Sunday, October 24, 2010

Reverend's Reviews: Who's the Pimp?

Few topics remain as potentially incendiary as the historical, second-class role of African-Americans in US society... except, of course, discussion of the continuing secondary (though rapidly evolving) place that GLBT Americans hold. However, the smart if sometimes overbearing GhettoPhysics, which opened in Los Angeles this past weekend and will expand nationally, posits that the citizens of the world are overwhelmingly, often unconsciously at the beck and call of powerful corporations and other institutions that use our dependence and productivity to cement their status and success.

GhettoPhysics — which is subtitled Will the Real Pimps and Hos Please Stand Up? — is the brainchild of professor and author E. Raymond Brown and William Arntz, who was a co-director of the similarly provocative but well-received 2004 film What the Bleep Do We Know!? Like that earlier exploration of metaphysics, the new movie uses a combination of on-screen lecture, dramatized and animated sequences, and interviews with professionals in such fields as race, sociology, entertainment and religion to expose "the truth" and motivate viewers toward change.

"Everyone is making someone else's pocket fatter," according to one interviewee in the film. While it may be easy for us to picture an immediate employer or business for whom we work on a day-to-day basis and think of this statement as accurate, the filmmakers argue that each of us is more often than not a "ho" in the time-honored tradition of servitude to a protective but demanding "pimp" on a much grander scale. As another speaker says, "Pimps and hos are the simplest, rawest dynamic that is reflected everywhere" in modern life.

These archetypes ultimately exist beyond the black and prostitute communities to encompass every human being. Examples of "pimps" cited in the film include truth-spinning/-denying US presidents from Nixon on; Queen Elizabeth II; various popes including Benedict XVI; and credit card, oil, insurance and drug companies. To illustrate the latter, GhettoPhysics contains a hilarious faux commercial for "Clarodolotex," an all-purpose medication with such frightening potential side effects as foul back odor and gremlins! Also amusing and effective is a "World Pimp Awards" device that nails former Vice-President Dick Cheney.


Praised educator-writer Cornel West and legendary TV producer Norman Lear offer great insights into "The Game," the power struggle between life's pimps and hos in which we all participate as one or the other. While acknowledging that "we all start out as hos," one can become a pimp the more one understands and plays The Game." You get pimped if you're naïve," West states, while another commentator concludes "We all have a pimp and a ho within us."

GhettoPhysics is frequently fascinating in content and execution, but some of the techniques employed by Arntz and Brown are grating. The classroom over which Brown presides is filled with obvious non-students, and a secondary story about one student having her scholarship taken away unjustly is excessive and amateurishly acted. There is also an embarrassingly incongruous, borderline-racist scene in which Brown appears on a fictional TV talk show and essentially humiliates the host, an Asian woman who speaks broken English.

The movie provides considerable food for thought and while it doesn't address GLBT concerns specifically, it is important for GLBT viewers to think of the implications for ourselves and our community. How are we perhaps hos to the pimps that alcohol companies and lube and condom manufacturers can be, especially at Gay Pride time, or to films and TV series that continue to make GLBT characters peripheral or comedy relief?

See GhettoPhysics and emerge a ho no mo'!

Reverend's Rating: B

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

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