Magazine article Newsweek

Same 0l' White Negro

Magazine article Newsweek

Same 0l' White Negro

Article excerpt

Beatty simply recycles tired themes and dangerous stereotypes. A dissenting opinion.

IN 1957, NORMAN MAILER played connect-the-dots with psychopathy, hipsterism, revolution and black jazz culture in his notorious essay in Dissent, "The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster." "[T]here was a new breed of... urban adventurers who drifted out at night looking for action with a black man's code to fit their facts," wrote Mailer. "The hipster had absorbed the existentialist synapses of the Negro, and for practical purposes could be considered a white Negro." Mailer didn't have any useful insights into the black psyche, but he nailed the phenomenon of cultural tourism: how certain white people, desperate to rebel, will throw themselves headlong into black culture- specifically black outlaw culture -to find their redemption.

More than 40 years later, the White Negro Esthetic -of which "Bulworth" is merely the latest example-refuses to die. Beatty recycles Mailer's stale ideas, hoping that the parodic tone and hip-hop packaging will fool us into thinking that it's fresh. As part of his research into everyday inner-city life, he hung out with, among others. the decidedly unrepresentative Suge Knight (the former CEO of Death Row Records, now in prison for a parole violation). Knight says that he told Beatty how to put together the all-star hip-hop soundtrack, featuring artists like Method Man and Dr. Dre, which debuted at No.21 on the pop charts last week.

The early word on "Bulworth" from parts of black Hollywood is scathing; several actors who auditioned for the film now privately admit that they are relieved they weren't cast. As one filmmaker who attended the L.A. premiere puts it, "It's like me listening to a few Beach Boy records, hanging out with Marilyn Manson and then thinking that I know something about the white race. …

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