Film sparks analysis of attitudes on gender, race in culture

By Patrick Farricker.
A documentary examining issues regarding masculinity, sexism, violence and homophobia in modern hip-hop culture by Byron Hurt was shown last Thursday in place of a scheduled presentation by State Rep. Eric Pettigrew (D-37th District.) The occasion, prepared by the BSU (Black Student Union), was prepared in commemoration of Black History Month. Pettigrew was unable to attend to give his speech on civic responsibility due to busy Legislative session activities this week.
Hurt, former quarterback for Northeastern University, is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and anti-sexist activist. His most recent work, “Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes,” premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
“I want to make this very clear to all [of] my viewers out there, I love hip-hop,” said Hurt at the very beginning of his film. Hurt, once a very avid fan of hip-hop head music, was very much immersed in hip-hop culture earlier in his life. But as Hurt progressed in his education, he began to question the lyrics and messages conveyed in the very music that he had come to love. As a result, Hurt created “one of the best documentary films in 2007,” as proclaimed by The Chicago Tribune.
In his film, Hurt conducted interviews with a wide array of different rap and hip-hop artists. Through observations in developing his documentary, Hurt found that hip-hop music typically resonated themes of violence, anti-sexism, and “enhanced” masculinity. Hurt asked, “[is] this the way Hip-Hop has to be?”
While Hurt’s film does in fact try to address the many controversies prevalent in society, most specifically within hip-hop culture, it highlights for it’s audiences the enormous social and economic racial divides that continue to exist throughout American society.
In a discussion following the film, Kim Pollock, an Instructor of both Ethnic and Cultural Studies and English, opened the floor to comments and responses.
“[W]omen are particularly degraded,” said one student, “men feel they must have an enhanced sense of masculinity in order to compensate for other factors.”
In confronting issues dividing both whites and blacks, Pollock asked her audience, “[I]s it really the same thing?”
Pollock said she “wanted people to understand that there’s a whole lot more to hip-hop than simply enjoying the beats. That there are issues to think about, and that everything can be analyzed.”
Both Hurt and Pollock questioned what “masculinity” truly is, and how its definition and understanding can become skewed and warped across a variety of cultures and races.