More Thug Life to Hug Life
May 13, 2005

If you haven't yet noticed, there is a sweeping trend in the film industry to produce more family-friendly films. Nearly everyone's going soft. While I wish folks were going wholesome because they genuinely believe "wholesome" is better, the truth is wholesome sells and movies are about making money. Research shows that family films generally make more money because they appeal to a broader audience. The average parent isn't going to take their child to a rated-R movie.

It's not just parental ratings that determine success either. Time and time again, research shows that whether they admit it or not, people like wholesome entertainment. Even the sadomasochist sitting at home can't help but feel all warm and applepieish when he watches ABC's "Extreme Home Makeover."

Today even the most hardcore celebrities are trying to affiliate themselves with kittens and lullabies.

In a move to make kids' films and cartoons more "edgy," MTV and Nickelodeon made history when they recently inked a deal with Andre 3000 (born Andre Benjamin), one-half of the rap group "Outkast" to co-produce and star in a series of kid-friendly movies, including an animated adaptation of E.B. White's classic, "Charlotte's Web." And here we thought the "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," was the only book in danger of being contaminated by money-hungry humanists. Are we talking about the same explicit-lyric-having Outkast whose albums that have consistently made good use of that "Parental Advisory" sticker? If we are, these television executives have collectively lost their minds. The AP reports:

Andre 3000 says kids' movies need to be edgier -- and he plans to make it happen through a new deal with Nickelodeon and MTV.

"I've noticed that kids, they're looking up to the Jay-Zs, they're looking up to OutKasts," the rapper (and father of a 7-year-old boy with singer Erykah Badu) told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "So kids' movies and cartoons, they're getting smarter ... because it seems like kids are cooler."

As part of the deal, Andre, one-half of the Atlanta-based duo OutKast, is set to star in a new Nick Movies film, "The Hit," which he will also co-produce. It's about a fifth-grader, seeking a new wife for his father, who discovers his next-door neighbor is Cupid."

For lack of a better word, the logic behind this deal is retarted. I've waited a long time to use that word on this blog and I think it's appropriate for this occassion: retarded, retarded, retarded. And before the PC police get all bent, I offer you this:
re-tard-ed
sometimes offensive : slow or limited in intellectual or emotional development or academic progress
So let's get this straight. Smart + Cool = Jay-Z and Outkast? Riight. That equation sounds pretty retarded to me.

I'm all for making movies that are relevant to kids, but seeking out pop culture icons who can't make up their minds if they want to be clean and credible, or foul and despicable, is not the answer. It is neither smart nor cool. These double-minded artists are not the type of examples we want children looking up to.

Oh but MTV does. That's why they're partnering with Nickelodeon. They want to pull them in while they're young.

Last year, when Dreamworks' shipwreck of a film "Shark Tale" was released, I wrote about reckless use of celebrydom and linked to discerning columnist Greg Braxton of the Chicago Tribune correctly pinned the "Thug life to hug life" notion:

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...D12, which usually raps about drugs and "ho's," was particularly pleased to be involved, Higman said. "They were really into it, saying, 'Wow, we've never done anything like this before.' A lot of these artists may be harder edged in their careers, but they are also pop artists."

Thug life to hug life

There's a missing step in this "transformative process." There's thug life and hug life, but what about, "Changed life?" Are there any celebrities willing to go there because that I'd like to see. My biggest question is, if you can clean it up for the kids, why not clean it up in the first place? The need to change one's behavior for the sake of appropriateness around children suggests that there's something inherently wrong with the behavior.

I am tired of people passively allowing these double-minded figures to subliminally speak into the lives of children. I have no problem with celebrities using their status to influence young people. My problem is with the lifestyles and behavior they glorify in front of impressionable minds. Worldly success and popularity means squat when it lacks integrity.

If there was any question that mass media has the best interests of children in mind, let's make one thing clear: they don't.

Posted by Ambra at May 13, 2005 2:33 AM in Pop Culture
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Amen! You are RIGHT ON! This has been driving me nuts. I'm glad you addressed it!

Yet more evidence that Hollywood and the major music companies are more interested in the souls of our children, and perverting them, than in money.

