ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
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
Will Somebody Please
Save Me from All These Pimps?
By Esther Iverem SeeingBlack.Com Editor 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 songit’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 prostitutealong with her hard-core realities that often include AIDS, drug abuse, child prostitution, mental illness, sterility and deathare swept under the rug in the service of keeping the narrative flowing and pimp-centered.
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 carseven 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 pimpdomgetting 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 musicand his attempt at rappingputs 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 successNola 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 are.
Esther Iverem’s forthcoming book is Living in Babylon (Africa World Press).
posted 1 August 2005
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#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
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#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
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#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
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#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
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#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
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#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
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#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
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By Russell Simmons
Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock 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 you happy.”
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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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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 15 December 2011
Female Sexuality in America