Commentary: Are We Straight Outta Our Minds to Enjoy This Film?

Ice Cube, Dr. Dre , Eazy-E

Commentary: Are We Straight Outta Our Minds to Enjoy This Film?

The N.W.A. biopic makes pretty of their ugly behavior towards women.

Published August 12, 2015

It’s the '80s and early '90s revival no one wanted: a reminder when male rappers didn’t only say something sexist or cast a video with a bevy of big, near-naked butts. No, this is a return to a time when a woman could be gang raped, b***h slapped, pimped out and then sometimes killed on a song and the audience — women included — were meant to get up, dance and enjoy themselves. It’s a flashback no one was eagerly waiting for but which will now be on movie screens nationwide when Straight Outta Compton is released on August 14.

And not everyone is happy about it.

HuffPo blogger and author Sikivu Hutchinson wrote, “When NWA's mega-hyped biopic Straight Outta Compton opens next Friday, the brutalized bodies of Black women will be lost in the predictable stampede of media accolades.” In her article, she makes a point worth repeating: this is not about calling for a national boycott of the film — though if certain people feel they can’t stomach to see the glorification of misogynists that is absolutely their right. Her point is that this film should not be released and allowed to exist without a calling out of what it silences, without a reminder of the violence and hate that NWA hurled at women, both on record and in real life.

There is one real life moment in particular that everyone who buys a movie ticket should know. In a Gawker piece, penned by a man — which is important to note: it’s not just women who can and do call out misogyny — Rick Juzwiack wrote: “If you hadn’t heard about the incident going into F. Gary Gray’s NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton, which hits theaters in two weeks, you’d leave the theater none the wiser. It’s never mentioned.” Director F. Gary Gray defended, er...explained, his decision to omit the 1991 beating of the host of the popular TV show Pump It Up!, Dee Barnes, by Dr. Dre by saying the film was focused on the group as a whole, not “side stories.”

So here are the facts of this “side story,” as told by the people involved. Dee Barnes's description of the attack ran in the LA Times in 1991, where she said: “He picked me up by my hair and my ear and smashed my face and body into the wall...Next thing I know, I’m down on the ground and he’s kicking me in the ribs and stomping on my fingers. I ran into the women’s bathroom to hide, but he burst through the door and started bashing me in the back of the head."

Dr. Dre, who pleaded no contest to the crime, had this to say: “It ain’t no big thing — I just threw her through a door.”  

Gawker went on to detail more about the attack, including DJ Ren’s threat that “the b***h” not only had it coming to her, but that he “hoped it happened again.” All this hate because Barnes had interviewed ex-NWA member Ice Cube on her program and he (not her, but him) insulted the group. But she was thrown through a door, bashed in her face and kicked in the ribs when she was down.

Dee Barnes was not the only woman who Dre allegedly attacked. His ex-girlfriend, singer Michel’le, says he beat her repeatedly throughout their relationship in the '90s, once so badly that she required plastic surgery. This is also not in the film, and Michel’le, though she was quite popular during the time chronicled in the movie, is only mentioned twice.

Yo Yo doesn’t even get that. The game changing MC and Ice Cube protégée is not mentioned once.

Imagine a film about the life of Elvis that didn’t mention his pedophile-leanings, as evidenced by marrying child bride Priscilla. Fathom a world that would tell the story of Michael Jackson and not one time mention his reported allegations of molestation. Picture a recent biography on Bill Cosby that did not mention the decades-old allegations of rape — oh wait, that is easy to picture. A book just came out that did that and the author had to publicly apologize because it is ludicrous and irresponsible to erase the alleged crimes of public figures just because we really enjoy the work that they do. Or, in the case of Cosby and NWA, they were renegades and groundbreakers, people who pushed the cultural needle forward and are legends because of it. But just as James Brown beat women, so did Dr. Dre. And what Dre did, the group championed and supported, no matter how many films try to pretend otherwise.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.



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(Photo: Universal Pictures)

Written by Ayana Byrd

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