"kid's movies need to be edgier"?? Hello? That's why they are called "kid's movies" to begin with! If they are edgy, they fit a different category. I normally try to find room to understand motivation, but when it becomes so blatant an attack on the minds and morals of children, I say call evil what it is...evil.

Not to play devil's advocate but, it seems to me that when an artist like Andre 3k, whose music is tame in camparison to many in Hip Hop, tries to make a movie for children, he is labeled a misogynist simply for being a rapper.

Andre 3000 is not "thug life" by any strech of the imagination. Nor, for that matter, is Ludacris. Both make party music. As an aside, I found O'riley's attack on Luda to be disengenuous. Luda's content is no racier than Marvin Gaye's or Issac Hayes'.

In my opinion, if an artist; be it the Beatles, Madonna or Alice Cooper (who had a very memorable appearence on the Muppets); makes an appearence in a childrens movie, then that's fine.

Eddie Murphy said that he wanted to do movies at this point in has career that his children could watch. I respect that. Does it take away from the genius that is Raw or Delerious? Not at all. Is he disengenuous for making a move to family movies? No. Is Michael Meyers or Cameron Diaz? No.

Simply doing a project for adults doesn't mean you can't do one for children. Doing one for children doesn't mean you can't do one for adults.

Stephen: The point is someone who writes this crap is making a movie for kids. Any parent can see those implications.
No racier than Marcin Gaye huh? Sure.

Move b*****, get out the way Get out the way bitch, get out the way Move b****, get out the way Get out the way b****, get out the way

OH NO! The fight's out I'ma 'bout to punch yo...lights out Get the F*** back, guard ya grill There's somethin' wrong, we can't stay still I've been drankin' and bustin' two and I been thankin' of bustin' you Upside ya motherf*****' forehead And if your friends jump in, "Ohhh gurrlll", they'll be mo' dead Causin' confusion, Disturbin Tha Peace Since not into lution', we run in the streets So bye-bye to all you groupies and golddiggers Is there a bumper on your ass? NO NIGGA! I'm doin' a hundred on the highway So if you do the speed limit, get the F*** outta my way I'm D.U.I., hardly ever caught sober and you about to get ran the F*** over

B.T.W. How does this qualify as talent?

Sly Stone.
The gov-anator.
Bruce Willis.

What do they all have in common?

R-rated film and more family friendly film.

On what planet is Andre Benjamin considered a "thug"?

Jab,

My point exactly.

jab wrote: On what planet is Andre Benjamin considered a "thug"?
No planet. Andre Benjamin is probably the fruitiest rapper out there. I wonder about him sometimes....But he's no thug, and I don't think I've suggested that.

"From Thug Life to Hug Life" was just an expression used in the article I linked marking this vast exodus from profanity to children's films.

Stephen wrote: Eddie Murphy said that he wanted to do movies at this point in has career that his children could watch. I respect that. Does it take away from the genius that is Raw or Delerious? Not at all. Is he disengenuous for making a move to family movies? No. Is Michael Meyers or Cameron Diaz? No.

Simply doing a project for adults doesn't mean you can't do one for children. Doing one for children doesn't mean you can't do one for adults.

Now let me help you with the distinction between Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and hip-hoppers. Well, actually, Andre 3000 made it for us. Kids look up to many of hip hops kings. Hip hop isn't the top selling musical form for no reason. There's an entire culture wrapped up in and the examples set by those who lead will directly reflect the next generation, guaranteed. These kids bump their music, watch their videos, and sing their lyrics better than their "abcs."

Kids these days aren't well-versed in the Eddie Murphy of yore. Raw was like what, 20 years ago? Come on...What Nickelodeon and MTV are doing is strategic. Using cultural icons that set poor examples as a bridge to make money off of kids and peddle some feel-good message is ridiculous.

The danger comes in the image portrayed that the lifestyles of such celebrities is permissible and to be desired. The message is conflicting and people need to be called on their crap.

To whom much is given, much is required. People need to be responsible with their sphere of influence.


If actors and entertainers make a clean shift into more family and child oriented projects, then more power to them. But, if they jump back and forth between cleaner stuff aimed at youth and raunchier stuff for everybody else, the line gets blurred. I agree with Ambra in saying that this double-mindedness isn't good for anyone, except for the pockets of entertainment executives.

