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Movie Review: American Pimp

By Mike Everleth ⋅ June 9, 2000

A little less than a week after I wrote my tirade about the Puerto Rican Central Park molesters (see review for MY AMERICAN VACATION), I was sitting at home watching MTV. The pseudo-music cable network has been running a lot of these self-referential, congratulatory “look-at-how-cute/funny/hip” specials recently. One I couldn’t avoid on a daily basis for a couple weeks was along the lines of “What a Wonderful Place the World Has Become Since We Started Our Own Movie Awards Show” documentary. But on this particular day, I had the misfortune of catching a few minutes of the highlights of the wacky antics that happen at MTV’s annual Spring Break events.

I’m not exactly sure why I flip on MTV anymore. I know I’m not going to catch any music videos. I also know that nine times out of ten I’m going to flip the channel off after about five seconds. But there’s also something oddly compelling about the network. It’s almost like getting a chance to look into an alternate dimension. I don’t think I live in the same universe that most other people do. My life is full of sights and sounds that most people will never experience. So, when I turn on MTV I want to know what the rest of the world is up to, particularly the youth culture. That, and I’m still a Real World junkie.

But when I glimpse into that alternate dimension, I am filled with great relief that I do not live there. Being particularly nauseated by this Spring Break special, I was all set to flip the channel until I saw something that completely horrified me.

I was watching an event called something like “Bathing Suit Switching”. It seemed to be something MTV hosted for a couple of years at their Spring Breaks. The first instance of it showed a couple pairs of boys and girls diving into the water and, while submerged, the pairs had to switch into each other’s bathing suits. The first couple to successfully do so and who were able to run back onto the beach wearing each other’s outfits were the winners.

However, for the next installment, the contestants didn’t have to run into the water. Somehow they were able to press their bodies together and switch their suits (the tops at least) without revealing the girls’ breasts to the camera. If you just silenced the hip-hop soundtrack, the video for this MTV event could have been easily mistaken for the amateur video shot of the Central Park molestations.

I mean, I’m not a prude. You haven’t accidentally logged onto some Christian right-wing website. And I understand the difference that at the MTV event, the women’s participation was consensual. Yet, I couldn’t help but be disturbed not only for MTV sponsoring the event, but also their joking attitude towards it. “If we’re not careful, we might have an orgy on our hands,” they laughed. And the Central Park molesters offered this excuse: “We were just having fun.” Yeah, it’s all just whole lot of fun. On Spring Break, airheaded bimbos go home and giggle about acting like idiots, while several dozen women minding their own business in Central Park are scarred probably for life. This world is a disgrace.

In other depressing media news: AMERICAN PIMP is probably the most virulent anti-African American movie since Al Jolson sang “Mammy”. The KKK could make a more positive film about black men, which is so odd considering that PIMP is directed by two black brothers, Albert and Allen Hughes (who previously did MENACE II SOCIETY and DEAD PRESIDENTS, neither of which I’ve seen)

PIMP is an act of cultural self-loathing. An equivalent film would be if Steven Spielberg directed THE STINGY JEW. PIMP starts out with brief quips by white folk stopped on the street giving their opinions about how pimps are the scum of the Earth. Of course, they aren’t asked what their opinions are about “black” pimps, just pimps in general. But, according to the Hughes, there is no such thing as a white pimp. One black pimp they interview even says as much, “Ain’t never met no white pimp. They don’t have the aptitude for this kind of business.”

Now, you’d think that after an introduction of having the entire white race slam pimps, the documentary would then go about proving the white folk wrong. Nope. PIMP sets out to prove that pimps are either the ultimate dregs of society or clowns to be ridiculed with their outrageous clothing, jewelry and cars.

There isn’t a black person interviewed in the movie who isn’t a pimp or a ho or some relative. If all pimps are African-American, the film never places them within the context of black society. The obvious implication being that even if not every black man is a pimp, then at least every other one is. As one pimp says, “I didn’t grow up living next to a doctor. My role model was the pimp living next door.” Well, hey, no black man raised in the ghetto will ever grow up to be a doctor or a lawyer or, hell, just have a legal job. The Hughes brothers must have grown up in a white neighborhood.

The validity of the entire film has to be called into question anyway. The movie is about 90 minutes long and it is assumed for the first 80 minutes that all the interviewees are active pimps. It isn’t until the last couple frames that we find out most of them are retired from the business. The only respectable one manages a telemarketing company. Another is a preacher who wears an alligator skin suit and another is an obvious joke since he says, “It’s easy being a blues singer now because I can wear the same clothes I did when I was a pimp.”

How authentic were these pimps? One sequence shows one of the more brutal pimps verbally abusing his hookers while they’re out on the street trying to pick up tricks. Now, I’ve never picked up a prostitute, but if I were going to which one would I choose? The ho standing on the street corner by herself? Or the one with a giant movie camera in her face? How real could this scene have been? Or was it obviously staged?

Finally what bothered me was that for a movie made by professional filmmakers, I couldn’t believe how many of the interviews dropped out of synch. Was it an example of bad recording? Or it even looked liked some of the interviews may have been dubbed in later.

I’m not saying it would have been easy to make a film about pimps and cast them in a positive light, but the Hughes brothers really went out of their way to promote the vilification of their entire race.

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