only those parts of the essay I deemed strictly relevant for this blog. The essay is almost 2 years old, but still temporally apropos.

Here ya go...

"... This interracial gang rape mentality is best exemplified in the making of the blockbuster hit Hustle and Flow. Contrary to many people’s belief that the movie was a “Black film” made in the tradition of other Black pimp flicks in the Seventies, Hustle and Flow was written and directed by a white southerner by the name of Craig Brewer. Indeed Hustle and Flow harkens back to an even older tradition of white men creating outright racist representations called minstrel shows like Amos and Andy. Hustle and Flow is a neo-minstrel movie in that it is a contemporary cinematic projection of the white racist mind of Black life...

Much of “Hustle and Flow” is based on experiences from Craig Brewer’s own life. When he and his wife Jodi moved to Memphis in the mid-1990s, they didn't have any money. "My wife and I were really struggling," said Brewer. Jodi, a costume designer, started making outfits for strippers for extra cash, then worked as a waitress at a strip club and later began stripping there. (One of the characters in "Hustle & Flow" is a stripper and several scenes take place in a local strip club.)...

The racism should be obvious. Rather than defy the white supremacist lie and write a script that details how he prostituted his wife to make ends, he realized that he would make millions more if he kept with the “master narrative” that images Black men as pimps and Black women as whores. Images that white America can readily embrace.

... In Hustle and Flow Brewer... is acting out his taboo sexist fantasies by masking white male perversion in Black skin. The agenda, purpose and motivation of the characters have nothing to do with Black life, but everything to do with white male psychosis.

If he had written a film about his own experience, undoubtedly he would have had to face his personal sexism and his personal complicity in the system of patriarchy and male domination as a white man. In so doing, he would also have had to come to terms on some level with his own demons and the demons of his white brethren who have raped, exploited and abused women of every hue since European colonization....

Brewer would be assisted in this endeavor by none other than John Singleton of Boys N the Hood fame. Singleton, in his role as the film’s executive producer, served as the necessary Black stamp-of-approval that dissuaded the fears of nervous Hollywood execs concerned about a possible Black backlash...

How do we justify “pro-Black” Singleton’s involvement? We can’t! Of course, Singleton would probably state that this is not your typical pimp flick. I guess he would call it “Pimp-Lite.” Even though the main character DJay is portrayed as a reluctant Black pimp, he is still no less an exploiter. He still wields abusive power over the women in his house... The racist imaginary continues in the depiction of the women as well. Only the white prostitute is given a semblance of agency. She is the only one who seeks an escape from prostitution. She is the only one of the three who actually asserts herself beyond mere whoredom by the film’s end. In the Black women we see two favorite stereotypes deployed. One is of the hardened, foul-mouthed Black woman who despises Black men. The other is the whiney, weak and helpless Black woman. Both are too beat-down and oppressed to fight against their oppression, so they are forced by their condition to submit to it and engage in self-destructive behavior. There is nothing new about this movie or its depiction of Black people. Brewer’s interpretation of Black life is no different fundamentally from D. W. Griffith’s interpretation in Birth of a Nation. If he were alive, he would give the film four stars. The film only fosters and reinforces age-old codes and icons of white supremacy.

I wonder if Singleton would be down with a film that put a happy face on slavery. In this film, the main character is a white slave master who is conflicted with his role as slave owner and wants to get out the “game.” So he decides he’ll make a living by writing about whipping “them niggers,” rather than actually beating his slaves. He then commences to record the lyrics over the sampled beat of “Whistlin’ Dixie.” He coerces one of his enslaved field hands named Sambo to sing the hook “It’s Hard out Here for a Cracker” as we witness a whip hanging on the wall just behind Sambo as he stutters through his lines.

