“8 Mile” by Curtis Hanson Review


The movie “8 Mile” vividly portrays a hip-hop culture and its manifestations in modern society. The movie describes the life of a working-class fellow Jimmy “B. Rabbit” Smith Jr., and his desire to become a hip-hop artist. This is an impressive life story portraying family violence and abuse. This story is about moral and physical sufferings of the family and cruelty typical for some American families, the impact of hip-hop culture of life and destiny of the min characters. The movie raises many questions concerning hip-hop identity and violence, unique cultural symbols and struggle against social order. The main questions: “Is it possible to speak about a white hip-hop culture or is it authentically black music?”

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The plot and problems that arise in film

In the movie, the main role is played by one of the well-known rappers, Marshall Matters “Eminem”. The movie portrays family problems and troubles faced by Jimmy: hs mother, Stephanie, is an alcoholic who lives with his younger sister Lilly and abusive boy-friend, Greg. The movie describes that abuse tends to occur in families that are socially isolated. This situation creates feelings of helplessness, frustration and anger.

The movie vividly portrays emotional abuse and psychological distress caused by parents to their children, Lilly and Jimmy. Since childhood, Jimmy has been subjected to emotional abuse and neglect, including malnutrition, being left alone and living in squalid conditions. Low-class location prevents him to enter a prestigious college and obtains a good profession. He cannot find his place in society blaming family and friends in life grievances. From an early age, low-class children are “excluded” from society.

“8 Mile” portrays that race and gender are silent factors which prevent people to obtain social respect and deprive them an opportunity to change their destiny. For instance, Jimmy’s mother suffers from abuse and family violence all her life but unable to break her relations with Greg. Today, the issues of racism and poor economic and social conditions are closely connected. Such a process has had a profound impact on the education process not least upon the ways in which cultural identities and relations are forged by racisms, whether in the form of the hegemonic gendering or the subaltern masculinities and femininities associated with subordinate groups.

The movie’s depiction of the family as a microcosm of the state participates in the critique of oppression of women that forms an important element of all of his work. 8 Mile” contains a number of scenes of violence against women though even without such scenes the depiction of the oppression is powerful. Meanwhile, 8 Mile” counters its treatment of women through the use of weak female characters, Lilly, Stephanie, Alex.

Symbol of the title

The title ‘8 Mile’ has a symbolic meaning portraying a boundary between black and white communities, black and white life style, black and white values and traditions. Race is one of the main factors which creates a story conflict and underlines a struggle between black and white rappers. In general, the movie portrays that century-old prejudices and stereotypes of “black” and “colored” people prevent them from equal social opportunities.

The point is that racial prejudices have consequences for the difference between races experience in, for example, earning money and exercising public power. Thus, hip-hop music and lifestyle is an authentically black culture that reflects their ideals and moors. Also, race portrays that hip-hop culture and music represents a black culture and traditions, and its extremely difficult for a while man, like Jimmy, to prove his place and obtain recognition among blacks (Hogan 270).

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“8 Mile” portrays segregation against whites in hip-hop music. This group must be convinced of Black humanity, a task that requires that they jettison racial stereotypes and learn to see and value Blacks as individuals. Hip-hop music presents the beauty of Black individualism. In real life, being this close to young African American men who are singing about sex and violence and whose body language included fists, angry gestures, and occasional crotch-grabbing might be anxiety-provoking for the typical rap and hip-hop consumer (most are suburban White adolescents) (Hogan 270).

Viewing these behaviors safely packaged within a music video protects consumers from any possible contact with Black men who are actually in the videos. Black men have long given performances that placed sexuality center stage, all recognized and profited from this reality-but the sexual implications of viewing Black men in the flesh rarely made it out of African American settings where such performances had a different meaning. It is one thing to visit a Black nightclub to hear hip-hop (Hogan 270).

Who is Eminem?

In real life, Eminem is one of the most popular rappers of the 1990s. It is possible to say that there is a great difference between the character of a rapper portrayed in “8 Mile” and Eminem. He is often criticized because of his controversial and violent lyrics and anti-social slogans promulgated in songs. He popularizes violence against women and portrays it as mass culture and a ‘horrible reality’. Many of his songs depict women as light-minded and dissolute persons.

The main similarity between Jimmy and Matters is that “Eminem grew up in trailer parks with a single mother and dropped out of high school, passing from one minimum-wage job to another” (Hogan 270). In his songs, paying attention to sexualized body images, he tends to promote the desire for sex which is aimed to satisfy the longing. In real life, Matters is a drug addict and alcoholic (Thrupkaew 30).

The policy of aggressiveness towards women is evident in many rap compositions which encouraged lust, sex, suicide, rebellion against authority, etc. Wrong social images have a direct influence on males’ behavior as they are not passive listeners but active recipients who borrow their social behavior patterns from songs of Eminem. Women in their songs are faced with terror and psychological trauma which reflect modern culture and social identities.

