Thursday, October 8, 2009

Beyond Beats and Rhymes

I chose to analyze a clip from the documentary Beyond Beats and Rhymes, which was created by Byron Hurt and addresses the roles of violence and masculinity and hip-hop culture. To make this documentary, Hurt interviews rappers, social critics, and a host of other people to demonstrate ways in which hip-hop culture has been born and shaped by American culture.

Feminist Critique

Description: This clip includes a variety of interviews (with rap artists, professors, social critics, etc.) and footage of music videos from the past decade or so. Central to this clip is the question What does it mean to be a man in America? One interviewee comments, "Our society limits the way men can express their emotions, in general." Naturally, this directly affects the kind of presence men try to project.

Analysis: Though this is a clip addressing masculinity in hip-hop culture, it is also saying something about women. Mainly, I get the impression that these artists, of all different races and ethnicities, are attempting to present a strong masculinity in order to posture themselves in a way that overpowers weaker men. That being said, what is the aim of this "hyper-masculine behavior" and how does trying to fit this image of dominance affect the way these men view women? Often (and I'm generalizing a bit here), it seems as if these alpha males have a tendency to objectify women.

Conclusion: This video clip explores an interesting subculture that has largely been shaped by American culture. It challenges the role of masculinity in hip-hop and raises important questions about this subculture and American culture as a whole.

Reader Response Critique

Description: I noticed that Byron Hurt, the maker of this documentary, drew upon a variety of different resources to address the role of masculinity in hip-hop culture for this clip.

Analysis: I like the democratic feel to this clip. There is not one particular keeper of wisdom on this subject, but many, each of whom have important insights to offer. I also thought it was good for them to show the ways dominant masculinity affects a variety of things, from the way these men dress to the kinds of emotions (or lack of emotion) they display in public. The evidence provided to demonstrate the way masculinity is represented through hip-hop was purposeful and I felt like it supplemented the topic nicely.

Conclusion: As a teacher, I feel like this documentary is significant because, having worked in urban and rural settings, I notice the trend of alpha masculinity amongst male students. This is not the only way to be a man and I think this documentary does a nice job of explaining the origins of this behavior and exposing the consequences of it.

Classroom Application

I like the idea of implementing the feminist critique in the classroom. To use an example from above, hip-hop lyrics often seem to contain derogatory language about women (hoes, bitches, etc.). In response, some women have claimed that those artists aren't singing about them and this is in interesting opinion for them to have (also one that I think is a bit off). A greater awareness of feminist issues seems necessary in the classrooms of today and I think the feminist critique can help with this.

One thing students have an abundant supply of is opinions. I think the reader response critique offers kids a way to observe, analyze, and respond to an advertisement, video, or commercial in their own voice. Using the example of hip hop, it might be interesting to learn about interpretations students have of certain music videos. Why are certain items (luxurious cars, fancy jewelry, fine champagne, etc.) included in some of these videos? What is the reason for the violence contained in some of these videos? Would it be possible for an artist to write a song/make a video about peace and be successful financially? I think students would have quite a bit to say about these topics and I'd be interested in hearing what they think.

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