characteristics of black culture while maintaining his position as a white male: “affiliations withblack masculinity provide cultural acceptance and authenticity, which fuel his entry into hip-hopculture. White masculinity provides mobility, ambivalence from white audiences, and commercialsuccess” (Dawkins 465). Therefore by “walking” the spaces between black and white masculinityand never committing to one, he masters the industry. Somehow he uses both racialcharacterizations as privileges (Dawkins 464-465). According to Eric King Watts, Eminem uses his passage into a “dark” or black world (the passingover 8 mile road) as a paradoxical denial and acceptance of his whiteness, or virtually aharmonious mixture of the two. Watts argues “8 Mile divorces white privilege from racism whileproducing a form of racial solidarity and white masculinity that celebrates and exploits black‘primitivism’” (Watts 204). Therefore while Rabbit claims his whiteness and embraces it, he is stillable to pass into a different socioeconomic and racial class- both of which encompass “blackness”(Watts 203). He claims that even though the hero is “anti-racist,” the white male is the oppressedfigure in the film and he somehow passes into a world dominated by a different race, andbecomes the master of that world, which is precisely what Eminem seems to have done to therap industry (204). Through 8 Mile, Eminem has made his whiteness a disadvantage, and “useshis status as ‘white trash’ to portray himself as the ultimate victim, flipping the conventional logicof race hierarchy on its head” (Kajikawa 359).
On the subject of The Free World, Watts claims that the pitting of the black villains againstRabbit’s whiteness and the “sophomoric” innocence of Rabbit’s group of friends is anotherdegradation of black power. The reign of The Free World is described by Watts as theexemplification of black power being vilified: “Black power has run amok; it’s abusive,hegemonic, and oppressive… While Rabbit represents everyone’s potential to persevere, TheFree World signifies the notion that dark bodies cannot exercise the enterprising spirit withoutbeing corrupted and diseased” because the film makes it clear only a white person can hold thatpower successfully (Watts 199-200). Watts argues that this is the film making the argument thatracial “progress” towards equality would lead to the descent into immorality, and that blackpeople cannot reign without imperializing and dominating in an oppressive way (199). Whiteheroism comes into play with this idea that only a white person can successfully hold power. Without diverging into a discussion on racial discourse and the many definitions and distinctionsof and between races, the next aspect of the movie and of Eminem that needs to be discussed is“whiteness” and furthermore, the presence of the “white hero” in 8 Mile. As argued byNakayama and Krizek (1995), whiteness is tied to privilege, power, opposition to darkness andpeople of color.
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- Fall '12
- White people, Marshall Mathers, Eric King Watts