'Barbershop' scene stays, despite critics

Friday, September 27, 2002

— Despite the threat of a boycott by the Rev. Al Sharpton, MGM says it will not remove a scene from the hit comedy "Barbershop" that mocks civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.

Sharpton said Thursday he would meet with supporters during the weekend to discuss whether to organize a boycott. He had asked that the studio explore changes to the scene for video and DVD.

The director, screenwriter and producers have apologized for causing offense, but defended their right to poke fun. The studio says it will back the filmmakers.

"We have no intention of altering the film in any way," MGM said in a statement Wednesday. "The filmmakers obviously struck a winning chord with critics and audiences alike, and we are already at work on the sequel."

"Barbershop," which stars Ice Cube, is about the importance of a barbershop hangout in a black neighborhood in Chicago. It has topped the U.S. box office for two weeks and earned more than $38.4 million.

The scene in question features a cranky barber named Eddie, played by Cedric the Entertainer, deliberately breaking taboos by saying Rodney King deserved to be beaten, O.J. Simpson was guilty of murder and Parks was not the only one who refused to give up a bus seat reserved for whites.

"Eddie, not only is what you're saying not true, it is wrong and disrespectful for you to discuss Rosa Parks in that way," one character responds.

"Is this a barbershop?" Eddie responds. "If we can't talk straight in the barbershop, then where can we talk straight? ... You know this ain't nothing but healthy conversation. Ain't nobody exempt in the barbershop. You can talk about whoever, and whatever, whenever you want to."

The character then directs an expletive at the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Later, he makes unflattering remarks about King's alleged promiscuity.

The scene also outraged Jackson, who has said King's family was offended.