“The truth is too ugly for a general audience.” That phrase sums up journalist Dee Barnes reaction to Straight Outta Compton–a film from which she can rightfully claim she was erased. SOC garnered much praise over the last few days, landing in theaters this past weekend to towering box office numbers and capturing the hip-hop community’s heart. But what seems painfully absent from many assessments of the film, and well, the film itself, is the presence of women. Not those scantily-clad and mostly naked dimes that litter the film’s copious parties and hotel hangs, but women.
Outside of maybe one instance at the film’s onset, where Dr. Dre is slapped by his mother for belittling her job, the film’s true shortcoming is a flat-out absence of strong female characters who are more than just there for the group’s picking, when we all know just how pivotal the role of women have been in the NWA narrative, particularly in the case of Dre. Here’s a man who has repeatedly jested about beating women throughout those early years of his career, having been charged for actually doing so in a nightclub bathroom. That bathroom, as she recounts in a new Gawker piece in reaction to the film, is where he damn near beat Barnes to death.
Barnes sites similar erasures in the omission of Michel’le and Tairrie B from SOC, both integral to the NWA/Ruthless Records narrative, both wholly absent from a film that succeeds beyond measure in portraying the persistent and relentless harassments and slayings of black men, but fails beyond any measure in honestly portraying the heinous acts that black women were subjected to in that same world. The most glaring sin of omission–and perhaps the most shocking twist in the story for those who didn’t live it–is a man’s name. Go ahead, ask us: what’s the name of the camera man on the Pump It Up profile of N.W.A. which earned the ire of Dre and Ice Cube, the piece for which Barnes’ beating was ostensibly payback? Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray.
All of this and much more is vividly detailed by Dee Barnes in her Gawker piece, which you can read in its heart-smashing entirety by hitting the link below.