PATTI CAKE$

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If the film is to be taken as literally as it depicts itself, white females no longer need the sylphlike features of Fergie or Iggy Azalea in order to make it as a hip-hop artist. They can also resemble the obese and unsightly Patti, played by Danielle Macdonald. Indeed, where aspiring black rappers struggle to gain a career in music, especially females, who often have to surgically alter themselves just to be looked at, white females, on the other hand, who are the farthest away from the social and cultural experiences that warrant being authentically hip-hop, are allowed a much lower bar of expectations to overcome.

In selling the probability of its main character, the film absurdly equates her low socioeconomic status (i.e. lack of job prospects, strained home life, and physical appearance discrimination) to the African American experience. This is done not with the intentions of empathy, but to traffic and steal from the experience in efforts to make its hopeless heroine look better.

And wow does the film go there in terms of giving its white characters street credibility that they otherwise would never have in reality. One scene that particularly stands out is a rap battle between Patti (a.k.a. Killa P, in performance) and a black culture misappropriating, white male ‘thug’ who works at a pizza parlor. Not even the unskillfully crafted insults disguised as rap lyrics could give this scene a modicum of grit.

Sadly, the film’s assault on black culture is best shown through its black characters, whose main purpose is to serve its self-proclaimed “white Precious.” From the black spectators who watch the rap battle in awe to the dubious cameo of female rap legend MC Lyte in the role of a helpful disc jockey, Patti comes into her own with ease, thanks to the colored folks’ stamp of approval.

Patti’s most devoted servant is aptly named Basterd, played by Mamoudou Athie. A socially awkward rock musician who conveniently has all the equipment and insight that Patti needs to create music, Basterd not only allows her to coax him into working for her, he falls in love with her; consequently, producing one of the most awkward romances ever portrayed on film.

What’s more bruising to the black male image than tying it to the courtship of an unattractive white female is knowing that not even the pizza parlor thug finds her desirable.

There’s more underhanded defaming to experience in this predictable film. Siddharth Dhananjay, who plays Patti’s Indian best friend Jheri, spends most of his screen time acting as if he grew up in the hood, when he clearly didn’t.

Alcoholism and drug abuse, shown through Patti’s mom and grandma, played by Bridget Everett and Cathy Moriarty, are exploited for comedic relief instead of being explored for the devastation they’ve afflicted on the family.

The lone black rapper in the film, Patti’s idol O-Z, played by Sahr Ngaujah, is a pompous, sexist clown— probably the only depiction the film gets right.

Though the O-Z character exists in the film, that doesn’t give it any merit. Over time, commercialization has chipped away at hip-hop’s position as a voice for disenfranchised minority youth. By framing itself on what hip-hop has become, “Patti Cake$” further proves greater American society’s lack of respect towards the genre’s origins.

About Mikal K. Odom 20 Articles
Mikal K. Odom is an out Philadelphia-based, multi-talented African-American director, screenwriter, producer and actor of film and stage. His first feature, LUV DON'T LIVE HERE, premiered at qFLIX Philadelphia 2015 and won the Audience Award for Best Feature. It is distributed by Breaking Glass Pictures and online. He is currently writing his second original narrative screenplay.

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