This, said Hollywood to America on Oscar night is the best in film music today. It's true that the Best Song category is hardly one of the top Oscars. But after years in which one wholesome Disney cartoon song after another took home the prize, it's jarring to sink this low. Some of the most respected songwriters in 20th century American music have won this Oscar, from Johnny Mercer ("Moon River") to Oscar Hammerstein ("It Might As Well Be Spring") to Burt Bacharach ("Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head") and Sammy Cahn ("High Hopes"). We've come quite a distance from "High apple pie in the sky hopes."
Unsurprisingly, some of the biggest critics of the pimp song were blacks who have every reason to dislike the thug-life caricature that rappers too often provide for their race in the wider world. Even more offensive is the pandering by white elitists, celebrating what they see as an embrace of "black culture" through art. In the Washington Post, D.C., area residents were unhappy. One woman mourned that "this country is experiencing an influx of people coming over here from all over the world, and the only thing they see of black America through the media is ... pimps and gangsters and all of that. It's always some low-down brother or some welfare mother."
Several people interviewed by the Post found it ironic that the academy -- praised earlier in the evening by actor George Clooney for breaking down barriers for blacks with an Oscar to Hattie McDaniel in 1939 for her role in "Gone With the Wind" -- would glorify the story of a man paying his bills by exploiting women in this most degrading way.
Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy said the movie "artificially sweetened" the pimp life, as he recalled a recent real-life story about a convicted pimp who recruited girls as young as 14 with promises of friendship and security. Then he sent them off to have sex for cash with men in alleys, cheap motels, and the back seats of cars. Every dollar went to the pimp. He didn't get an award. He now faces decades in prison.
Milloy didn't mince words: "Through internationally marketed music videos, especially, African Americans have emerged as the only people on Earth who immortalize their mothers and sisters in the worst derogatory ways."
And you thought Hollywood was progressive.