If Hip Hop was a Movie: A Feminine Narrative
In this film, the leading love interest, Justice LaRue, played by African American cultural Icon Janet Jackson, displays the nuance in gender when it comes to the environment that created Hip Hop culture. John Singleton’s movies did well to repeatedly display narratives of the inner-city African American male experience in films like Boyz n the Hood, Four Brothers, etc. In the movie Poetic Justice, the audience is given an authentic glimpse into what circumstances create the attitudinal African American woman. This is a story of the loving, doting “ ride or die” girlfriend in “every hood usa” who loses her father, boyfriend, brother, etc., to gun violence, subsequently learning how to cope without help in the aftermath.
Poetic Justice Leading Lady; a poet named Justice LaRue
The angry, sassy, spite-fire sapphire (see definition below) is a cultural fixture. Stereotypes have determined that it is the innate disposition of black women to be crass, rude, loud, angry, and inappropriate – a merciless description of a person who doesn’t deserve empathy or consideration. Justice is reeling from the death of her boyfriend (played by rap royalty Q-Tip), who was shot and killed. She was an eye-witness to his death and relived it often. For centuries this was a woman who wasn’t given the benefit of experiencing mental health crises. Justice is obviously struggling with PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Unmedicated and altogether untreated by anything save the lectures of wise aunties, one of which was played by the late great Maya Angelou; and hip hop music.
Poetic Justice: Cinematic Hip Hop
Easily stirred to anger and injury, Justice is hard to get along with, for men especially. It is how she subconsciously protects herself from loving and losing again. Quiet and reflective, the poet is often in her head more than she is in reality. Dissociation is a feature of PTSD for many with the illness. Her tender welcoming face is framed by the neglect of new growth under braids that need to be taken out. However, due to the self-neglect that comes with depression, the hairstylist that beautifies her clients leaves her beauty unattended. Without a man to protect her, she evolves her series of protective mechanisms in the way of a no-nonsense attitude to scare off potential transgressors. Lucky, played by foundational Hip Hop Legend Tupac Shakur, plays the love interest that proves to Justice that it is safe to love again. Hence, the name of Janet Jackson’s hit single from the Poetic Justice movie soundtrack, Again.
Glossary of terms
Ride or die – An African American Vernacular English (AAVE) colloquialism describing extreme loyalty to someone or something; most commonly used in the feminine, i.e., ride or die chick.
Every hood USA – coined by the author, a term describing commonalities from one historically pre-dominantly black, American inner-city to another
Sapphire – Caricature rooted in chattel slavery, jim crow, and minstrels that portrays black women as rude, loud, malicious, stubborn, and overbearing; the Angry Black Woman