I like to read The Corner from time to time so it’s hard for me to say this, but Tim Graham really missed the boat on something. The lefty blogs have been beating him up about it, and to make the chorus less partisan, let me jump in.
I’ve seen Crash, but not Hustle and Flow, but doesn’t it seem there’s great disagreement between Terence Howard’s roles? In one, he’s a slick Hollywood producer, disappointed that white boss Tony Danza makes him dumb down the black character in his sitcom. And in the other, he’s a pimp trying to become a rapper trying to rhyme about “hos” instead of exploiting them. And is Hollywood really saying this is the “best” in film music today?
If you had seen Hustle & Flow, you’d know that the premise of your statement is wrong. Howard spends most of the film exploiting “hos”. He has a stable of three, one of whom he seems to be in love with, one he seems to be a father figure for, and one who is so atrocious as a human he eventually throws her out.
The movie isn’t really about “pimping” as a story line. The movie is about the struggles of a guy who wants to be more than what he has become. He has a brief opening to do that, so he pours everything he has into it. The song, had Graham seen the movie, reflects that. It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp means it’s a hard lifestyle having to live that way. It’s hard being broke, having few options in life, and having to turn to an abhorrent lifestyle just to survive.
In Crash, which I still maintain is the worst movie ever, he actually plays a very similar role. Howard plays the director of a TV sitcom who is trying to keep his “big life” in the face of white bosses who want him to ghetto out his characters, white cops that finger bang his wife while he watches helplessly, and his black wife who is constantly riding his ass about not doing more. Think of that character as being the next stage in the evolution of the pimp character. Once you get the fame, and have options, how do you hold onto that life. How much would you sell out to keep from falling back down.
Graham’s point seems to be that Howard is a potential role model for black America. He is striking a blow in one film, and reinforcing a stereotype in the other. That sends mixed messages to the African American community. Unfortunately, had he seen both films, he’d know he is wrong. Howard was striking a blow in both films.
Graham tries to reinforce his point by citing Courtland Milloy’s WaPo piece about the real world of pimping versus the Hollywood version and the realm of rap music that accompanies black culture.
African Americans have emerged as the only people on Earth who immortalize their mothers and sisters in the worst derogatory ways.
Actually, that’s a rap culture thing, not black or white. Look at Eminem. Unless you’re going to argue that he’s black, any look at denigration of mothers should start with him. This is a guy who fought his mother in court over the lyrics about her. This is a guy who includes a big “FU” to his mom on just about every album. That resonates with a lot of people for a simple reason.
It may not have occurred to Milloy, but these moms and sisters may not be the ideal role model for parents and siblings. In many cases, mom is absent because she is the breadwinner in homes with no father. The child holds resentment for that absence. Dad left, but mom wasn’t there. Adults who grew up in that environment may even blame their mothers for their position in life. The sisters, who may or may not have been very adept at care giving, also become the object of scorn. This, again, is not a black/white thing. This is symptomatic of the culture of poverty.
It appears Graham and Milloy may have fallen into the same trap. Graham admits his problem – he doesn’t actually have first-hand knowledge of that upon which he expounds.
Milloy comes across the same way. He has the vibe of an elitist DC journalist writing about African American issues simply because he is African American, not because he relates to them. I don’t know his story, and WaPo’s bio is a broken link. He may well have come from humble beginnings, but he doesn’t come across that way. I suspect he knows as much about life in poverty as Graham knows about Hustle & Flow – he’s heard about it, but can’t be bothered to actually experience it before he writes about it.