Thursday, October 12, 2017

Is Thug Life the New Blaxploitation?

Think about it.  Hot looking females not only strapped but make target every time.  A dope soundtrack. Everyone speaks in urban slang. Violence.  Maybe hard narcotics.  At the film's climax, someone either died or is badly hurt, either physically or emotionally.

Is this a bad thing or worse, unoriginal?  Not necessarily, as one of my favorites, Power, has at least three of the above named factors.  Additionally, the cable drama is more popular with viewers than Fox Network's Empire, especially in the last couple of years.  While I won't use this post to tear down Cookie and 'em, one thing I will state is the emotionally complex scenarios used in Power make it more meaty than most shows that use a similar formula of a brother who used slangin' to come up.

What about when we make TV shows, big-budget movie and now...stage plays where you have the elements but the story line is "simple"?  Maybe even predictable...can it still be as fun as watching Blacula or even New Jack City.  Well, a new play, THUGS and the Women Who Love Them, is getting mixed reactions at best.  Courtesy of Deadline Detroit.

Based on a 2004 fictional series by Wahida Clark, the play was adapted by producer Melvin Childs and has made short stops in major cities in the past few months.  Casting includes mostly C/D-List entertainers like Ray J, Lyfe Jennings, and reality show superstars (meaning they get continuous work to act a fool on TV).  The only notable on here is Jamal Woolard, who played the title role of Biggie Small in 2007's Notorious.

Some people see the original blaxploitation movement as a way to crawl before walking, as only a handful of actors were offered legitimate (nice, articulate character) roles before.  I once had a debate with a former co-worker about why these types of films should never exist.  While my sentiment was that people needed to get work (and I was only about 20 at the time), she came back much harder.  THIS IS HOW PEOPLE FROM OTHER CULTURES SEE US.

My head was spinning because at that time, no one knew who Rodney King was, L.A. had only one riot, and while Pill Bill Cosby was using his popular sitcom to gradually lecture the viewers about what was right about the world of upper-class blackness, I knew my place in the world.   That was a utopia in my mind where everyone got along and no one saw stereotypes - just good and bad people.

Who would think more than 25 years later that hip-hop (no matter how watered down these days) cannot be used in a different format to tell a story of the streets?  They may not get my money but I feel that people have a right to express themselves by telling their truth.  However, I will be happy when there are more Rainbow Johnsons on my TV screen than Cookie Lyon types.

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