A film aimed squarely at making you stupider, GhettoPhysics is an adaptation of the book GhettoPhysics: Will the Real Pimps and Hos Please Stand Up! by E. Raymond Brown, who stars in the latest piece of inanity from What the Bleep Do We Know!? director Will Arntz. According to Brown’s thesis, everyone in society fulfills one of two roles: pimp or ho. You’re either manipulating others to do your bidding, or you’re being manipulated—or, to put it in this quasi-doc’s attention-grabbing terms, MLK, Ghandi, Hitler, Clinton, Bush, Enron, and Ronald McDonald are pimps, and anyone who has a job or acts like a consumer is a ho.
It’s a scenario ascribed to every conceivable social and economic power dynamic, be it world wars, credit cards, or environmental destruction. A vain KRS-One dubs capitalism “the biggest pimp game in town” and Dick Cheney is labeled a “gangster,” merely two of countless examples of this documentary’s glib, reductive thinking on the subject of global inequality. Brown and Arntz pontificate on matters by using big words they then smugly define (“Archetype!”), all while arguing that the exploitative pimp-ho relationship is a microcosm for larger cultural relationships, contentions made through a variety of animated vignettes, talking-head interviews, and staged sequences in which Brown delivers a dissertation on “GhettoPhysics” to a classroom of fake students. His theory’s name combines street lingo and science in part to legitimize actual pimps and hos, who are featured as colorful talking heads equal to that of Cornel West and Norman Lear, both of whom embarrass themselves via participation in this unsophisticated sermon.
But such a linguistic synthesis, as well as prattle about how the terms “pimp” and “ho” are the electrons and protons of the human psyche, also seeks to link this film with What the Bleep Do We Know!?, with which it additionally shares a belief that our internal attitudes shape our external realities, as well as a habit of employing dubious experts to further its case, including an “Anthropologist/Shamanic teacher.” Brown claims his goal is to “deconstruct the complexity of the modern world,” yet employing Too $hort as a fount of wisdom is hardly a convincing means of doing so. And ultimately, his analysis wends its way to a conclusion that exposes this endeavor’s true aim of promoting (in light of our “empire” supposedly being in the throes of decline) a future that casts aside capitalistic materialism in favor of empowering New Age-y spirituality.
It’s difficult to gauge which element of GhettoPhysics is more off-putting: the simplicity of its reasoning or the cutesy CG and dramatic interludes it uses to make its points. Regardless, it’s a film that says nothing with a surfeit of undeserved self-satisfaction.