The Internet was all aflame with outrage late last week over what has been perceived as a racist and sexist casting call for the N.W.A biopic to be released next year. The offending casting call was posted last week:
Reaction was swift, with criticism coming from numerous websites expressing disgust at the wording. “The fact that this obnoxious casting call notice could ever be written, let alone approved and then posted, shows that we have not come as far as we think we have on the issue of color politics in Hollywood,” said MSNBC. And the Huffington Post called it “So Offensive It Will Make Your Jaw Drop.” MTV chimed in, saying, “Whether or not the intention here is to spell out the unfortunate reality that many people believe that street thugs are strong-looking black males between the ages of 18 and 30, that’s what this text can seem to imply, reinforcing stereotypes.”
The casting agency and Universal have both apologized, but it won’t be enough. (The Grio posted an article Saturday entitled: “Universal Pictures issue apology for NWA biopic casting call, but is it enough?”) The casting agency, which called the posting “an innocent mistake,” also said it’s the usual method they use to look for different types of people for any film project, and that “it wasn’t meant to offend anyone.”
I don’t work in the film industry, but from what I understand a specific a casting notice is based on how specific the request is from the film’s producers. N.W.A. members Dr. Dre and Ice Cube are producers on the project, so it’s logical to assume that they may have had some input into these suggestions. When asked about his participation in the film Ice Cube had said, “This is our legacy, you can’t play with this, there’s no cutting corners, I’m fully engulfed in that movie, very anal about it. It gotta be right. I’m totally involved, I’m engulfed in it.” And it would seem that he’s involved in casting since the film also stars his son (who wears the same perpetually constipated facial expression as his father).
If people are offended by this, would happen if they actually listened to Straight Outta Compton or any other N.W.A record? Because if this casting call grading system upsets them, the lyrics to N.W.A’s raps will make their heads explode. The indignant posture critics have taken of the casting call for “thugs” is amusing considering the whole “Thug Life” culture and look was established by the West Coast gangsta rap that N.W.A developed and codified.
Charges of racism and sexism could easily be leveled at the group, too. First there’s the name—Niggaz Wit Attitudes. Then according to early N.W.A member Krazy D (the group’s token Mexican), Dr. Dre told him, “Nobody’s gonna buy (his) song called ‘Hispanic Zone,’ so they changed it to ‘Panic Zone.’” There is also Ice Cube’s anti-Semitic raps and affiliation with the Nation of Islam. The sexism the casting agency is being accused of pales in comparison to N.W.A’s rhymes and outright misogyny. In fact, the lyrics on Straight Outta Compton that could be considered sexist are too numerous to mention here. As far as I can tell, N.W.A pretty much started the whole trend of referring to women as “bitches” and “hoes” in rap. And since the group called their work "reality rap," I think it’s safe to assume they took this seriously. Finally, there was the night that Dr. Dre assaulted Pump It Up host Dee Barnes at a record release party in L.A. and then said, “it ain’t no big thing—I just threw her through a door.”
There are also many lyrics celebrating the glories of violence and murder—“gang bangin’” and “smokin’ motherfuckers.” There is rampant usage of the slurs “fag” and “dyke” and accusations of homosexuality as a dis. Take a listen to Straight Outta Compton yourself and decide what’s more offensive—the lyrical content or this casting call.