Black women are always on the side of victimhood in films about sex work. They are the women who must struggle away from the pimps and the ones being abused by them. In the case of the legendary blaxploitation film Coffey, starring Pam Grier, the Black woman is the one saving others from sex work. In Pimp, however, Keke Palmer is turning these tropes on their heads by depicting the Black woman named Wednesday as the protector, the power, and the pimp of a group of sex workers. Wednesday is also a queer woman, another breath of fresh cinema for film nerds like me looking for a new perspective on staid tropes.
Directed and written by Christine Krokos, Pimp follows Wednesday as she tries to make a living in a space that has never been hospitable to sex workers and has always been dominated by men. She threatens a system that has been ruling since the beginning of sex work. Why? Because she is showing women that they can take charge of their own bodies and with that, their own money made from those bodies. And, they can do so without having a man oppressing, degrading, and treating them like property.
In this trailer, I see a side of Palmer that is a far cry from her Akeelah and the Bee days and I love it. As Wednesday, Palmer goes from the most sensual of scenes with girlfriend Nikki (played by Haley Ramm from Notorious and Light as a Feather) to being a fierce defender of her business in the face of intimidation by males pimps led by a violent pimp played by Edi Cathegi of X-Men: First Class and Gone Baby Gone.
Palmer gives no doubt that she could carry this film, which may be a sleeper this award season. It looks like a role where she can flex her adult acting chops and finally set herself a place in the dramatic film arena. That’s what I gleaned from the trailer anyway.
Aunjanue Ellis ( The Help) plays Palmer’s mother and there is rumored to be a cameo by DMX.
Pimp releases on November 9 on demand and in theaters.
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Jonita Davis is a writer, mother, a certified nerd, and writer of Black Girl Nerds. Davis is a critic and journalist. She has been writing for 13 years about the way pop culture and politics affect our lives as parents, women, black women, nerds, and people of this planet.