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N.W.A. biopic “Straight Outta Compton” has been getting a lot of positive buzz in advance of its August 14 release, but Huffington Post contributor and author Sikivu Hutchinson — for one — isn't terribly high on the upcoming film.
“When N.W.A.'s mega-hyped biopic 'Straight Outta Compton' opens next Friday, the brutalized bodies of black women will be lost in the predictable stampede of media accolades,” writes Hutchinson in her critique. “While early reviews have lauded the 'prescience' of the group's fierce critique of anti-black state violence and criminalization — epitomized by its de facto theme song 'F– Tha Police' — they fail to highlight how the group's multi-million dollar empire was built on black women's backs.”
Hutchinson goes on to posit a more nuanced (read: critical) view of the groundbreaking L.A. hip-hop group, stating that by trafficking in misogynist lyrics and the glorification of rape — and selling millions of records doing it — the top-selling act played a major role in mainstreaming rape culture in popular hip-hop music.
“The 1988 song 'Straight Outta Compton' trivializes the murder of a neighborhood girl ('So what about the bitch that got shot, fuck her, you think I give a damn about a bitch, I'm not a sucker') while its outlaw male protagonists go on an AK-47 and testosterone fueled killing spree,” she continues. “'Straight Outta Compton' was an early salvo for such popular fare as 'To Kill a Hooker,' 'Findum, Fuckum & Flee' and the rape epic 'One Less Bitch' in which N.W.A. co-founder Dr. Dre lets his boys gang rape a prostitute then notes, 'the bitch tried to 'gank' me so I had to kill her.'”
Hutchinson takes particular aim at group member Dr. Dre by highlighting his own history of violence against women, including the brutal beating of woman rapper and TV host Dee Barnes at a record release party in 1991 (“…it ain't no big thing – I just threw her through a door,” Dre said at the time) and recent allegations by R&B singer Michel'le that he beat her so badly when they were dating that at one point she required plastic surgery. The author argues that this ugly chapter in Dre and the group's history is too often whitewashed by the media, citing a recent profile in the L.A. Times (part of the upcoming film's promotional push) as an example.
“…writer Lorraine Ali extols Dr. Dre's role as a businessman and entrepreneur while conspicuously omitting his history of vicious misogyny and violence against black women,” she writes. “Sidestepping the importance of misogynoir to the group's body of work, Ali argues that 'it's the film's depiction of police brutality, and the tense dynamic between law enforcement and the urban neighborhoods they patrol, that makes it so topical.' Ali's near reverent profile of the group is yet another example of white America's double standards when it comes to the brutalization of white women versus that of black women.”
It's unclear from reading the piece whether Hutchinson has actually seen the film; as stated earlier, her concern seems to stem mainly from the media coverage surrounding its release. Gawker writer Rich Juzwiak, however, has seen the film, and according to his account, it indeed “…omits any explicit discussion of N.W.A.”s open misogyny in their music and lives, while implicitly condoning it by keeping female characters on the outskirts of the story in small roles that service the film”s central men.” He continues later:
“I suspect that much of N.W.A.”s anti-woman rhetoric, and the ensuing, widespread criticism of it, is suppressed in the film to keep its heroes looking like heroes. Tabling the misogyny makes liking the men behind the group much less complicated. It keeps the narrative clean and straightforward, and it keeps the indefensible unmentioned.”
The Gawker piece includes a detailed account of the Barnes case. You can read it in full here.
Also check out our own Drew McWeeny's review of the film.