“GhettoPhysics” is E. Raymond Brown’s notion of all human dynamics being classifiable as variations on the “pimp and ho” model, as described in his book and now this feature co-directed by Brown and William Arntz (“What the Bleep Do We Know!?”). Unlikely to be screened in many formal classrooms, given its fuzzy thinking as well as its dubious taste, semi-staged docu nonetheless could build upon limited theatrical rollout (starting Oct. 8) to gain a home-viewing following.
This “very thought-provoking journey” (as Brown himself pronounces onscreen) uses “street terms to break down very scholarly intricate dynamics … so the average person understands it.” Still, the concept — that everyone and everything is either exploiting or being exploited — gets old fast, and never loses its cheap misogynist edge, despite “Professor” Brown’s disclaimers in staged classroom sequences. (Sabrina Revelle plays an objecting student whom Brown belittles as “Miss African-American Princess” until, natch, she comes to embrace his wisdom.)
The formula is applied to a grab bag of figures and subjects (illustrated with news clips and crude animation) including politicians, Enron, wars in Iraq and Vietnam, Charles Manson, the church, Hitler, credit-card companies, capitalism in general, et al., with workers and members of the audience holding up the “ho” end.
All we really learn from this is that there’s always one more simplistic metaphor the world can be reduced to (and that somebody can get media mileage out of). Once he’s pounded his thesis to death, Brown speaks vaguely about how everything is interconnected, urging viewers to stop being victimized and take responsibility for their own destinies by becoming “inspired hos and beneficent pimps.”
As far as actual plans of action, however, pic leaves the slate blank. For all its street edge, “GhettoPhysics” pretty much delivers the usual New Age seminar sleight-of-hand, providing a temporary, generalized sense of empowerment without any practical tools to improve one’s lot.
Other staged bits offer Brown the chance to smirk at stupid interviewers and people on the street, in addition to some satirical fake commercials. We also hear from some actual pimps and hos, though it’s hard to tell whether they are the real thing or actors.
Assembly of new and archival footage is lively enough, and tech aspects are decent. Soundtrack is dominated by hiphop beats.