Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pointing Fingers Blacks Vocally Disagree about Prevalent Current Images

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pointing Fingers Blacks Vocally Disagree about Prevalent Current Images

Article excerpt

SPIKE LEE tells a college audience that Hollywood only wants to make black films about urban violence and drugs.

Bill Cosby calls "Russell Simmons' Def Comedy Jam" a "minstrel show."

The Rev. Calvin Butts thunders from his Harlem pulpit about black musical artists who refer to all women as "bitches" and "whores."

Is this Blaxploitation II?

Perhaps not since the 1970s has the subject of how blacks are represented in the popular media provoked such debate among artists, critics and the consuming public. But back in the 1970s, blacks, as a general rule, were in front of the cameras and not behind them when films such as "Superfly" and "The Mack" cast blacks as pimps, prostitutes and drug dealers. Now, Hollywood includes blacks at many levels of the film-making process. Similarly, blacks in music and television have made greater strides in controlling what they produce.

However, profit, not ideas, drives these industries. And if images glorifying a small criminal element within the black community can make a buck, the money machine will quickly shift away from films like "Malcolm X," which fed a flowering interest among young people to educate and enlighten themselves.

"There is a lot of pathology in these images," says film maker Warrington Hudlin, who, along with his brother Reggie, produced the hits "Boomerang" and "House Party."

"Every film shouldn't have to be about some urban, hip-hop drug thing," Lee told 5,000 people at Siena College, just north of Albany, N.Y., recently. "This is not the only African-American experience. It's getting ridiculous." Film maker and television producer Robert Townsend agrees, but he thinks black artists who make the films are equally to blame.

"What's happening now I call the black-on-black film crime, the black-on-black television crime, because a lot of people creating this stuff happen to be African-American," Townsend says. "Nobody wants to blow the whistle because they say, `Hey, that's a brother trying to make some money. He's getting paid.' "

Women in the entertainment industry are concerned about how young female fans will build self-esteem and self-confidence in the face of misogynist lyrics characterizing women as sex-for-sale gold diggers - lyrics embraced by many young male artists who find that their newfound money and fame attract groupies who would otherwise shun them. In a recent interview, rapper Dr. Dre described his Los Angeles-area home as a place where he hangs out with friends "and about 20 to 30 women."

Another element that distinguishes the new blaxploitation from that of 20 years ago is the degree to which much of the art by blacks is also consumed by whites. Artists such as Ice-T, Ice Cube and LL Cool J generate more sales in America's suburban malls than in city shopping districts. …

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