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That’s The Name of the Game

By Brian Prisco | Film Reviews | November 5, 2010 | Comments ()


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I got gamed by this flick. I was drawn in by the flashy prospects, the clever title - a play on metaphysics - and even the general philosophy. E. Raymond Brown and William Arntz, the director of What The Bleep Do We Know?, have joined together to open our mind's eye by laying down some street slang. They compare capitalism, religion, entertainment, and advertising to the relationship between a pimp and a ho. They advocate a global awakening, a refusal to be played by a bunch of rich folks who are forcing their philosophies down our throats in order to benefit themselves. And it's a sound philosophy that I support. We should be refuse to be contained by a system designed to hold us under our thumbs while threatening us with violence or incarceration. The problem is this message gets lost in a ridiculous delivery system that plays out like a tragic informercial/afterschool special. Brown plays a professor teaching a classroom full of students belting out dialogue like the audience for the Juice Looser. Like the pimps themselves, if you actually saw someone decked out in a velour leopard-print jumpsuit with a cane and a gold tooth trying to teach your economics class, you cast it off as ludicrous and laugh in its bling-decked face. Brown claims mostly that he's trying to simplify intellectual concepts by laying it out in "realistic street terms," by interspersing clips of intellectuals with shots of actual pimps and rappers, but it's a tired concept. And it gets old super fucking fast. The irony of the situation is that Brown's whole point of using pimp/ho slang is because on the street they don't bullshit, they say what they mean. He could have broken down his concept in about 15 minutes, but then he wouldn't have a book and a film to sell to us broke-ass hoes. But I guess that just makes me an ignorant bitch unwilling to shake the game. Shame on me.

And shame on him, because he's got some great shit to say. It's the same general message of all vaguely intellectual films coming out the last few years, and of which I expect to see a huge uptick in the next two or Quetzalcoatl-willing three years - the world needs to change its way of thinking. America has led the forefront of a capitalistic ravaging, raping and pillaging other countries, only instead of burning down the villages and impregnating the womenfolk, we leave behind McDonald's and Prada bags. We've created a culture where happiness is based on material possessions. We're all out for ourselves to horde the most money and the most things, because that's how we keep score. There needs to be a paradigm shift -- and soon, before we've exhausted all our resources and before, as spouted by the increasingly genius Buckminster Fuller, we discover that we've failed as a society and the world hits the flusher. But you've heard this all before. I know, because I've typed this same paragraph several times.

There's a certain genius logic to the analogy of the pimps and the hoes. Conceptually, a pimp goes out and gets a ho. He cultivates a relationship where she goes out and does all the work, earns the money, and then gives all the money to him. Essentially, this is how the CEO of a corporation works, too. He hires you, the successful graduate, to come work for him. You do all the work, create the products, and then all the money goes to the CEO to distribute as he sees fit. It's in all facets of life, even religion and government. We elect officials to do work, to run the country, to tell us what the laws will be that we must obey, even though we vastly outnumber them. And we give them our money in the form of taxes, which lines their pockets. We give our money to the church, or synagogue, or mosque, or whathaveyou, and they give us faith and hope and charity. Or they scare us into believing the world is going to be destroyed unless we give more time and money to the church. We're all just bitches handing our money over to the people in charge even though we've earned it, and they're telling us how it's going to be spent. We're hoes.

Don't believe it? Do you own a credit card? You earn money, which you trade for goods, and then you get goods. The credit card companies take your money, give the money to the store, and you get the goods. Something you didn't need them for. But you basically pay them a service charge or interest for the privilege of doing exactly what you do in the first place without them. And so they are taking all your money, and then even more money on top of that for their "service." Your pimp didn't just take 100% of your money, he took 108% -- or if you're me, 126%, because you didn't pay on time. All money you earned working for another pimp who makes you toil all day while basically earning all the profit off your backs. So you can buy more shit you don't really need and pay even more money to the pimps in charge. Feel that? It's pride, getting bitchslapped all up in this piece.

