Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Has ‘Pimp’ Become an Acceptable Term for Children?

posted by Nell Minow

“G-Force” is an upcoming PG-rated comedy from Disney about a crack team of super-agents who happen to be guinea pigs, assisted by a mole and a fly, with voice talent including Tracy Morgan and Steve Buscemi. The trailer makes it look like fairly harmless nonsense, though I winced a bit when the girl guinea pig dances to “don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me.” But what really made me pause was the line “pimp my ride.” Has that term become so thoroughly sanitized that it is now acceptable in a children’s film from Disney?

It is the nature of words and other elements of culture to move from the edge to the mainstream and that is often a very good thing; it is what keeps our culture vital, engaging, and challenging. The word “pimp” has expanded from its original meaning as a man who manages prostitutes. Last year, when a journalist used it to describe the way Hilary Clinton’s campaign was deploying her daughter Chelsea, however, the candidate’s response was more as a mother than a politician, saying “Nothing justifies the kind of debasing language that David Shuster used and no temporary suspension or half-hearted apology is sufficient.” The reporter and the network apologized unreservedly and whole-heartedly.

MTV’s television series “Pimp My Ride” has popularized the use of the term as a reference to tricking up something, making it more glamorous and show-offy (like the popular notion of the pimp lifestyle), and it is in that sense that the word is used in this film. But I was sorry to see both Disney and the MPAA find that it is appropriate language for a PG. I believe it is inappropriate language for children to hear and use and a troubling contribution to the coarsening of our culture and discourse.



  • Laura

    I completely agree, I find “pimp” to be offensive. The original error in judgment in naming the MTV series has been compounded by writers who attempt to transform a pejorative noun into a mainstream verb.
    I’m going to have to memorize the last line of your post, Nell, to use on my children the next time they try to tell me it’s OK to say something “sucks” at the dinner table.

  • Iris Alantiel

    Personally, I’d be more concerned about the use of “Don’t Cha”, a Pussycat Dolls song implying that sexual attractiveness and promiscuous behaviour make a woman worthwhile. To use the word “pimp” as in “pimp my ride” doesn’t actually seem very harmful by comparison. In this context it doesn’t expose children to any of the word’s more sexualized meanings.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Laura. What I told my children was this: “I know you know a lot of words, including some I don’t approve of. I expect you to recognize that just as some words are appropriate at recess that are not appropriate in school, different words are for different situations. It is very important for you to understand these boundaries and it will be increasingly important as you go out into the working world and spend time with friends and their families. If I hear you making a mistake by using a words we do not permit in this house or in other inappropriate circumstances, you will be in trouble, and I will need to start imposing additional restrictions on what movies and television you can watch.”

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Iris, I agree with you that the Pussycat Dolls song is a poor choice, too, which is why I mentioned it. But the number one job of being a kid is learning, and they don’t limit themselves to what we want them to learn. Whether they pick up the term “pimp” and use it knowing its fuller meaning or not knowing, it is likely to cause trouble for them and so I object to its use in a movie intended for that age group because it creates the impression that it is appropriate.

  • http://www.moviepacks.info/ Justin

    Disney has always been pushing the evelope on how far unacceptable they can go before they get in trouble.

  • Iris Alantiel

    Nell, I think you have a point. That makes a lot of sense, and I admit I didn’t think about whether children would imitate the word and whether they might inadvertently use it in an inappropriate way because of their lack of understanding of some of its other meanings.
    I suppose the best thing to do in this case is to educate kids about what’s appropriate or inappropriate to say in certain settings, as you mentioned in one of your above comments. Hopefully that will take care of “pimp my ride” and similar PG phrases. But as for the Pussycat Dolls song, I’m still mad at Disney for that one.

  • jestrfyl

    Disney studio is becoming confused again. It is trying to be more than it is and will only embarass itself. They have a strong niche that serves them well. Touchstone os their studio for more adult material. Blending the too under the guise of being cool is as sad as a guy my age rocking it out with my kids at VANS Warp tour (something I will not do to them or myself). Instead of becoming the “weird uncle” of movie studios, Disney needs to regroup and realize what they do well, work from that strength, and make movies that do not embarass parents or bore kids.

  • Your Name

    ANYTHING THAT IS OR GOOD VIRTUE SHOULD ONLY BE PRESENTED FOR THE
    CHILDREN AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE.BY GIVING VIRTUOUS MOVIES AND SOME
    LESSON TO LEARN AND THINK ABOUT TO OUR CHILDREN,IT WILL BECOME
    THEIR VERY FOUNDATION OF THEIR CHARACTER AS THEY GROW UP,LIKE
    WHEN EATING NATURAL SOURCES OF FRUITS AND VEGETABLES,NATURAL SOURCES
    OF VITAMINS AND MINEARLS NEEDED AS THE BUILDING BLOCK OF OUR BODY,
    MOVIES OF GOOD QUALITIES WILL BECOME ALSO THE VERY FOUNDATION OF
    BUILDING THE CHARACTER OF OUR CHILDREN AND AS THEY GROW UP,THEY CARRY
    THROUGH THESE VALUES AND BE ABLE TO KEEP THEM.

  • Alicia

    Though coming late to this discussion, I agree with Nell and Iris. The use of the term “pimp” in a children’s film is not appropriate.
    As for the Pussycat Dolls song, which I am familiar with from the commercials for “Pop Stars” (or whatever it was called) on the CW, I think the song “Don’t Cha” is the possibly the most brainless pop song ever written, reducing the nature of women to only one characteristic – “hotness” (or lack thereof)… forget about brains, personality, love, compassion, generosity, curiosity. Only “hot women” count. Arrghhhh!

  • Cajungirl0

    Honestly, I can see the concern but I don’t think it is that big of a deal. I feel like for most of the children watching this movie, the word “pimp” will go right over their heads. It was probably intended to get a couple laughs out of the adults in the audience. I don’t think Disney is out to “push the buttons” or “limits” with their movies. This is a children’s film and that is the only intention.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Cajungirl10, but you can never assume that anything will be over a child’s head. That is especially true when it is highlighted in the trailer and commercial, which the kids see over and over and repeat verbatim, and when it gets a reaction from the audience. I will bet you the price of a ticket that if you stand in the parking lot after the film you will hear children use this term. If this is supposed to be a children’s film, it should not include a term like “pimp.”

  • Sam

    I think you are just taking the word out of context.
    You mention the meaning of the word pimp (flashy, cool, etc) in the way they used it – but you seem to then ignore that.
    The word pimp – as in “That’s pimp” or “Pimp my ride” has nothing to do with prostitutes. Just like an opposite phrase “That’s ghetto” has nothing to do with Jewish racial segregation.
    You compare the usage in the movie to a the usage directed at the Clintons. That is unfair – “To pimp someone out” is an offensive usage. Many words have dual meanings – one acceptable, one not.
    I think it has more to do with the slang words you grew up with. The writers of these movies are probably mid-twenties and have grown up with these specific words and don’t see them in the same way you do.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Sam — that is exactly the question I am asking, and the reason the subject line is phrased as a question and not a statement. You could say the same thing about words that have crossed over from the drug culture like “cold turkey” or “rock and roll,” which referred to sex before it referred to music. The issue is not whether some words cross over from fringe to mainstream but whether this one has, and I believe that this one is still inappropriate and that movies directed at children should be cautious about words that have the double meanings you refer to. But I liked your comment and appreciate your thoughtful assessment.

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