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8 Mile

He ain’t no nigga.

8 Mile

Directed by Curtis Hanson

Written by Scott Silver

Starring Eminem, Kim Basinger, Mekhi Phifer and Brittany Murphy

The mascot of Angry White Suburbia makes his acting debut in 8 Mile (in Europe,
13.3 Kilometer), although that statement begs a question: Is it really acting
when someone is playing himself? Is Courtney Love’s performance as an agonizing
junkie whore who uses her magical twat to climb the rungs of fame (The People
vs. Larry Flynt) “acting” or self-invocation?

Eminem outranks even Love among the ranks of self-mythologizing figures in recent
pop culture. Unless you’ve been in a coma or in Iraq the last few years, you’re
well aware of his program of “keepin’ it real.” The whiteness staining (in multi-platinum
seep) the traditionally black genre of hip hop can be excused because he grew
up poor and has more street cred than a Ford Mustang with one of those neon
lights under it. (Plus, as many black rappers have attested, he “sounds black.”)
13.3 Kilometer is a filmic extension of this self-mythology, for which we’re
expected to forgive Eminem if we’re going to be his fans. It’s been obvious
for a long time that it’s all he’s really capable of.

The film opens with Rabbit (Eminem) at the Shelter, a Motor City hip-hop club
where his friends have entered him in a freestyle battle. Rabbit’s at a low,
pacing back and forth in the men’s room, blowing chunks in the commode and washing
his lily-white face off before emerging only to find the bouncer ain’t planning
on letting his honky ass in da club. His buddy Future (Mekhi Phifer) comes to
the rescue, only to see Rabbit’s shit get ripped up onstage by reigning freestyle
champ Papa Doc (Anthony Mackie), who, unsurprisingly, goes off on Rabbit’s whiteness.
By the time Rabbit gets his turn, he’s frozen: He holds the mic to his lips,
but no rhymes come out. He leaves the stage humiliated while the black crowd
chucks verbal spears.

Whitey goes home to the trailer park only to find his blonde-bombshell mother
(Kim Basinger) riding her redneck boyfriend (Michael Shannon) on the La-Z-Boy.
“Shit, Rabbit,” she drawls. “You could’ve called first or sumfin’.” Like all
trailer trash, Mom speaks with an exaggerated Southern accent even though the
film is set in Michigan. She gives Rabbit her old rust wagon as a birthday gift.
Once he repairs the car it becomes the vehicle that drives most of the film’s
remaining action. When he’s not on the job at the metalworks across town, he’s
riding around with his posse having deep conversations about Tupac and ghetto
life (barely audible over the hip-hop soundtrack constantly blasting through
Rabbit’s stereo), or battling a rival hip-hop crew. Some comic relief arrives
when Rabbit’s funny mulatto friend Cheddar Bob (Evan Jones) accidentally shoots
himself in the wiener. Otherwise, the film, like its star, is humorless.

The requisite love-story subplot is vague, if it’s even there at all. Alex (Brittany
Murphy) shows up at the factory one day looking for her brother and finds Rabbit
instead. Luckily, she just happens to be the other white person hanging out
in the Detroit hip-hop scene. A working-class white nigger like Rabbit, she
too has bigger aspirations - moving to New York to become a supermodel. They
have maybe two conversations before she shows up back at the factory and they
fuck behind the assembly line.

The relationship comes to an abrupt end when Rabbit goes into the studio to
record his demo only to find Alex getting fucked by a rival rapper on the mixing
board - presumably to advance her “career,” but probably because the guy’s big
black dick can actually hit her G-spot. Rabbit doesn’t take time to ask, letting
his fists do the talking. When Mom’s boyfriend pushes her around Rabbit kicks
his ass too, and the film’s message about Eminem’s life becomes clear: As Ol’
Dirty Bastard once said, “You don’t wan fuck wit me.”

For all its focus on Rabbit’s (and Eminen’s) mission to prove his cred in the
tough black world of underground (American) hip hop, the film’s extrapolation
of race relations in America is sketchy, to say the least. At the climax, Rabbit
returns to face off with his rivals at the Shelter. After he stares one nigga
down, we are treated to the dramatic moment in which Rabbit becomes Eminem,
brutally exposing not only his own shortcomings but his rival’s. To summarize:
Sure, I’m white trash and your gang fucked my bitch and beat my ass, but you
ain’t a real nigga cos you went to private school, live in the suburbs, and
your real name is Clarence. The crowd cheers; MC Clarence takes the mike and,
like Rabbit 100 or so minutes earlier, freezes. Rabbit/Eminem flashes his smooth
white ass, free of pimples and hair, and walks offstage, where the mean bouncer
high-fives him. I guess we’re supposed to be elated that the white working-class
wannabe rapper ultimately triumphs over the black upper-middle-class wannabe

Attempting to understand why anyone would care about this film is a painful
task. Afterwards, I asked my friend Radím’s opinion. Despite his limited English,
he was able to sum it up better in four words than I’ve been able to in 900:
“sentimental masturbation of ego.”

Travis Jeppesen is jivin like a bitch ass nigga at travis@pill.cz

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