Save Me from All These Pimps?
and Film Critic
As much as the new, much-hyped film,
"Hustle and Flow" is a quality, textured drama about
the struggle of one down-and-out man in Memphis, it is also the
latest film, video or music, dripping with hip-hop appeal, which
asks our sympathies for a lifestyle that degrades women. It also
asks that we, at least temporarily, share the pimp's view of
women, and his vision of what it takes to "make it."
As the regretful refrain goes in the film's signature song—it's
hard out here for a pimp.
Many rappers, such as 50 Cent, along with
some pop stars such as Kid Rock, have promoted the pimp
lifestyle with titles such as "Po Pimp," "The
Great White Pimp," "Pimp of the Century,"
"Pimp Talk," "Chart Pimp," "Definition
of a Pimp," "Pimp Your Paper," "Pimp My
Girl," "Guerilla Pimpin," "Early Morning
Stoned Pimp," "Big Ol Pimps," "Pimp
Arrest" and, finally, "Pimp Story Street Talk, Vol.
1." Some artists even take on the moniker for themselves:
Skinny Pimp, Pimp Daddy Nash, Pimp C, Evil Pimp, Pimp Black,
Pimp Daddy, Geez Pimp, Star Pimp and Pimp Playa Hustlas.
With all this focus by the hip hop music
industry on men who manage prostitutes, it is no wonder that
Hollywood sees potential dollar signs with "Hustle and
Flow," and, perhaps more importantly, equates the pimp and
prostitution lifestyle with urban African American culture.
Films of this genre, starting in the 1970's
with "The Mack" and "Dolemite," always focus
on and glorify the pimp. The female prostitute—along with her
hard-core realities that often include AIDS, drug abuse, child
prostitution, mental illness, sterility and death—are swept
under the rug in the service of keeping the narrative flowing
Popular documentaries on the subject, such as
"Pimps Up, Hos Down" and "American Pimp,"
keep us centered in an almost worshipful tone that focuses on
the pimp's colorful street names, such as Bishop Don Magic Juan,
C-Note, Gorgeous Dre and Mr. Whitefolks. Cameras offer a
sweeping view of their full-length fur coats, lime green gator
shoes, gold rings the size of paperweights, gold chains heavy
enough to tow your car, and, of course, limousines and fancy
cars—even if that silver Rolls Royce is actually only rented
for the evening (or filming).
In "Hustle and Flow," we are guided
into the world of prostitution by the talented and mesmerizing
Terrence Dashon Howard, who turns an ordinary film into an
exceptional one. In contrast to the pimp image of yesteryear,
Howard's DJay lives in a jainky house in the hood in Memphis.
His three hookers, Lexus, Shug and Nola, live there with him, as
a sort of family with DJay as the provider, protector and
manager. DJay drives a beat down car, his clothes look barely
washed but he does enjoy one of the benefits of pimpdom—getting
his hair curled and styled with a hot iron.
But don't be fooled, the essential
pimp-hooker relationship, master and servant, is still in full
effect. DJay's eventual migration to music—and his attempt at
rapping—puts his years of pimping on par with the legal hustle
of the music industry. It's all a hustle, the film suggests to
us, and the connection to hip hop, which has renamed women as
female dogs and prostitutes anyway, feels like a natural and
dangerous fit. This pimp, with his sexy determination, is made
more socially acceptable. And besides, he takes his ladies along
for the ride to seeming success—Nola as an impromptu business
manager, and Shug as a love interest and background singer. It
is hardly remarkable when DJay strikes the pregnant Shug, urging
her to sing her silly song hook with more soul. When, in a fit
of anger, he puts Lexus and her infant son out of the house, the
scene is rendered with some comedy, as director Craig Brewer
shows us that the mouthy, domineering Black women is once again
put in her place.
It may be hard out here for a pimp but it
should be. It's even harder out here for those of us who are
regularly assaulted and branded by this so-called "pimpology,"
and who are asked to embrace this bastard creation as who we
Esther Iverem's forthcoming book is Living
in Babylon (Africa World Press).
posted 1 August 2005
* * *
* * * * *
Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All
By Russell Simmons
Russell Simmons knows firsthand that
wealth is rooted in much more than the
market. True wealth has more to do with
what's in your heart than what's in your
wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons
became one of America's shrewdest
entrepreneurs, achieving a level of
success that most investors only dream
about. No matter how much material gain
he accumulated, he never stopped lending
a hand to those less fortunate. In
Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare
blend of spiritual savvy and
street-smart wisdom to offer a new
definition of wealth-and share timeless
principles for developing an unshakable
sense of self that can weather any
financial storm. As Simmons says, "Happy
can make you money, but money can't make
* * *
Civilization: The West and the Rest
By Niall Ferguson
The rise to global predominance of Western civilization is the single most important historical phenomenon of the past five hundred years. All over the world, an astonishing proportion of people now work for Western-style companies, study at Western-style universities, vote for Western-style governments, take Western medicines, wear Western clothes, and even work Western hours. Yet six hundred years ago the petty kingdoms of Western Europe seemed unlikely to achieve much more than perpetual internecine warfare. It was Ming China or Ottoman Turkey that had the look of world civilizations. How did the West overtake its Eastern rivals? And has the zenith of Western power now passed? In Civilization: The West and the Rest, bestselling author Niall Ferguson argues that, beginning in the fifteenth century, the West developed six powerful new concepts that the Rest lacked: competition, science, the rule of law, consumerism, modern medicine, and the work ethic. These were the "killer applications" that allowed the West to leap ahead of the Rest, opening global trade routes, exploiting newly discovered scientific laws, evolving a system of representative government, more than doubling life expectancy, unleashing the Industrial Revolution, and embracing a dynamic work ethic.
Civilization shows just how fewer than a dozen Western empires came to control more than half of humanity and four fifths of the world economy.
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(Books, DVDs, Music, and more)
update 15 December 2011