While Straight Outta Compton has been met with general acclaim, its most egregious flaw is how it glossed over N.W.A’s explicit misogyny. It disregards the group’s documented transgressions in favor of canonization. Critics aren’t keeping quiet about this, and one of them is Dee Barnes — the journalist who Dr. Dre brutally assaulted in 1991.
Barnes opened up about the issue in a first-person piece for Gawker in which she explains her side of the story after watching Straight Outta Compton. The former host of FOX’s Pump It Up! revealed that although her assault should’ve been addressed, it didn’t need a full blown depiction.
That event isn’t depicted in Straight Outta Compton, but I don’t think it should have been, either. The truth is too ugly for a general audience. I didn’t want to see a depiction of me getting beat up, just like I didn’t want to see a depiction of Dre beating up Michel’le, his one-time girlfriend who recently summed up their relationship this way: “I was just a quiet girlfriend who got beat on and told to sit down and shut up.”
The entire account is heartbreaking, from the fear of losing her life at Dr. Dre’s hands to being blackballed from the industry because people feared losing their ties to Dre. The dark account also reveals a bombshell: F. Gary Gray, the Straight Outta Compton director, shot that N.W.A/Ice Cube segment that Dr. Dre assaulted Barnes for. The segment ended with Ice Cube slandering his former group.
Here’s her account:
Gary was the one holding the camera during that fateful interview with Ice Cube, which was filmed on the set of Boyz N the Hood. I was there to interview the rapper Yo Yo. Cube was in a great mood, even though he was about to shoot and he was getting into character.
Cube went into a trailer to talk to Gary andPump It Up! producer Jeff Shore. I saw as he exited that Cube’s mood had changed. Either they told him something or showed him the N.W.A. footage we had shot a few weeks earlier. What ended up airing was squeaky clean compared to the raw footage. N.W.A. were chewing Cube up and spitting him out. I was trying to do a serious interview and they were just clowning—talking shit, cursing. It was crazy.
Right after we shot a now-angry Cube and they shouted, “Cut!” one of the producers said, “We’re going to put that in.” I said, “Hell no.” I wasn’t even thinking about being attacked at the time, I was just afraid that they were going to shoot each other. I didn’t want to be part of that. “This is no laughing matter,” I tried telling them. “This is no joke. These guys take this stuff seriously.” I was told by executives that I was being emotional. That’s because I’m a woman. They would have never told a man that. They would have taken him seriously and listened.
Gray said that he left Dre’s attack on Barnes — in addition to his physical abuse of singer Michel’le — because it didn’t serve the film’s narrative. That excuse is made flimsier by Barnes’s revelation and the fact that Dr. Dre and Ice Cube are two of the film’s producers.
You can read Barnes’s piece in full here. If it’s uncomfortable to read, good — it should be.
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