From Thug Life to Hug Life?
October 5, 2004

Admittedly, I haven't yet seen the movie "Sharktale", but the press on it is bothering me and I've yet to figure out why. For starters, it's a reject Finding Nemo. No one is willing to admit this, but I'm just going to come out and say it. Fishy see, fishy do. Big moneymakers get copycats. This time, DreamWorks has concocted a fishy tale with an "urban bent" as one columnist noted. Whatever urban is.

So this morning, Michelle Malkin linked to a tough critique of the movie. In short, the film's ties with "hip-hop" are apparently threatening the movie's image. According to columnist Greg Braxton of the Chicago Tribune,

Ludacris is easily one of hip-hop's raunchiest artists. He's made millions with his rapid-fire raps about his favorite subject -- sex -- and earned a fair share of "Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics" stickers with such R-rated lyrics as, "I want a lady in the street but a freak in the bed."

Not exactly the kind of artist you'd expect to see featured in the PG-rated "Shark Tale," the new animated feature from DreamWorks that opened last Friday and features an A-list cast topped by Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and Renee Zellweger.

In addition to Ludacris, the soundtrack to "Shark Tale" features Eminem's foul-mouthed proteges, D12. Although hip-hop has long gained crossover status, its high-profile use in a family film represents the biggest splash yet in the effort to channel rap's coarser elements into the cultural mainstream.

Ludacris insists that cleaning up his act for "Shark Tale" is not watering down hip-hop's edginess. The rapper said the opportunity to alter his racy style into child-friendly fare is actually in keeping with hip-hop's creative spirit.

No cursing

No cursing? How moral. If he can clean it up for the kids, why not clean it up in the first place?

While I'll be the first one to jump to the defense of the culture of hip-hop, I have to say I don't support certain raunchified artists being involved with a supposed "child-friendly film". If anything, it only whets their appetite for early gangsta rap indoctrination. Both D12 and Ludacris in particular, don't exactly bring with them a clean reputation. No need to link to their lyrics. You can "google" them yourself.

But according to Braxton, he cites Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Method Man and Redman as a few of the many hard-core rappers looking to get involved with more "G-rated" ventures,

Several hard-core rap performers who have laced their music with profanity and violent images are turning from the thug life to the hug life, embracing new projects that do not require a parental advisory warning.
My two cents? Pick a side. Either be clean or be raunchy, but for love's sake don't try to do both. The message is conflicting, especially when children are involved.

On the other hand, the film stars Will Smith, who music-wise has long been pinned as "corny" by my generation, but nevertheless, has maintained clean lyrics and perhaps his credibility is why DreamWorks snagged him.

According to DreamWorks head and "Shark Tale" executive producer, Jeffrey Katzenberg,

"Hip-hop is now a part of our culture and our world and clothing and our music, and I felt it presented an amazing opportunity to show that."
Please. Stop with the "our community" nonsense. The only "amazing opportunity" Katzenberg felt was the one that involved dollars. Bringing in A-list rappers wasn't an attempt to connect with hip-hop the culture. If it was, surely they would have used more discretion in the artists they partnered with. This was about raking in the dollars. Big names, big bucks. Little integrity, little care.

My fellow Conservative Brotherhood member Cobb, who recently saw the film, offers his "Obligatory Seriousness About Shark Tale" noting, "If I were over 25 and in the hiphop business, I would be embarrassed by Shark Tale." While conceptually, I don't see a problem with the film, music-wise, I think producers should have made better choices. From Thug Life to Hug Life? Seriously, I'm gagging.

Update (10/5): Welcome Michelle Malkin readers!

Update (10/5): Back Country Conservative says to heck with the naysayers, go see Shark Tale!

Posted by Ambra at October 5, 2004 12:14 PM in Pop Culture
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It was just last week that my daughter asked me if we could go see Shark Tale, and I told her, "Probably not."

I read the review of my friend Walter Chaw at, and that just cemented my resolve. (FYI, Walter's politics couldn't be more opposite from mine, but he's a fantastic movie reviewer and I'm proud to consider him a cyber-friend.)

