Racial Discourse In 8 Mile Essay

2483 words - 10 pages

The film 8 Mile, directed by Curtis Hanson, is the typical American story of struggle and the eventual overcoming of obstacles and evil. Upon closer look, the film is arguably a socioeconomic and racial discourse. It focuses on the ascension of Marshall Mathers into the rap industry, previously dominated by African-American males. Rabbit’s race, gender, and class, all contribute to his identity and the meaning of the film, as well as contributing to Eminem’s image. Several themes are defined through the movie’s underlying discourse of race and class: the commodification of black culture, racial opposition, “passing”, cross-cultural bonding, white heroism and white masculinity, the reversal of white privilege into a disadvantage, and essentially, the film in its entirety as a racially biased film.
Set in 1995, 8 Mile is the semi-autobiographical movie about Eminem’s, né Marshall Mathers, ascent into fame and the hip-hop scene, previously dominated by African-Americans. Jimmy is a high school graduate living in Warren, Michigan, working in a factory. He’s a white male with the aspirations of becoming a rapper. He lives with his mother, Stephanie, who has a younger and abusive boyfriend, and his little sister, Lily in a trailer. Throughout the movie, he has an unstable but sexual relationship with a girl named Alex, who he catches having sex with his friend, Wink (8 Mile). The Free World, the opposing, all-black gang that rules over the rap scene and the other side of 8 Mile Road, then recruits Wink and he joins them. Jimmy is jumped by The Free World and almost killed, and is harassed by them the entire film. In the final scenes, Jimmy vanquishes the dark Free World by winning his rap battles and proving his worth to the African-American community (8 Mile). Overall, the viewer gets the picture of a young man struggling. His enemies are clear: the black members of the underground rap club, the opposing gang with all-black members; the “Free World”, and his mother and Alex. The white male is surrounded by darkness.
From the beginning of the film, Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith’s whiteness is juxtaposed with the blackness around him. The film starts with a black screen before Eminem’s white face appears. Jimmy lives on the opposite side of 8 Mile Road, which separates him from the urban blacks, and makes him a privileged suburban white. His mission in this movie to cross that literal and psychological border (8 Mile Road) and become accepted as a rapper despite his skin color. It is argued that Rabbit’s character is a tourist who ventures into black culture, and on the way, masters their art and dominates their industry (Jennings 2008). Therefore, Eminem, and the director Curtis Hutton, white people writing about an African-American dominated industry, have now commodified the culture (Jennings 2008). This translates to Eminem’s career and his success in the industry. But Eminem’s success is ultimately due to his ability to encompass the characteristics...

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