Bodied is difficult to categorize. It’s a comedy, but it’s also a drama. It’s satirical, but the subject matter is serious, too. It appears to be both a biting send-up of today’s culture wars and the movie that asks “Should white people rap?” Producer Adi Shankar, who is no stranger to satire, hopes it shows “the hypocrisy of today.”
Directed by prolific music video director Joseph Kahn, Bodied was produced by Eminem in addition to Shankar and others. Shankar told GameSpot during a recent interview that the rapper’s involvement was “like a stamp of authenticity” for the real life rap battle community, many members and organizations of which feature prominently in the film. “It brought the entire community together completely behind the film,” Shankar said.
In addition to that, Shankar said Eminem was “wonderful” to work with. “What I really appreciate about him ultimately, he’s like the anti-Hollywood,” he said. “I’ve wanted to leave Hollywood many, many times because I feel like in a lot of ways it’s the ecosystem [where] some people who need attention are trying to figure out how to get it, and this is a guy who doesn’t need it, doesn’t want it, doesn’t care about it.”
He compared Mathers to “old school movie stars” who fascinated the masses. “They didn’t really understand why, nor did they care,” he said. “They were like, ‘I have a craft, I do it–the fact that you guys all care so much is really your thing,’ and it doesn’t affect them. That’s Marshall Mathers.”
But Eminem’s influence alone couldn’t have made Bodied great, because Shankar said you have to be outside a thing to satirize it effectively. Shankar is likely most well known among our readers for being showrunner on Netflix’s well-loved Castlevania series, including the recent Castlevania Season 2 and the just-announced Season 3. But he’s also behind Bootleg Universe, a channel of unofficial, often satirical takes on pop culture figures like Punisher, Venom, Power Rangers, and more.
“What I dig about satire is it’s not really a genre, it’s a motif,” Shankar said. “It’s something that only outsiders can tap into…You have to have existed in a different paradigm, a different ecosystem, and then you can really see how things are.”
He said satire is “unifying,” which is important in today’s fragmented culture. But different groups of people are going to interpret Bodied very differently.
“How this film plays to the battle rap community is very different to how it plays to the hip-hop community at large, which then is different to how it plays to the more mass audience. That’s also different to how it plays to the film festival lobbyists,” he said. “Every time there’s been a screening and I’ve talked to some people in the crowd after, I’ve realized they are all getting completely different things out of the movie.”
Ultimately, he didn’t want the movie to tell people how to feel–just to point out hypocrisy where it exists.
“It doesn’t tell you at the end of the film what to think, how to think, what to feel, how to feel. It’s not like, a thesis. It’s an exploration, an examination, a dissection, but it’s creating all these bread crumbs to just basically show the hypocrisy of today,” he said. “I think that’s why the film’s clicking. That’s why it’s working.”
Meanwhile, despite the producer’s general distaste for Hollywood, he said he managed to have a good time at the premiere over the weekend. “I’m not really a fan of after parties or the whole Hollywood thing, but I had a really great time,” Shankar said. “The film is ultimately an independent film–it just looks like a studio movie, but it’s an independent film. I think whenever movies are made like that, you feel like a family made them. And I think really, I understood that logically, but I felt it last night.”
Bodied is in theaters now. For more on Castlevania Season 2, check out why it took so long for the show to use music from the games.