Monday, April 08, 2013

The new Jackie Robinson movie, 42, "Brooklyn We Go Hard," and what's left out of the legend

It's inevitable that the Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets will aim to capitalize on the new Jackie Robinson biopic, "42," which opens Friday, April 12

After all, arena/team fractional owner Jay-Z called out widow Rachel Robinson during one of his arena-inaugurating concerts last fall, while mogul Bruce Ratner was honored last month by the Jackie Robinson Foundation.

But the movie plays "the legend card," as  Dana Jennings wrote 4/7/13 in the Times Arts & Leisure section, The Superhero Who Leapt Color Lines: Jackie Robinson, the Hero, in ‘42:
Robinson’s words bring us up short because, culturally, we want his legend — a cross-pollination of proud American mythology and exceptionalism — to be true because it makes us feel good about ourselves, about baseball, about our perceived progress on race relations.

But as I listened to the hip-hop bravado of Jay-Z’s “Brooklyn We Go Hard” on a “42” movie trailer, I wondered whether he knew that Robinson was a committed Republican who campaigned for Richard M. Nixon in the 1960 presidential election.
Indeed. There's another complications: when Jay-Z "runs base" in the song the rapper/persona is dealing drugs, as noted in the RapGenius analysis.

Also see New York Post columnist Phil Mushnick's comment:
And so the impossible — a wildly popular rapper relentlessly given to calling black men “n----s” — is chosen for front-and-center attachment to the new movie about Jackie Robinson.
Yes, Jay-Z fans would say the n-word as uttered by the rapper is different, though Oprah disagreed (and later came around). Either way, I doubt that debate can be aired in "42."

About the money

There's something missing in the movie,, the full recognition of the role of money. Jennings wrote:
As with many movies about sports, which tend toward the legend model, “42” runs the risk of making more out of ballplayers and baseball executives than what’s there. At heart Robinson was a four-sport star at U.C.L.A. (where he was a very good football running back) who wanted to play ball and earn a living. Rickey was a career baseball man who wanted to win games and make money. They needed each other.

...Because Robinson’s breakthrough came in the United States of America, it’s also a tale complicated by its sense of keen economic opportunity: you know, money. And “42” doesn’t shy from that fact. Mr. Ford’s Rickey says, “Dollars aren’t black and white,” and the Dodger manager Leo Durocher, played by Christopher Meloni, states, “We’re playing for money here, Mr. Rickey.”

But Robinson was blunter in his book. “Money is America’s God,” he wrote, “and business people can dig black power if it coincides with green power.” And on his teammates: “They hadn’t changed because they liked me any better; they had changed because I could help fill their wallets.”
And that closes the loop back to Jay-Z, Barclays, and the Nets, where seemingly every "community" calculation gets costed out.

The Nets and 42

Oh yes, the Nets' Jerry Stackhouse wears 42, inspired by James Worthy, his favorite player, who himself was advised by his father to choose 42. As the Daily News reported:
"One thing about it is that the number 42 is significant in all sports, not just in baseball," former Piston Rick Mahorn, who mentored Stackhouse in Detroit, said. "(Robinson) was a person who sacrificed and who stepped up for what equality is about... when Jackie Robinson was playing for Brooklyn, what he endured, that's something that I didn't have to go through or anybody later in on in life, as my kids grow, and their generation doesn't have to go through that anymore."
Of course, it's not just about equality, it's about money.

What Brooklyn gained, and didn't

And let's not forget (as I noted in April 2011), in his 2001 book, A Covenant with Color: Race and Social Power in Brooklyn 1636-1990, Brooklyn historian Craig Steven Wilder wrote:
It is a twisted irony that Brooklyn's politicians offered more vocal protests against segregated sports than they had against the construction of a black ghetto. By attacking Jim Crow in professional sports, local officials were able to grandstand as champions of racial equality without tackling the politically costly issues of employment and housing discrimination.

...Yet, the integration of its famous baseball team was a mild accomplishment when measured against Brooklyn's extraordinary social divisions.

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