In such songs as ‘I Love You More’, ‘Guilty Conscience’, “Fack” by Eminem moral and cultural decay is evident through the low status of women and wrong social images. For instance, in “Guilty Conscience’ Eminem sings: “Fuck this bitch right here on the spot bare”. Rape and sexual violence prevail in most of the songs. As the most important, slang words of this song encourage an extremely aggressive behavior towards women (Armstrong 335). The women are subdued by low social position and secondary roles. Jimmy from “8 Mile” is an opposite character to the real personality of Eminem (Thrupkaew 30).

In the movie, the lives of the hip-hop performers seem to reflect their music. Hip-hop culture is the defining music of the 1990s. As music, rap is minimal at best: a heavy bassline and beat, with rhyming lyrics usually spoken rather than sung. Those lyrics, however, have opened the world of ghetto culture in a way that nothing else has before (Thrupkaew 30). The grunge music and style that originated in New York became its icon. Hip-hop music centers around the black community and the kinds of drugs associated with it. “The rap–the color issue is so pervasive that it reaches people whom no one ever sees, such as the black manager of the Beastie Boys and the white founder of Priority Records” (Armstrong 335).

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the movie shows that hip-hop music is authentically black music which leaves no space for white identity and representation. To enter this movement, Eminem has to borrow black identity and traditions, their lifestyle and values. The hip-hop culture is represented by oversized pants, shirts, shorts, and sneakers. Some blacks have drifted down to younger teens and preteens, while older teens are becoming more conservative in their dress (Eberstadt 19).

Ironically, as white teens adopted the hip-hop look or grunge style (low-riding jeans and loose flannel shirts tied around the waist), black teens led the way back into the preppie look. Athletic wear warm-up suits and sweats are still comfortable and popular with most teens. Teens who are into the rave subculture, however, adopt the baggiest pants possible, very wide at the hem, and wild hats of all kinds.

The movie vividly portrays that hip-hop and rap music continues to influence teen language. Close friends from the neighborhood are homeboys from the hood. The movie uses slang typical for the black majority of hip-hop artists. As music, hip-hop is minimal at best: a heavy bassline and beat, with rhyming lyrics usually spoken rather than sung. Those lyrics, however, have opened the world of ghetto culture from 1990: Soon the Nineties produced an even more extreme rap style. The lives of the performers seem to reflect their music. Most rap is distinctly male, but a few women entered the scene, partly as an aggressive response to the tendency of male rappers to characterize all women as “bitches” and “ho’s” (Eberstadt 19).

The movie portrays that the transformation of American popular music is the source of such violent debate generated and sustained by the youth of the power culture. Once the music established itself as more than an irritating fad and then quickly achieved status as the social emblem of rebellious youth, initial skirmishes faded as opponents regrouped to wage what has proved to be an ongoing war, one in which calls for censorship were raised as periodic battle cries and attempts at control took various forms (Eby 61).

These facts suggest false ideological construction of gender and identity. Also, special attention is given to privy parts of the male body which help to underline the idealized image of masculinity topical for modern cultural images. The main focus of the genres mentioned above is on wealth and crime, longing and sex. Women are portrayed as objects deprived of equal rights with men. This leads to terrible consequences such as humiliation and the killing of the woman. To some extent, these anxieties and fantasies fostered by modern culture reflect social consciousness. Using slang and pejorative words, singers humiliate women and portray them as corruptive and lecherous creatures (Eby 61).


It is possible to say that “8 Mile” idealizes hip-hop culture and its values. Against the inferior official artistic production that is the reality of this society, Eminem sets his virtuoso performance. Much of the activity of Eminem as he awaits execution consists of his attempts to express himself in music, and his difficulty in finding a way to convert his vague emotional impressions into words becomes a sort of struggle. “8 Mile” portrays that a white man can enter this movement but he has to borrow unique black values and ideals, traditions, and norms typical for black ghettos.

Works Cited

Armstrong, E.G. Eminem’s Construction of Authenticity. Popular Music and Society, 27 (2004), 335.

Eberstadt, M. Eminem Is Right: The Primal Scream of Teenage Music. Policy Review, 128 (2004), 19.

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Eby, L. Why Eminem Is a Problem. World and I, 18 (2003), 289.

Hess, M. From Bricks to Billboards: Hip-Hop Autobiography. Mosaic (Winnipeg), 39 (2006), 61.

Hogan, P. C. Dissenting Identities, Or: The Radical Conformist’s Guide to Non-Conformism. The Monist, 88 (2005), 270.

8 Mile. Dir. by C. Hanson, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, DVD-Video.

Thrupkaew, N. Rhyme and Reason: The Eminem Vehicle 8 Mile Offers a Surprisingly Gritty Ride. The American Prospect 13 (2002), 30.

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