Movie angers Durham pastor

Movie angers Durham pastor

Staff WriterMarch 3, 2005 

Best Buy's media supervisor Scott Levine promptly showed up at the front counter of the Capital Boulevard store in February with a copy of a DVD titled "Lil' Pimp."

"We got it in this month," Levine said. "It hasn't been selling well at all."

That's good news for the Rev. Paul Scott, a Durham minister and African-American activist.

Scott said the movie -- which features a white, Dennis the Menace-looking kid who is taught to be a pimp by a group of predominantly black pimps and prostitutes -- further degrades the role that African- Americans play in society.

"Our African ancestors taught white folks the meaning of civilization, not the art of pimping," Scott said.

Scott called the Wal-Mart on Durham's Roxboro Road late last month and asked whether the store had the movie in stock. "They had sold out of it," he said.

Ditto for the Blockbuster store on New Bern Avenue in Raleigh, where customers had checked out all available rental copies of the movie.

The movie stars the voices of comedian Bernie Mac and rap stars Lil' Kim and Ludacris. Originally spawned as a Web cartoon, it sparked controversy two years ago when it was produced as an 80-minute film by former Disney chairman Joe Roth's Revolution Studios and slated for release on the silver screen in October 2003 by Sony. Instead, Revolution Studios sold the movie to Lion's Gate Films for release directly to home video and DVD.

"It was [Lion's Gate's] decision to release the film," said Sean Dudas, a Revolution Studios spokesman.

Scott, founder of the Messianic Afrikan Nation, has long spoken out against images that he says degrade African-Americans.

The writer and community activist gained national attention in 1998 when he led a successful campaign against Phat Boy Malt Liquor, and in 2003, when he led a campaign against Nelly's Pimp Juice. "Back in the day, we were portrayed as pimps and drug dealers," Scott said. "Here it is 2005, and it's the same situation."

Scott, who recently launched the National BOO (Black Owned, Operated and Organized) Black History Month Campaign -- which he described as a movement to improve the image of African-Americans -- said the movie's release shortly before Black History Month was especially disturbing.

"Black children are given a warped, whitewashed version of history as it is, and movies like 'Lil' Pimp' make the situation worse," Scott said.

As part of the his campaign, Scott is asking the community to write letters to retail stores asking them to take the DVD off of their shelves. "I've been doing Internet talk shows across the country," Scott said.

Soon after the movie's DVD release, Scott wrote letters to the corporate offices of Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Blockbuster, imploring them to not carry it.

"I haven't heard from any of them," he said. "I'm kinda surprised."

Even more surprising, he said, was Wal-Mart's decision to stock the movie in the first place. Scott noted that the retail giant has earned a reputation in the industry for promoting family values.

"For them to be carrying 'Lil' Pimp' is kinda strange," he said.

Karen Black, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman at corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., confirmed that the chain is carrying the movie, but she did not have information about availability in Triangle stores.

Jodie Magid, a spokeswoman with Lion's Gate Films, was surprised that the movie prompted objections. She forwarded this description of the movie via e-mail:

"When a young boy discovers that he doesn't fit in with the other kids at school and doesn't relate to his mother, he finds a home with the city's pimps and ho's. Lil' Pimp's new life is endangered by the city's scheming mayor. Unless the mayor can be exposed for the crook that he is, the playground and the ghetto surrounding it will be transformed into a golf course and Lil' Pimp will be forced to return to the horrors of life in suburbia."

Viewers quickly learn the "playground" is actually a strip club where animated dancers swing on poles and perform lap dances.

When asked about criticism of the movie, Magid said the studio had no comment.

(News researcher Brooke Cain contributed to this report.)

Staff writer Thomasi McDonald can be reached at 829-4533 or tmcdonal@newsobserver.com.

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