Joseph Kahn is no conservative.
The director behind acclaimed music videos by Taylor Swift, Eminem and Mariah Carey proudly calls himself a liberal. He still crafted one of the most pointed jabs at Identity Politics in recent memory.
The battle rapper comedy shreds our PC age while cheering free, unfettered speech. The film follows a white college student (Calum Worthy) who finds his inner battle rapper while researching his thesis.
Kahn promoted the film at Stanford University two months ago, but the free speech absolutist pulled some punches in the process. That meant he didn’t actually screen his own movie on campus despite being invited to do just that.
“I thought all the professors who liked me would be fired,” Kahn explained. “One student can say, ‘They showed a movie where they’re saying the F-word and the N-word and, without context, the next thing you know … it’s in the school paper and [professors] could lose their jobs.”
The film showcases battle rappers who will say almost anything to beat their opponents. It also highlights one of the most misunderstood concepts about the fight against free speech.
Context matters, even if it’s often ignored.
Kahn still couldn’t dodge some controversy, though.
While discussing the film he shared a stereotype he brought to the production, one he didn’t even realize he had. Kahn had to cast actors to play some of the film’s black rappers, and he ran into an unusual pre-conception.
“I just kind of assumed that all black guys could rap,” he told the podcast. “I happened to be in a subset of people who work in the record industry who are more musically inclined. When you go to actors who are not musically inclined they can’t rap.”
That flash of honesty “turned into a firestorm,” he says. “One student thought I was being so racist saying that. The funny thing is, I was critiquing my own racism. The next thing I know she was writing a letter, and it turned into a mess.”
It’s precisely the kind of bleakly comic moment seen over and again in “Bodied.”
The “So to Speak” discussion soon turned to the political landscape. Kahn noted the current Commander in Chief has something in common with his film’s key players.
“I’ve always said that Trump himself is a battle rapper,” he says. “If you listen to the vernacular and the things he says. he’s insulting people … he’s doing what we call ‘personals,’ constantly. He’s punching low. The truth doesn’t matter. He’s literally just punching away.”
Democrats, he says, don’t have anyone at the moment who could step in the ring with Trump.
“In order to beat him, you’re gonna need a battle rapper. If you don’t bring a battle rapper to it you’re going to lose, constantly, especially to the Red States that vote for him,” he says.
Therein lies a huge problem for his fellow liberals.
“We don’t have battle rappers on the left any more. We’re just coddled. We don’t wanna fight. We just wanna win our arguments by deplatforming somebody, and that makes lazy arguments,” he says. “You need to have the skill set of a good debater who can take on Trump.”
Case in point? Ben Shapiro.
The Daily Wire Editor in Chief “is kicking a lot of lefty a** right now because he’s a debater. If you want to defeat Ben Shapiro don’t deplatform him. Debate him,” he says.
Kahn expanded his argument to include the very college students depicted in his film. He recalls seeing a female Standford University student who “felt so entitled to be offended.”
“There’s a sense of power to her position, and the next thing you know the professors are reactive to it, they’re confused, they’re debating it, trying to understand it. But at the end of it, it’s one 18-year-old person super offended about one particular point that, quite frankly, she’s just wrong about.”
The cycle doesn’t end there, he warns.
“The entire campus reacts for it ….and it’s going across the country right now,” he says. “I don’t think that’s a positive way to build your next big battle rapper that can defeat the conservatives if you’re pro liberal.