The other part of the pimp game is the metaphysical part: mind control. In metaphysics, we all have the capability of controlling our own realities. The world as we see it is manifested by our minds. In the pimps and hoes game, the pimp controls his own reality, and yet he also controls the ho's reality. He needs to convince her that her dreams and wants are her dreams and wants and not put there by him. This is where advertising comes in. Corporations convince us that we need to spend our money on goods and services we don't physically require to survive. But they make us believe that we need these things and that it's our own idea to need these things. It's true that most of us equate happiness and success with giant TVs and enormous homes and fancy cars and clothes and electronics. If there are two of you in a family, do you really need a nine-bedroom home? And to afford this home, we have to work a job, and get a mortgage, which binds us tighter to our pimps with debt.

Pimps sling a lot of different games. Sometimes they use fear and aggression - telling us that terrorists will bomb us unless we attack first. Sometimes they use cajoling - you're so beautiful and special you need that half-billion dollar necklace, because that's what pretty people wear, and you're pretty. Sometimes they just straight up fucking lie to your dumb ass. This is the favorite game of the pharmaceutical companies. They develop medications that can be easily found organically in nature. Occasionally they make up a disease and then develop the cure after the fact - like fibromyalgia or ADHD. It's amazing that somehow I went through school with many kids who couldn't pay attention or were fidgety. No one gave us pills - they just told us to shut the fuck up and pay goddamn attention. And if we didn't, they'd beat us with crowbars uphill both ways in the snow. And we liked it, dadgummit.

All this is fascinating, and yes, smacks a little of socialism or communism. Which is also a deviously flawed system - mostly because we've grown fat and selfish and lazy on the capitalist system, and would find ways to avoid work at any cost. And all of this is theoretically true. If there were blackouts and oil shortages, and we reverted to an agrarian system, money would no longer matter. No one would give a shit about currency, except for asswiping materials as an alternative to leaves. All those execs holding on to $798 billion dollar fortunes would suddenly discover it's worth less than Joe-Sixpack's lemon tree, because you can't eat money. You just have a shitload of toilet paper.

Which is all and great if it wasn't communicated so fucking cheesily. The dramatizations - the school rooms and staged television interviews - are just awful. It's nothing more than the commercials that they are railing against, tarted up as an educational film with really corny acting and dialogue. The pimp metaphor is amusing, but that joke grows old, and kind of insulting. It's similar to when testing services suggested that inner-city kids would do better on standardized tests if everything was done in ebonics and "more relatable" terminology. Suddenly, reading comprehension turned into rap lyrics, and math questions involved crack vials and throwing bones. Brown's using the ol' "keeping it real" theory - that somehow brothers and sisters will hip to his vibe if he starts slinging terms they can relate to. To assume that a black woman can only truly comprehend her position in the capitalist world if you tell her she's a trick is some straight up Tyler Perry shit. Maybe they should have had Garrett Morris shouting in the corner. Or better yet, maybe they could have just interspersed every bullet point with Lil Jon shouting "Ye-ah" or "O-K-ay".

Then again, GhettoPhysics isn't aimed towards me. It's aimed towards the kids who, according to the government, apparently can't understand fractions unless you equate them with dimebags. Or to those socially conscious folks who truly understand the plight of the "urban youth" because they one time read Toni Morrison and they listen to Mos Def and Talib Kweli. It's kind of insulting to say that poor black folks can't understand metaphysics without blackfacing it with lame pimp-metaphors or unless it's being told by Ice T and KRS-One. And that's the shame, because KRS-One's got some profound shit to lay down on your asses. But that's just Brown trying to sneak some game on us. Because he understands that society only listens to the controversial and the outrageous. So if he starts off his sermon by calling everyone a bunch of shiftless, stupid hoes, they might get mad enough to listen. As should we all, because the rent is too goddamn high, and we need to get mad as hell and not take it anymore.


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