Thursday, March 09, 2006

And the Oscar Goes to....

"It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp!!!"

Wow. I can appreciate the Academy's need to display the diversity that is filmmaking. I really saw it this year, in thier images, in thier marketing, even in the way they ran the awards show.... but I cannot for the life of me wrap my brain around the hub bub of Hustle and Flow. The film's lead Terrence Howard got a nomination for best actor and the film's central song received the Oscar for Best Song...

Yup, It's hard out here for a pimp... so maybe someone can tell me how did the "sportin'' life" gain so much popularity? How does the mack game gain prominent standing in mainstream America? Does this mean the primary representation of the Urban African American Lifestyle is the Pimp? I mean all the popular songs that crossover to mass audiences are talking about pimpin', gangbanging, drug slanging, booty slappin'.... Ludicrous, (who, by the way, gets my vote for the sharpest dressed in his Armani tuxedo,) was part of Hustle and Flow. He was also in Crash... the Academy recognized both of those films with nominations and even wins (Crash won for Best Picture). Last year, Luda's top single was "Pimpin' all over the World"... a number one smash...

I was actually shocked when the Three Six Mafia took the stage with Taraji Henson to perform "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp"..It was performed in typical Academy Award style with dancers theatrically trying to emulate street walkers and pimps.. Taraji Henson was really feeling it and she was belting out that song like she had caught the holyghost. At the end of the song, she took center stage and screamed the chorus in a finish that was supposed to be grand and explosive.... Ok, so here's a graduate of one of the most prestigious African American Universities (Howard), who's struggled and achieved at tremendous levels to get to where she is today, and finally gets to the stage on her craft's biggest night and her defining moment is screaming at the top of her lungs "It's Hard Out Here for a PIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIMP!"

Yes, George Clooney, this is the same Academy you so eloquently described in your acceptance speech that presented Hattie McDaniel with an Oscar at a time when blacks still had to sit in the back of the theater (I wonder did Hattie have to enter through the rear on the night of her Oscar or did she walk the Red Carpet), but this is also the same Academy that has taken the lowest common denominator of black life and issues and rewarded those portrayals with it's highest honor. A couple of years ago, I was so proud that Denzel won the Oscar, but I had to agree with the pundits who questioned why for his role in Training Day as opposed to Malcolm X, Hurricane Carter, Antwoine Fisher, among others.... I agree with the questions of Halle Berry's win.. just because the imagery in her film was so strong and struck a deep nerve in the black community that the general market will never understand....

I was actually extremely surprised at Terrence Howard's nomination. Oddly enough, I liked the film, but it took me a while to tear away the layer that judged the character and embrace the core story... Pimpin ain't easy and Terrence Howard's character needed to get out of the game so that he could become a whole person.... The story was good, the plot developed well in the technical sense of cinema storytelling, but how did it make it to the nominations of the Academy Awards?

...and in a weird sense, I am kind of proud of Three Six Mafia. They probably had no idea, no expectation that they would win the Oscar. That's why thier jubilation was off the chain... And you wanna know something else? they were the ONLY ones who said Thank God, Thank You Jesus! I mean that has gotta matter somewhere,eh?

But Pimpin' ain't easy, and it seems to me that the Academy just pimped us by reinforcing and celebrating negative stereotypes of the black male as a hedonistic, woman abusing, criminal. Just as long as y'all play those types of roles, you know, keep it urban. Crime, violence, cussing, ghetto lifestyle.. that's what will get you the accolades. That's what will get you success. In the meantime, we'll just keep your schools inadequate because you really don't need to know how to speak English or write well, just get out there and pimp and deal drugs to your community and we'll reward you with millions of dollars, lavish lifestyles and even an Academy Award! We don't want the stories about the brotha who's working hard to keep his family together, that's boring... Let's promote the film about someone who's irresponsible lifestyle is choking the life out of your communities. We'll throw significant budget behind the making of this film and if it's even halfway good, we'll give you a nomination.

It's the image of the black male criminal that is placed in mass media the world over. If you travel to foreign countries, the folk look at you strange when they see you're not what they see on videos and in movies. You are not a pimp, thug, gang banger..... Blacks are gaining more and more ground in the promotion of our images, but why is the criminal taking prominence?

At the same time, are we really the keepers of our own images? Are we the central motor for pushing the pimp image on the mass market? Are we responsible for shining a light on a low form of the community and glorifying it?

It's hard out here for a pimp........ Would Hattie McDaniel be proud?

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