Truly, Marvin Gaye would have been just as bad a choice to make...ANYTHING directed toward children. People do change, as I believe Eddie Murphy has shown us, but like Ron said, when it's jumping back and forth then it means nothing more than a less than clear view of reality at best.

With the best of intentions assumed, some of these artists do not appear able to make the connection that kids do: If the kids like one part of what you do, they'll imitate it and the rest.

I remember cussin' up a storm after seeing "Raw".

I generally agree with Ambra on this, but if these "stars" change their tunes (sorry about the bad pun) after getting involved, that would be a good thing.

"No planet. Andre Benjamin is probably the fruitiest rapper out there. I wonder about him sometimes....But he's no thug, and I don't think I've suggested that."

Actually, Ambra, you have indeed suggested it, whether you intended it or not. The title of the post is "From Thug Life to Hug Life" illustrated with a photo of Andre Benjamin.
You then use him as an example of the phenomenon you are describing.

Gee, if I had a post "Lying liars and the liars who tell them"
with a picture of Bush, and then used him as an example of the phenomenon, I can't then say later: "But he's no liar, and I don't think I've suggested that."

Personally, I think hip hop is being scape-goated for no reason. Children aren't the mindless zombies we imagine them to be.

Ambra, you said, "What Nickelodeon and MTV are doing is strategic. Using cultural icons that set poor examples as a bridge to make money off of kids and peddle some feel-good message is ridiculous... The message is conflicting and people need to be called on their crap."

Where is the conflict? Are we saying that if you make a song that some people feel is too raunchy then you are somehow permanently enjoined from making a kids movie?

So will smith should never appear in another movie not rated pg13?

Or how about Mos Def?

Queen Latifah?

What's the difference, Ambra?

"There's a missing step in this "transformative process." There's thug life and hug life, but what about, "Changed life?" Are there any celebrities willing to go there because that I'd like to see. My biggest question is, if you can clean it up for the kids, why not clean it up in the first place? The need to change one's behavior for the sake of appropriateness around children suggests that there's something inherently wrong with the behavior."

Very well-said, very insightful! I agree wholeheartedly!

Truthfully Kingdom,

Some of us adults enjoy these base forms of entertainment. Some artists are squeaky clean. Somedays I feel like that. Some are raunchy. Some days I feel like that. Some are downright trashy, and sometimes that's just what the Dr. ordered.

Life is multi-faceted. Entertainment is as well.

Jab: I'm not going to argue with you about intention. May another day, but not today. Kudos for commenting on a non-homosexual referrencing post though. ;-)

Stephen wrote: Where is the conflict? Are we saying that if you make a song that some people feel is too raunchy then you are somehow permanently enjoined from making a kids movie?
I will answer your question, but not until I call into question your choice of words: "...a song that some people feel is too raunchy." Let's not be silly. There have to be standards. In fact there are. It's not just "some" people. There is a general understanding in America that some things just aren't appropriate...period. Both for children AND adults. How do you think Cable television ever came about?

As for your question of where the conflict lies....the conflict lies in the fact that there is a general theme throughout the fabric of America that personal integrity (i.e. your actions lining up with your words) isn't important in daily affairs. You know, what you do in your private life is your business. Who cares if he's a kindergarten teacher that moonlights as a stripper? Who cares if he's the president and he cheats on his wife? Who cares if he's a Republican and he's gay? Who cares if he's telling kids to make good choices but he's on his third child out of wedlock, does drugs and sells albums laced with profanity?

When it comes to children, this issue is paramount. As you've stated...kids aren't mindless zombies. You betcha they're not. They're sponges who do what we DO not what we say. There needs to be a standard for who's allowed to sow into kids' lives.

I don't have a problem with people crossing over, but they can't straddle the line. Pick a side and stay there. Our kids deserve proper role models.

I am with you about 85% on this Ambra. My only reservation comes from a desire (foolish though it may be) to see my dream realized that talented folk will use their talent to uplift rather than to destroy. Edgier kid stuff is certainly questionable. Maybe Andre3000 should spend a day or three in the DC public schools. He'd see PLENTY of edge. I am far from being a prude, but I'd love to see consistantly clean entertainment. So, I do what I can: I "vote" with my wallet and my time. I am only one man, but I realize that $$$ is the primary language of the "arts'.

bold-be-gone!

