Two-fer: How to stab both your race and your gender in the back with one post….Kevin foolishly forgot to disable my password, so, never one to under stay my welcome, I just had to John-Hancock another demerit onto my ghetto and womyn’s room passes when I ran across this interview with Craig Brewer, writer and director of the controversial movie Hustle and Flow. Let me save you some time: homey’s a freak.
Here’s an extended excerpt from MSNBC’s chat with him
Brewer: “Hustle & Flow” is actually about me and my wife making that first movie. I had my father, at the age of 49, die rather unexpectedly of a heart attack and literally his last words to me were you should do this script you wrote, this “Poor and Hungry” script, and don’t shoot it on film. Don’t spend all your money. Just celebrate the fact that you don’t have that much money. So my wife and I would build these sets inside our house and we’d have to quiet down the neighbors and it was a very difficult time for us. My wife was working as a seamstress and then she started working as a stripper. I was writing in this bar and working in receiving at a bookstore. And really, this movie changed us and saved us from this crazy life we were living in Memphis. We became filmmakers. That’s really what “Hustle & Flow” was about, we just changed it to rap and made the character a pimp.
AP: Why do you think the movie has such broad appeal?
Brewer: I think everybody has related to DJay. Everybody has thought, “I’ve been moving away from that dream that I had when I was a younger person, like an inch every day and now I’m on the other side of the room and I don’t know if it’s even possible for me to return to that time ever again. I’m closer to the end than I am to the beginning and is it OK for me to reboot?” Of course it’s OK for you to reboot. Of course it’s within your right to try and change your life. … “Hustle & Flow” is for everybody who wants to reboot and I think that’s why people connected with it.
….AP: Your next film is even more risky. What is the story behind “Black Snake Moan”?
Brewer: It’s about this young white girl ? I don’t like the word nymphomaniac ? but she suffers from this intense sexual addiction through these panic attacks she gets. It’s about the relationship she has with this old black man who finds her beat up on the side of the road, nurses her back to health and he tries to help her. She’s a very self-destructive young woman and so he keeps her chained, with a long chain, to this immovable rusty radiator out in his country home so she can’t go back into town and hurt herself again.
I cannot wait to see Black Snake Moan and, dammit, I hope I like it as much as I liked Hustle and Flow and Jane Campion’s 1993 The Piano. No, that’s wrong: I didn’t just like those movies. I was mesmerized by them. (Even though the male friend I saw the Campion with was so put off by Holly Hunter’s butt shots that he nearly had to spit).
For those of you who were lobotomized by the feminist fury that movie incited, here’s a The Piano cheat sheet lifted from the Boston Phoenix:
Women find another, more eloquent expression in The Piano, as does Campion in her consummate work to date. The film begins with a voiceover from Ada (Holly Hunter, with scarcely a syllable of dialogue, in her greatest performance) that comes not in her speaking voice ? she has not spoken since childhood ? but in her “mind’s voice,” that of a changeling child. Imprisoned in the 19th-century social restraints embodied by her stern black bonnet and gown, Ada gives voice to her soul through her piano (in the moody, somewhat anachronistic rhapsodies of composer Michael Nyman).
Unwed and burdened with her child Flora (an eldritch Anna Paquin, winner of one of those freak Best Supporting Actress Oscars), herself a witchy handful and her mother’s interpreter and familiar, Ada is sent packing from her native Scotland to the surf-tossed, mud-clotted wilds of New Zealand and mail-order husband Stewart (Sam Neill). There, the piano proves an object of contention, as the hapless and puritanical Stewart insists on leaving it on the beach. On the other hand, his semi-feral neighbor Baines (Harvey Keitel, poignantly vulnerable despite his Maori markings, piggish behavior, and trademark nudity) is intrigued both by it and by the truculent, fragile Ada, who passes through the benighted settlement like an inkdrop through water.
Baines offers Stewart a strip of land for the instrument and then enlists Ada for “lessons.” What follows is a perverse and wrenching treatise on capitalism, sexual politics, and passion as he trades piano keys to Ada for increasingly intimate, fetishistic favors. Far from being victimized, Ada gains power through the transactions, and though it carries the price of a brutal convulsion of violence, the finished composition is a sensuous meditation on language, sublimation, fate, and the ineffable mystery of the female will.
Now, while studying on an Ivy League campus, imagine loving a movie about a woman, er, womyn who comes to glory in trading sexual favors to ransom her beloved piano. I thought my own ovaries would stage a walk out before it was over. The fury of even my closest friends ? we’d mostly met, after all, through feminist groups ? was so thorough going, so Old Testament-ly impervious to the notion that theirs, too, were mere opinions, I ended up just metronoming things like, “Dunno. Just liked it, ok?” Or “Did you hear Holly Hunter play that piano? Sis was jamming.” In particular, “C’mon. You know you’d a done that naughty pudge Keitel, too if no cameras were rolling” seemed to set them off.
It’s not that I (duh) endorse anyone forcing anyone else to pole dance to retrieve stolen heirlooms, but, given my whole hearted embrace of the feminist critique of patriarchal sexual relationships, especially for a mute 19th century mail order bride with a bastard daughter who was sold by her father to a stranger, why is it so wrong to paint a picture of what such a reality might have looked like? For all its titillation, doesn’t it prove the very point feminists make: that, at best, it makes sado-mascohists of us all, just as slavery and Jim Crow did? Unless we fear the bright, disinfecting light of public debate, why not interrogate our own notions of how those power relationships might have played out? Am I the only black feminist who hopes that Sally Hemmings might have actually loved Jeff-Daddy, even as I believe that waaaaaay most pre-1964 or so offspring of biracial unions were the result of rapes or, at best, date slash keep-my-job rapes? I don’t need for every enslaved/ or Jim Crow’d mother of biracial children to have had to suckle her rapists’ offspring to assert that 98 per cent of racial problems in America derive from whites’ determination to control the black body, male and female. Hideous as it is to accept, there was the odd, counterintuitive instance that highlighted exactly that while providing for a modern day, unimaginable parable that kept our Starbucks’d minds from wandering into our millionth Nigerian-lottery-winning email of the day.
I know ‘someone’ who manipulated the love of her life into slapping her to prove that she could make him do any thing she wanted. You had to be there, not that I was, but it proves the point that often, the most passionate relationships, almost by definition, have some element of S & M at their core. It’s not right. It’s not preferable. It just is, as with the tale of a pimp who, even tho he forces his ‘top bitch’ to service a store owner to procure a top-of-the-line microphone for him, nonetheless has a heart of gold and just wants to be loved as a rapper.
Bring on the pitchforks.