A scandal erupted this week over the past of Dr. Dre (real name Andre Young), after Straight Outta Compton – a new biopic about his time in hip-hop group N.W.A. (Niggaz wit’ Attitude) – was criticised for not showing Young’s history of violence against women.
But despite this, I think the situation has played out almost perfectly. And here’s why.
In an essay written for Gawker one of Young’s victims Dee Barnes spoke of her disappointment that Straight Outta Compton didn’t address his attack on her in a women’s restroom of a nightclub in 1991. Barnes stated that she didn’t want to see the violence depicted, but did want it referred to.
However, this would have created more problems. Firstly, audiences would have argued that the movie simply referring to the incident avoided tackling it’s brutal nature. Secondly, if the film simply referenced this dark episode in an otherwise optimistic rags to riches narrative, it could send a message to young men that violence against women won’t come back to haunt you.
Any attempt the film could have made to deal with Young’s violent past would have been inadequate, because we would be arguing over a fictional depiction of a real event.
This would have desensitized audiences as we’d be busy discussing things like the tone of a particular movie scene. Instead, the controversy has people thinking seriously about the realities of Young’s violent past.
A crucial advantage of the media controversy that has ensued is that it deals with facts. The media has reminded everyone of the horrific events by reporting facts instead of giving opinions on a film’s content. This then led to the Gawker article – an important part of the story which might not otherwise exist.
Crucially the controversy has forced Andre Young the man, not the character, to make an important public apology:
“Twenty-five years ago I was a young man drinking too much and in over my head with no real structure in my life. However, none of this is an excuse for what I did.”
Straight Outta Compton could never had said this. Unless the biopic jumped forward to the present day, it could never have shown this level of regret. And it could never have inspired young men to learn from Young’s mistakes in the same way that the New York Times apology has.
In his statement, Young added: “Every day I’m working to be a better man for my family, seeking guidance along the way. I’m doing everything I can so I never resemble that man again.” Again, this is a powerful message to young men that the movie could never have conveyed.
Some have questioned the legitimacy of the apology, arguing that it may be financially motivated or prompted by Young’s business partners, Apple. However in a follow-up article, Barnes has accepted the apology, writing: “Who cares why he apologised? The point is that he did.”
Had Young not made such a good apology, I’m sure I’d take a different stance. But though it might seem like a mess, I strongly believe the situation has played out in the best way for everybody – most of all, the public. There are many cases of celebrities never talking about heinous past mistakes, and thankfully this hasn’t ended as one of them.
If Straight Outta Compton had attempted to address the incidents, Young could have refused to comment further on the matter. As it is, Young has unequivocally warned young men that violence against women can never be undone:
“I apologize to the women I’ve hurt. I deeply regret what I did and know that it has forever impacted all of our lives.”
Image Credit – Dr. Dre at Coachella 2012 by Jason Persse