Film Review: The plight of the video ho

By Sherri Shergill

Trashy and so not very classy are the nicest possible ways to describe video hos these days. The majority of popular hip-hop music videos all share the common thread–and in some cases that is all the girls have got on–of gorgeous girls in smutty clothes who have never caught a beat in their life, but who can bend over into the camera amazingly well. These video hos, other times referred to as dancers, are aspiring entertainers who appear in music videos in hopes of being discovered.

Maybe the description is a little brutal, but anyone would feel the same frustration towards the hip-hop video scene after watching Breakin’ In: The Making of a Hip Hop Dancer. This documentary takes you past the glamour and money of hip-hop stars, past the directors and producers, directly to the obscure girls who shake and degrade themselves in the back of these videos.

Breakin’ In chronicles the lives of three talented Toronto based young women for one year, as they each aspire to break into the entertainment industry. Michelle is a kinesiology student who is frustrated with the sexualized portrayal of current dancers and is being pressured by her parents to attend medical school instead of pursuing a career in dancing. Tracy, one of the best hip-hop dancers in Toronto, needs to break into the American industry to make a living from dancing. Linda is a single mother and part of the underground singing group Touche who is hungry for fame and intends to be an international superstar known for her curvaceous rear end.

Each of the girls are challenged with their own setbacks, whether it’s money, time, morals or values. As one music producer in the documentary states, “It’s hip-hop. We’re looking for ass, titties… we’re looking for girls with nice bodies.” This reality leads each one to question the worth of being a dancer in an industry focusing more on tits and ass than talent.

Elizabeth St. Philip, the documentary’s creator, challenges typical stereotypes of video hos by showing these dancers as three dimensional people with dreams bigger than wearing a bikini in a video and exposes the misogynist attitude lurking around hip-hop. Breakin’ In: The Making of a Hip-Hop Dancer is an interesting and entertaining hour delving into all the sex appeal of music videos and showing a talented trio of girls who must ask themselves how far they are willing to go for a chance at an uncertain future.

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