From the first time I saw the previews for this movie, my mom-radar was in the red zone. What were these people thinking, making a mafia movie for kids? What is the point of that? I don't want to have to explain shakedown artists and other lowlifes to my 7 year old. I don't need fish acting all sexy to other fish. I hadn't even thought of the hip-hop and gangsta rap angles, but that's just another example of how the Dreamworks execs have no idea what's appropriate for children. Shrek 2 teetered on the borderline between acceptable and unacceptable throughout...

Finding Nemo proved that intelligent, engaging movies can be made for children. It's becoming more and more obvious to me that Pixar is the only one who can make them, though. I suppose I should be grateful for another opportunity to teach my children not to be mindless consumers of whatever drivel Nickelodean is pushing at them.

Suppose it's part of a shift to change their image and clean themselves up?

Just asking a question that was raised by your entry. An entry I agree with BTW.

I saw it opening night and D12 and Ludacris was in it?? I really don't remember. Conservatives have bigger fish to fry with this film, like its allusion to homosexuality and its influence on kids minds.

When I was a kid, I do not remember who was the voice of such and such character on a film, nor did I internalize what their moral code was based upon hearing their voice on an animated film. A Soundtrack was even less likely to influence me. And shouldn't parents be looking out for these things beforehand?

"While I'll be the first one to jump to the defense of the culture of hip-hop... it only whets their appetite for early gangsta rap indoctrination."

Is it Ok if gangsta rap indoctrination is delayed until adolsescence or young adulthood? Not sure if you mean the problem is gangsta rap period, or gangsta rap consumption at a early age.

I agree, Katzenberg could give a good damn about a community, etc. He sees big dollar signs, and that's about it.

since i haven't seen the movie, i won't comment on that. but, i do want to say something about the use questionable rappers on a soundtrack for a family film.

i agree that an artist with an "adult" image cannot be sanitized by simply putting him/her on a cartoon soundtrack or a christmas cd. the last thing i think of is "family-friendly" when i hear ludacris' voice.

the rap industry is a business and a game. it is not the music, talent, or "artistry" that is marketed and consumed it is the image. Execs in the rap game often consider the image and "crediblity" (read: marketability) of an artist often before they consider the talent of the individual and; from there it is the A&R person's job to deliver a sellable "artist".

I didn't get far enough to see who was doing the music. This kind of looked like a cinematic train wreck (at least to my disbelieving eyes) first time I saw the trailer. Have had no desire to see this beyond when it hits DVD.

I've hated rap junk for a long time; but I find Eminem quite creative, musically and rythmically -- but I don't like the cursing obscenity, despite many good rhymes.

It's an adolescent cry to be taken seriously, which is self-negating through the fact that it's so obviously juvenile.

I (maybe?) wish there was more "kid-rap", but suspect it would kill the fashion for rap just as 7 year old kids playing pokemon killed it for the 11 year olds.

As a generality, I can do w/o the gangsta rap ethos. I confess I'm a basic rock-n-roller, but in a multi-kulti kind of way, I also dug Fresh Prince, Public Enemy, along with a bit of country, jazz, techno, classical 3rd world. My criteria centers on the talented art of the music or noise as the case may be. As far as I'm concerned, most popular "artists" are commerce first and art comes in somewhere downstream -- noise polution.

Anyhoo, when it comes to aiming adult content at kids, at my kids, I have to draw the line. I also don't cotton to "artists" criss-crossing the genres. Artists can't have their Thug-life and Hug-life.

Aw man, you missed your chance!
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Why I'm Not a Republican Parts I, II, III, IV
Reflections on the Ill-Read Society
The ROI of a Kid
The Double-Minded Haters
Hip-Hop in Education: Do You Wanna Revolution?
Oh parent Where Art Thou?
Requisite Monthly Rant: the State of the Nation
College Curriculum Gone Wild
Walmart Chronicles
An Open Letter to American Idol
Gonorrhea and the City