The idea of this deal between MTV and Nick sets my teeth on edge, but I will reserve judgement until I see what actually comes of it.

I expect to see more garbage like "Shark Tale;" who in their right mind thought a mafia-themed story was appropriate for the children's market? These people are insane. The Shrek movies did a decent job of having enough content that was suitable for the kids and keeping the stuff that wasn't going over their heads with sufficient clearance. I'm at the point where the only movies I'm looking forward to are the ones from Pixar.

I'm thinking, what possible "edge" could you add to "Charlotte's Web?" It's about as edgy as such a story could get; poor Wilbur's life is on the line, literally. The original animated movie did a fine job of adapting the book. I'm horrified at the idea of somehow making it more modern. (For a modern version, see "Babe," a nearly perfect movie.)

Even though some of the people involved in these deals have children of their own, it would seem to me that they don't spend any time with them. I have already locked Nick on our DirecTV and will only approve certain programs for my kids (we all love SpongeBob). Things around here run much better when they're not absorbing a constant stream of messages that parents are stupid and authority is to be ignored. Unfortunately it seems that this programming trend is set to continue for a long time.


Why do adult focused movies or music have to be edgy or racy? When did
describing the raunchiest aspects of your sex life while denegrating women in a video or song become adult? It is quite the contrary indeed.

People like Andre 3K or Ludacris performing in kid movies while still
producing not so kid friendly music sends a mixed message. Such things only serve to legitimize their behavior in the minds of the youth who will see them. No one has stated that they can't perform in kid friendly movies, Ambra is merely addressing the inconsistency in them doing so. It is blindingly obvious that neither the artist nor the production companies are looking out for the best interest of children or the family in general. If these guys want to entertain children, fine, but be consistent, stop producing content that is not suitable for them yet is still readily accessible to them.

Denounce one and embrace the other, you can't have it both ways.

It is even more sad that some of these people have children of their own.

I think what Ambra is saying is that these rappers shouldn't ride the fence. Trying to be a byword to ignorance and a proverb to wisdom concurrently is confusing for youngsters who cannot discern between the two. And, it's also rather impossible, as I don't use hyperbole when I say that they will either 'hate one or love the other'.

Ok, atleast, that's what I'm getting.

And I must note yet again that y'all type too much.

Many of your great and fearless conservative leaders have less than wholesome pasts, but I guess that is OK because all they have to do is repent and all is forgiven. Eddie Murphy was able to make family films after making adult materials for years. By the way, didn't the bible say something aobut being judgemental? Since when did closemindedness become next to godlyness?

D....you miss the point. It's not about people not having pasts. We all have pasts and have been forgiven. It's about those who try to straddle the line and keep one foot in the past and one foot in the future. I believe the Bible says something about that too..

Oh and about the judgment thing. Big misconception. The Bible never tells people not to judge. In fact, every single person on the Earth has to pass judgment. You do it every day. It's a survival mechanism. What the Bible does say is judge not lest ye be judged. Or in other words, you will be judged according to the same measure with which you have judged others.....

This is why Spokane, Washington's mayor looks like a fool right now.

Thank you Ambra for posting my comment.

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I think the bigger issue with someone like Andre 3000 getting in bed with Nickelodean is that he is "selling out" from the ideals that made him famous in the first place.

Outkast in its prime (1993-2000) stood for originality and intelligence, and was a breath of fresh air in the era of thug glorification. Outkast, particularly Andre bemoaned typical rap content that beat the themes of "bitches, hos, clothes and weed" over the head.

By going "soft" and becoming a Nickelodean drone, the rap world and the music world loses one of the few mainstream voices willing to put integrity, truth and purpose behind his lyrics.

It's sad that his efforts in the near future will be wasted on kids movies, to me that's like having Einstein spend his time trying to come up with the formula for KFC's secret herbs and spices.

It's a waste of talent and it's everybody's loss. Andre should keep mastering rap but that's just my two cents.

