Dolemite, the heroic pimp king.
I’d heard the character’s name as far back as the mid-’90s, thanks to Snoop Dogg and a few other rappers. I’ve always been ambivalent about black pimp culture. On the one hand, I love it because it expresses real wonders of creativity, style, poetic beauty, and the sheer human audacity of the African diaspora. On the other hand, I lament its basis in grotesque woman-hating violence, abuse, and domination culture. It valorizes and heroicizes some of the most horrible symptoms of post-traumatic slave syndrome.
I saw the original Dolemite film back in 2005 or so, when netflix was still a DVD rent-by-mail company. I found it somewhat tedious, corny but charming in that way that a lot of low-budget ’70s movies are, particularly the “blaxploitation” films. Criticize their political faults and I’ll happily join you, but no amount of critique can diminish the power of Pam Grier painted on the cover of Coffy, or the performance of theatre-actor and Karamu House alumni Ron O’Neal in Super Fly, the greatest of these films.
While I failed to fully appreciate Dolemite at the time, watching it in 2019 feels like a journey to a lost and beautiful world. It’s got everything—evil white men, sell-out gangsters, a philandering reverend, junkies and drunks, gorgeous women, stylish clothes, floating boom mics, an all-women karate class, and a full funk band performance. It also possesses a tantalizing erotic atmosphere of the kind now lost forever to film in the era of total pornification, predatory sexuality, pervasive shame, and all our machine-mediated impostors for sociality.
Dolemite the character is a rascal, but also a hero—a man who moves with the best interests of his community at heart. I can imagine theaters packed with all-black audiences cheering when he dumps a bag of cocaine on a pair of crooked cops, then stuffs the empty bag into one’s mouth.
There’s a scene in Dolemite that made me a true believer in the power of Rudy Ray Moore the very first time I saw it. A group of men gather around him as he’s getting out of his cadillac, and plead with him to prove that he’s really Dolemite. He launches into a hilarious toast about the Titanic; the men pass around a forty bottle, laughing and slapping hands. Moore was masterful, and I’ve carried this scene in my heart ever since.
Later in the film, he surpasses himself with probably the most famous scene in the movie: the story of the signifying monkey. His arrival to the stage is heralded by tribal drumming and the afrocentric Dolemite Dancers, which includes a man waving a pot of smoke—a genuine shamanic moment.
As an authentic piece of dated pop culture, Dolemite is the perfect candidate for sneering hipster post-ironic masochistic “enjoyment.” Michael Jai White got ahead of the game with Black Dynamite, a rather disgusting and barely funny film that parodies something most of its audience has never seen, thereby replacing it in the cultural memory. Laughing and sneering at itself, like every post-ironic piece of pseudo-culture, Black Dynamite “pays homage” to cultural artifacts of the past by making them look primitive and stupid—anyone who really enjoyed the original stuff is clearly a moron, like everyone else in the past. Authenticity is a self-conscious, primitive joke in our brave new world.
The magic of Dolemite also makes it a perfect candidate for either a remake (as They did with Super Fly) or even worse, and what we’re about to get: a bio-pic.
Take a good look at this guy:
Once you’ve had the chance to soak that image in, take a good look at these guys:
I’ll come back to them.
The western european babylon empire machine brought Africans to Turtle Island to feed on us. I think everyone is more or less clear on that. Our bodies were put to labor as chattel (chattel – cattle – capital, all terms from the same root) to build wealth for slave masters, and therefore wealth for the U.S. Along with the wealth gained by sacrificing nearly the entire living community of the continent, the wealth generated by African bodies is the foundation of the capitalist economy.
What a whole lot of folks don’t seem to be too clear on is this: They continue to feed on us. We are Their entertainment, Their athletes, Their prison-labor, Their source of Cool, Their sexual id, Their fetish objects of right-wing hatred and left-wing paternalism.
Without any real collective social resistance to TechnoBabylon—and without, it often seems, even the possibility of such action—identitarians are left to champion the cause of “representation.” If we see people who look like us in popular media, i.e. the simulation, then this must be a step forward in the utopic march of Progress.
And thus, negroes fall all over themselves in excitement and anticipation every time hollywood trots out their latest attempt to cash in on our imagery. I would say that Obama’s run for president back in 2008 really kicked this off; folks really believed there would be some grand “change” in this country, that the BLACK PRESIDENT would be something more than yet another stooge of Global Capital and its war machine. The power of this delusion was awe-inspiring; even people I thought would know better were taken in.
In the realm of movies, Black Panther and its financial success set the tone—OMG, a movie with a mostly black cast made ALL OF THE MONEY, holy shit Batman!
Black Panther, in addition to a load of other destructive subliminal messages, would have us believe the tribal elders of the most technologically advanced civilization on the planet, which has maintained its complete autonomy through literal invisibility for countless generations, would consent to putting a complete stranger in charge of the whole country—provided he can defeat the current king in a fist fight. Rules are rules! We must follow tradition! In other words, indigenous people are hopeless fucking idiots.
While I’m on the subject, where do you suppose they dump all the toxic waste from mining and refining vibranium, and all the other artificial materials they use to build the towering cities of Wakanda? Maybe they just send it to South Africa; if it’s good enough for De Beers and the Anglo American Mining group, it oughta be good enough for Wakanda. Who there would even notice a few thousand more tons of toxic waste?
I also find myself wondering what the resident panthers, forest, birds, fish, and insects think about Wakanda’s technology. If this were a real indigenous culture, the elders would consider this in their deliberations. Then again, if this were a real indigenous culture, the community would also be thinking about the effects of “development” on their descendants in, say, seven generations from now. Which means, of course, that the technology wouldn’t exist.
Back to Dolemite, back to the white dudes in the photos I posted. The first guy is Craig Brewer, a director who has built his career on exploitation of black imagery. His breakout commercial hit was Hustle & Flow, a movie so degrading and insulting to both black people and hip hop culture that now—more than a decade after seeing it—I refuse to revisit it, even to critique. He followed that up with Black Snake Moan, which I refused to see at all; the movie poster told me everything I needed to know.
The guys in the second photo are Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, a screenwriting team who first met while undergraduates at USC, a private college for rich kids. Among their credits is The People vs. Larry Flynt, a movie that turns the abusive, exploitative pornographer Larry Flynt into some kind of free speech exemplar.
These three evil bastards teamed up to make Dolemite is my Name, a bio-pic of Rudy Ray Moore, coming soon to a netflix screen near you, starring Eddie Murphy and one of the Key & Peale clones. I watched the trailer a few days ago after someone posted it on FB; I’d like a cookie for watching the entire thing, thank you. It was horrible. Degrading. Insulting. Full of eye-winking coonery. Oh how I wish Eddie Murphy would have simply vanished to enjoy his money after being caught picking up tranny hookers; instead, he’s spent the last 20 years shitting on his own legacy.
The tagline on the “poster” for Dolemite is my Name says, “Make Your Own Legend.”
Or better yet, have Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski make it for you.
Now a whole generation of young black people hungry for some validation of their existence, looking desperately to their simulation-media, will be robbed forever of yet another opportunity to discover an aspect of their cultural past on its own terms. It’s been eaten, drained of vitality, repackaged, shit out, and sold back to them. Like every other aspect of their innermost selves in this horrid machine cult, it’s been colonized. Invaded. This is their tragedy; watching it happen is mine.
Too bad for them, I guess. But Zion remembers. And so do I.
Dolemite is dead; long live Dolemite!