Using movies as a merchandising tool is certainly nothing new. And the proliferation of product placement in films is the most blatant example, increasingly turning movie sets into subliminal supermarkets and department stores.
But the peddling of ideas instead, more commonly known as propaganda, may be more insidiously intertwined with plots and characters. And barely inseparable from the emotional impact of a story on those impressionable captive audiences out there.
Such seems to be the case with the documentary, GhettoPhysics, a self-improvement guide linguistically adapted to appeal specifically to African Americans, and situated somewhere between a get-rich-quick scheme, Sunday church sermonizing and a shrink’s office. Though the formula for self-actualization in this instance is unique and attention-grabbing indeed, however borderline bizarre. With combo filmmakers/covert life coaches Will Arntz (What the Bleep Do We Know!?) and E. Raymond Brown not seeing the world in black and white, but rather dividing it up into pimps and hos.
Based on Brown’s man-up manual, GhettoPhysics: Will the Real Pimps and Hos Please Stand Up!, and possibly conceived as an infomercial for his life coaching enterprise, the film claims that everyone on the planet is either a pimp, that is the boss in charge, or the ho – the underling and/or victim. And though Brown as GhettoPhysics narrator makes no gender distinctions either way so ladies, you can be a pimp too, on the other hand it doesn’t matter whether you’re nice or nasty, Martin Luther King Jr. or Hitler, you’re a pimp. And according to the filmmakers, everybody else is a ho conned into ‘dreaming somebody else’s dream.’
Sorry E. Raymond, since I’m the movie critic here, I get to be the pimp. So let me chime in before things get too out of hand. Showing up in a movie in a designer suit to connect to the inner city and peddle your product by condescendingly couching the sales pitch in ebonics or what is more commonly referred to as street jive, may be viewed as a tad insulting and simply dumbing down the demographic. Even if you’ve included genuine pimps and hos pontificating side by side with Cornel West and Norman Lear. Not to mention that GhettoPhysics comes kinda close to serving as an attractive pimp primer for aspiring manipulators.
On a not unrelated side note, GhettoPhysics is being promoted by The Visioneering Group. Which is described as ‘A Transformational Marketing and Public Relations Firm Linking Spirit, Vision and Holistic Values with Compassionate Communication to Promote a Positive and Sustainable Future.’
Now streamlining a life coach business across the class divide for a ghetto demographic and hawking self-esteem among the socially and economically disadvantaged may not be a bad thing. Unless there’s a hefty profit motive being pimped, in the process of making a movie about somebody else’s dream.
Samuel Goldwyn Films
Judyth Piazza chats with E. Raymond Brown, “Ghettophysics- Will the Real Pimps and Ho’s Please Stand Up!” on The American Perspective Radio Program