Singleton’s involvement in the making of Hustle and Flow exposes the continuing contradiction of African American manhood. Our notions of Black nationalism and Black struggle remain narrow and limiting when we act out our patriarchal prerogative and fail to accord to Black women the same sensitivity and respect for their experience that we demand from the system for ours. Singleton’s concern was not with the way the Black women are viewed. His own films are notorious for replicating stereotypical depictions of Black women. Rather, his concern was whether the Black man would be perceived as redeemable...

What the film does show is that the pimp aspiration is the same as the rapper aspiration: Power. In search of said power, DJay as pimp and The system is turning us out as a people. We are both the prostitute and the john. We pay to see ourselves exploited on the screen. We pay to listen to ourselves exploited on the CD player. We are paying with money, and we are paying with our souls. It is the best indication of just how deeply colonized we still are.

Today we are witnessing the rise of a Black bourgeoisie in Hollywood that has made its ascension upon the backs of their Black kinfolk who still exist in the hoods they have escaped from. Their notion of giving back is not producing films that honor the struggle of the Black poor, nor do their films instruct impoverished Blacks on how to fight against the system. Rather, their films exploit the Black poor; makes a mockery of their plight so they can make millions. The message of their movies is for the poor to grovel at the bottom, fighting and abusing each other, rather than against those who are responsible for their misery in the first place. More and more it will be these moneyed Blacks who will sit in the very places once reserved for white executives. And that will not be a cause for celebration, for they will not be our ambassadors but our oppressors by proxy. These are the true “hos” of the system, who have been able to benefit from prostituting themselves to the white industrial pimps they turn tricks for, while passing onto their people the abuse and suffering that should be theirs too..."

4 comments:

  1. UK Black Chick aka Wendy said...
     

    I remember reading this movie months before it came out and thinking, um... hmm... okay...

    A friend of mine, a biracial journalist, saw a preview of the movie and LOVED it!! She's also a musician and so I figured it was probably a decent movie.

    I saw it on a plane flying from London to NYC...

    Oh. My. God.

    This was the week after the Oscars where the song from the movie won the best soundtrack or song or ditty or something, award. I was gobsmacked.

    Yes, I do still speak to that friend, what am I gonna do...? But I no longer take her judgement as gospel.

    And, as a black woman, I notice the kinds of roles black women play in movies - I can't help but notice.

    So imagine my surprise on reading the following, with quotes from the first producer to show willing to get the film made:

    " "I had seen 'The Poor and Hungry' [a short film by Brewer], and thought it was beautiful," said Stephanie Allain, who received the script for "Hustle & Flow" from a friend. Brewer had sent the script for "Hustle & Flow" to countless producers, and was about to give up on the project when he received the call from Allain. "I had to have it," she explained, "Good material doesn't come along very often."

    Even with Allain onboard however, they were unable to get the funding they needed to make the movie. "It was going nowhere," said Allain, who sold her house to get some cash to stick with the project. "

    Source: http://www.indiewire.com/people/people_050718hustle.html


    Oh. My. God...

    Did I mention that Stephanie Allen is a black woman...?

    Gobsmacked.

  2. UK Black Chick aka Wendy said...
     

    BTW, first sentence was meant to start with

    "I remember reading ABOUT this movie..."

  3. Baby Please said...
     

    Ah… the pinnacle of power. This is why I think the pimp image has held and why so many black (particularly the uneducated) youth embrace this. This person has power – whereas historically black men have had little power. Actually, this person is very powerful; can control minds; can control lives; take, as their own, the earnings of someone else’s “labor.”. This is enormous power. The pimp lives and is embraced because he is the CEO, the Harvard-educated and trained scholar of the ghetto. He gets the glory, the money, the women, the fast cars. We don’t need YT to glorify him. We ourselves, place him on a pedestal all day, all night and have for decades. This is evidenced in black pop culture EVERYWHERE. Yeah; Brewer did his part. But…

  4. Invisible Woman said...
     

    I am at a complate duality when it comes to this.

    On one hand I despise pimps and evrything they stand for, but on the other hand I love to watch films about them.

    I need Sigmund Freud on that one.

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