Ambra- as a parent who, while I have an appreciation for the artistry that is hip hop, can completely understand what you're saying. My kids are eight and ten, and when sitting in the movie theatre seeing the trailer for Ice Cube's latest family movie, I thought to myself, "Is the the same guy, 'Straight outa Compton, a crazy mutha f**ka named Ice Cube'?"

How in God's name does this guy come off making a family movie? But then I remembered that my children have never seen that side of Ice Cube because as a parent... I have chosen to be a parent. I have chosen to live without cable or satellite TV because I have little use for my children watching their choice of 200 channels- especially some of the junk that is put out there. In fact, my kids are much more likely to be reading a book at any given moment of the day, or playing sports, or making up a game.

Now I'm not trying to be holier than any thou out there, but I am sure that the reason that my kids do very well in school is because MTV isn't readily available and Nickleodeon, or Cartoon Network, or Boomerang are a treat that they get to watch when they go to their grandparents' house (they have cable.)

As much as I think it is silly that Ludacris would even be considered to be in a family movie, I'm not going to worry about it as much when my children haven't been exposed to his thug side.

But ask me in a few years. My kids are already complaining that we don't have cable. I just tell them "that is the reason you kids are so smart!"

Let me rephrase that first sentence- as a parent, who can appreciate the artistry that is hip hop, I can completely understand what you're saying.

*Shakes Marty's hand* Imagine that--a parent actually parenting!

Now that I think of it, couldn't you apply the same logic to guys like Vin "Riddick" Diesel, and Arnold "The Terminator" Swartzenagger? Both crossed-over to kid/family oriented movies while still appearing in more heavy handed action flicks.

My Point, Jerry!

"Now that I think of it, couldn't you apply the same logic to guys like Vin "Riddick" Diesel, and Arnold "The Terminator" Swartzenagger? Both crossed-over to kid/family oriented movies while still appearing in more heavy handed action flicks."

Yes. No one's debating that. However, right now the topic is hip-hop icons and their potential to influence positively and negatively.

I'd bet you that Arnold will never go back to questionable movies again. Why? Because now he's the governor, and if he wants any sort of credibility as a future leader and politician, he'll play it safe and not present a dualistic image of himself. Which goes back to my original point. You can't have it both ways and be deemed credible.

He's my governor, I voted for him, let's all spell it right now: S-c-h-w-a-r-z-e-n-e-g-g-e-r.

Very good.

Even with the movie examples- If kids are exposed to the violent movies before the family movies, then sure you might have a problem. But a parent can control what movies a kid sees. It's a little harder with music now that the local hip hop stations are playing nearly unedited versions of some of the selections. Again- parenting is the key in my house. It's unfortunate that not everybody can/will take advantage of that luxury/responsibility.

Jeez...

It is about a free market economy and supply and demand. The market is 'amoral' as individuals like to call it. The fact of the matter is there is a market for this stuff, and therefore to fulfill the demands of the market, rappers like Cube and Dre create movies that are bought by the masses.

I always find it disengenous to criticize be it the rapper, or the studio who produces them, when the fact is that the blame should be placed on the people with the power.....da da dum...the consumer.

There is an ironic hypocrisy amongst conservatives who always chant the mantra of 'individual responsibility & accountability', yet when market forces (supply and demand) work against their notions of what morality is, all of a sudden that individual responsibiity crap is tossed out the door and those on the supply side are criticized for 'setting bad examples'.

It is about money baby, that is why we are called capitalist.

Good point Marty. It is far easier to protect your children from inappropriate movies than it is from inappropriate music.

That is the big difference here. So far as the point made about Andre 3k selling out, that is definately not the "bigger" issue here. Mr. 3k has already "sold out" when he decided to produce morally questionable music. The bigger issue here is the fact that he is crossing over with such a non-kid-friendly image into childrens entertainment and will, for the most part, go un-checked. Those that do protest will be drowned out, demonized and/or ignored by the MSM and production companies.

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
Hindsight
Hip-Hop in Education: Do You Wanna Revolution?
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Requisite Monthly Rant: the State of the Nation
College Curriculum Gone Wild
Walmart Chronicles
An Open Letter to American Idol
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