Racial Discourse in the Film 8 Mile Directed by Curtis Hanson

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The film 8 Mile, directed by Curtis Hanson, is the typical American story of struggle and the eventual overcoming of obstacles and evil. Upon closer look, the film is arguably a socioeconomic and racial discourse. It focuses on the ascension of Marshall Mathers into the rap industry, previously dominated by African-American males. Rabbit’s race, gender, and class, all contribute to his identity and the meaning of the film, as well as contributing to Eminem’s image. Several themes are defined through the movie’s underlying discourse of race and class: the commodification of black culture, racial opposition, “passing”, cross-cultural bonding, white heroism and white masculinity, the reversal of white privilege into a disadvantage, and…show more content…
The film starts with a black screen before Eminem’s white face appears. Jimmy lives on the opposite side of 8 Mile Road, which separates him from the urban blacks, and makes him a privileged suburban white. His mission in this movie to cross that literal and psychological border (8 Mile Road) and become accepted as a rapper despite his skin color. It is argued that Rabbit’s character is a tourist who ventures into black culture, and on the way, masters their art and dominates their industry (Jennings 2008). Therefore, Eminem, and the director Curtis Hutton, white people writing about an African-American dominated industry, have now commodified the culture (Jennings 2008). This translates to Eminem’s career and his success in the industry. But Eminem’s success is ultimately due to his ability to encompass the characteristics of black culture while maintaining his position as a white male: “affiliations with black masculinity provide cultural acceptance and authenticity, which fuel his entry into hip-hop culture. White masculinity provides mobility, ambivalence from white audiences, and commercial success” (Dawkins 465). Therefore by “walking” the spaces between black and white masculinity and never committing to one, he masters the industry. Somehow he uses both racial characterizations as privileges (Dawkins 464-465).
According to Eric King Watts, Eminem uses his passage into a “dark” or black world (the

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