People get caught up on defining what is and is not culture, and what should be excluded as unacceptable within one’s culture.
However, that’s when things get convoluted. You see, culture is the manner in which a group of people live their lives. Culture cannot be negative in and of itself but only when looked upon through the eyes of the next man, woman or child.
This phenomenon gets even fuzzier when culture is reinterpreted through the auspices of art and entertainment. This particular conflict over personal interpretations of culture played out over a month ago, on a “BMF” Starz Zoom call featuring Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, writer Randy Huggins, Russell Hornsby and with national media present.
Black Mafia Family On Starz
“BMF” is the story of Demetrius “Big Meech” Flenory and younger brother Terry “Southwest T” Flenory as they start off as young street runners with dreams of cultivating a drug empire. The brothers literally witnessed their greatest street dreams come to fruition before it all crashed down around them in 2007.
Both Flenory brothers plead guilty to running a continuing criminal enterprise.
Double Standards: Is 50 Cent Glorifying Criminal Lifestyles?
These are actual events that devastated the lives and livelihoods of thousands. However, the “BMF” series on Starz is a dramatization of those events However, when the marginalized tell their own stories, mainstream mindsets cram to understand.
As is often the case when Black folks tell ‘hood stories, there inevitably will come a reporter who questions why Black folks are “glorifying” mob life.
Yet, none of the same claims are levied against “The Ozarks,” “The Sopranos” or any of the thousands of mob movies produced, directed, starring and based on material written by white folks.
“I think that there’s a huge separation between entertainment and reality, and the people who can’t separate that belong in a mental hospital,” said 50 Cent. “When you’re watching ‘Forensic Files,’ does that make you want to go out and kill somebody and just not do it in the same way that that person did, so you won’t get caught? You don’t do that!”
And it’s not just television either. People come for Black films, Black movies and Black books with mainstream mindsets that distort, distract and discount Black art. Yet, none of the same concern is offered to remedying the real-life conditions that cause our art to be as visceral as it often is.
“When you look at movies from that time period, let’s not escape the facts on how the drugs got in the community. Because that’s when it doesn’t seem like we’re glorifying it, when you see the CIA is actually letting drugs in the community at that point. And creating higher penalties for people who have crack cocaine, and the drug is a lot cheaper than people who had the powder cocaine that was present in Hollywood bathrooms having a great time at their party sniffing cocaine and enjoying themselves.”
Dualism vs. Reality
Dualism and reality collide in the realm of perception that lies between information that is offered and those who consume it. Oftentimes, the cavern is vast.
“It’s the same drug but different penalties because the lower income would have this drug to get higher, faster. And look at the choice of content of the question. I believe this question was offered with good intentions but delivered wrong,” 50 continued.
Mr. Jackson had a mouthful to say this day, and though he’s not everybody’s cup of tea it’s clear that he’s evolved. Due to his own cultural properties, his honesty will always be refreshing in an industry full of double speak, backtracking and ass-kissing.
“I think they want to be righteous or want to offer the right notes don’t necessarily connect to the entertainment people nor the truth of our experiences. Everything that we picked is based upon how we were trying to convince people to do things,” Jackson told those in attendance.
“It’s almost mandatory that you offer some sort of non-traditional choice on sexuality. All the other things that you can see people consistently put in their projects is almost mandatory. Why? Because they’re pushing that agenda. If you don’t see it, let me tell you early, that’s what they’re doing.”
He added, “When they ask to have a strong female presence in the actual show, when they ask to have a female director on the show. All these things are what we do to shape the result later, but these things are part of an agenda, you know?”
King Of Street Cinematography
Indeed, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson’s agenda as of late is being executive producer of street tales for film and television. Is he “glorifying” violence? Well, no more than the Star-Spangled Banner glorifies it.
Ya know, rockets red glare, bombs bursting in air?’ An interesting paradigm in a country that was founded on violence, is constantly at war, but seeks to heap the weight of this aspect of mainstream culture onto the “Black” stories and creatives.
A Family Story
A family story is how 50 et al would like the world to see “BMF”
“The choices of how they tried to take care of themselves under circumstances where they didn’t have any choice at all. What was the opportunity that could potentially offer them the ability to go after the American Dream itself, which is financial freedom?”
“I understand how people could misinterpret it and look at it like ‘this is just another successful drug dealer movie.’ Yeah, all my shows are drug dealer shows, even when the person has been convicted wrongfully and thrown in jail for 70 years plus life, the ABC show ‘For Life.’ At that time period, this is what was going on culturally, all over the place. You can miss that and be judgmental and it won’t matter. It’ll be one write up and this will be extremely successful regardless.”
“BMF” premieres on Starz and Philo TV on Sept. 26.