Hip-hop culture is an essential aspect of the African-American community as it provides an avenue where they can express their achievements, values, and way of life, beliefs and other elements. Since the mid-1970s, Hip-hop has played an essential role in the representation of the African-Americans. While Hip-hop has seen the emergence of emcees, graffiti artists, musicians, and deejays, it has also seen the confinement of African Americans to different forms of stereotypes such as the sexualization of women. The paper seeks to explore the Hip-hop culture and the presentation of African Americans in the films Set it Off and Straight Outta Compton.
The films are based on the view that there is a tendency to represent African-Americans as being violent. The view is further supported by the quote “In other words, the stereotypes obscured the analysis of society and humanity operating in a particular circumstance in favor of regarding a particular group as odd and/or violent” (Sanchez, 2018, p. 20). The quote indicates that there is the labeling of the group as being violent without having rational arguments.
The films Set it Off, and Straight Outta Compton agrees with the view that African Americans are presented both positively and negatively in Hip-hop. The representation of characters in these films offers a glimpse of ways that male and female individual are brought up in the hoods. In the film Straight Outta of Campton, women are depicted as being tools of sexual pleasure. In the scene where IceCube is performing in a club, there is the presentation of women smoking and dancing in short, provocative dress. The dressing and the club setting creates the impression that all African-American women party.
A similar scene is evident in Eazy-E’s pool party where many men surround half-dressed women. The presentation conforms to the serotypes in the Hip-Hop where women are depicted as ‘gold diggers’ “freaks” and “Dyke.” The women in the two scenarios can be termed as being dykes as they are in skimpy dresses. Additionally, the films indicate that there is a tendency to handle women in a violent way. On the other hand, both IceCube and Eazy-E regularly refers o women as “bitches,” “Tricks” and “Sluts.”
However, this is not the case with Set It Off as is dismantles the treatment of women as sex objects. On the contrary, they are presented as artist, deejays and other influential people in the society. It can thus be defined as being a feminist film that seeks to assert that women can also take a leading role in social activities. An example is the casting and dressing of Cleo who is b-girl. The theme is developed through the use of hairstyles, costumes, colors, and music. There is the regular playing of Hip-hop music as a way of creating a connection with the hood experiences and the way of life of Africa Americans.
Cleo who is a lesbian is presented as wearing baggy clothes thus giving her a gangster look. The gangster nature of Cleo is brought out in the scene where she fights with Stony. During the scene, the producer plays quiet music with low lighting. The movie indicates that women have taken a dominant role in society and occupies similar positions to those of men. The quote by Cleo where she states that “Man, I ain’t thinking about five years from now, I’m thinking about today” indicates that women are hardworking and have the capability to make critical decisions. The two films agree with the quote that there is a double presentation of women. While they are presented as sex objects, they are also painted as being hardworking.
Sanchez, Tani. “Chapter 3: Black Males, Urban Life, and Gangsters.” Understanding Black American Aspects in Hip Hop Cinema. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. page. Print.
Set It Off. Dir. F. Gary Gray. Perf. Queen Latifah and Jada Smith. 1996. Film.
Straight Outta Compton. Dir. F. Gary Grey. Perf. Jason Mitchell and O’Shea Jackson Jr. N.d. Film.