8 Mile is possibly the only movie ever made to use the "F"-word more than the word "the." It is used literally hundreds of times in the space of two hours.
8 Mile is the story of a cast of characters who were dealt a lousy set of cards by life and who then proceed to tear most of their cards in half.
At the center of the story is Jimmy Smith Jr., aka "Bunny Rabbit," aka "B-Rabbit," aka "Rabbit" (Eminem), a young, Detroit auto-industry worker who has been dealt a particular bad set of cards. He’s just split up with his girlfriend, who told him she was pregnant. He has no car, a lousy job, and no place to stay except in his hillbilly mother’s squalid trailer, where she lives with her barely adult, alcoholic, hick boyfriend, who doesn’t get along with Rabbit. For his birthday, Rabbit’s mother gives him a car. But it doesn’t work — a fact he discovers just in time to be late to work (again) and almost get fired.
Rabbit’s only solaces in life are his hip-hop friends, his phenomenal skill in rap insult competitions, and his dreams of making it big as a rap star and getting a better life somewhere else.
Unfortunately, just like all of his family and friends, Rabbit is going nowhere fast. He’s torn between a group of buds who are trying to get together a rap group that may never happen and another wheeler-dealer friend who makes him constant promises of a recording break that never seems to materialize.
To make matters worse, Rabbit has just acquired a bad reputation because he totally choked in an insult competition. He allowed himself to get psyched-out by his opponent and couldn’t deliver one word of rebuke. Now everyone thinks he’s a complete, white trash loser.
Everyone except his let’s-get-a-rap-group-together homies. The problem with them is that, while they help pick up Rabbit’s spirits, they make reckless choices and egg Rabbit into making them, too. Especially problematic as a friend is Rabbit’s lovable but slow bud Chedder Bob, whose main function in the gang seems to be getting everyone into trouble by trying to be helpful.
Despite its kaleidoscope of human squalor and stupidity, despite its stream of crass immorality and foul language, the film is not entirely without a moral center. As the drama unfolds, it is clear that many characters have a conscience. One, while recognizing he is a real sinner, is slowly trying to get his life right with Jesus Christ. Another has a social conscience and the temerity to insist that many of the African American community’s wounds are self-inflicted.
Most significantly, the film recognizes that bad choices have bad consequences. While Rabbit and his friends get away with a few of the things they do, more and more they suffer the consequences of their actions. The film doesn’t always pay these consequences off at once. It takes a while, for example, before Rabbit learns that the kind of girlfriend who will have sex with you in your workplace the day after you met her may not be the best kind of girlfriend to have, but he eventually learns it.
Eventually Rabbit perceives the necessity of taking responsibility for his actions, of making better choices, and of getting away from the people who are holding him back. As he begins to do so, he starts regaining in confidence and doing the things he needs to do to get the kind of life he wants.
This film actually could do some good.
There are a lot of people out there who idolize the gritty, hip-hop kind of existence that Rabbit lives, who make the same kind of choices as Rabbit and his friends, and who just might learn the lesson Rabbit learns in the film. In this connection it’s especially good that Eminem is not portrayed as the strutting rap god he could have been. His character is filled with problems and insecurities.
The film doesn’t censure rap or the hip-hop culture itself, but it does censure bad decision making, irresponsibility, and many of the problems plaguing rap culture. And that’s something.
Unfortunately, for conscientious Christian viewers — or simply viewers with weak stomachs — the thick blanket of depravity, crassness, and squalor in which 8 Mile wraps its message will make the film simply unwatchable.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.