Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp

Movie review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp Movie Poster Image
Docu admires and glamorizes pimping with celeb interviews.
  • R
  • 2013
  • 90 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The subject of the film and interviewees seem captivated by the pimp's style and power, while the film glosses over the unpleasant and brutal aspects of the job.

Positive Role Models & Representations

It's worth noting that Iceberg Slim did redeem himself somewhat by giving up his life on the streets and becoming a noted writer and family man.


There are some mentions of violence, particularly against women to "keep them in line." Archival footage of Slim slapping a woman to the ground is replayed repeatedly.


Though the whole movie is about a man who took money from women who had sex with other men to get it, sex is rarely mentioned. But viewers will see many shots of scantily clad women, some loitering on street corners or getting into cars, and there is some discussion of the mechanics of prostitution.


Many unbleeped F-words and S-words; the words "bitches" and "hos" are frequently applied to women.


Real celebrities are interviewed and the names and book covers of Slim's books appear many times onscreen.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Scenes take place in bars and discuss drugs (heroin, cocaine) onscreen. Several people smoke onscreen; one coughs disgustingly, which parents can point out to kids and teens who may find smoking glamorous.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp is about a man who formerly made his living from prostitutes. The brutality and ugly aspects of this job are generally glossed over in the film in favor of praising the pimp's style and power. Interviewees chuckle indulgently as they talk about Iceberg Slim's life and that of the pimp in general, which sends a powerful and confusing message to the viewer, particularly when the film's words are illustrated with glamorous images of well-dressed men in fancy cars and suits. There is some cursing, including unbleeped four-letter words, and plenty of references to women as "bitches." An archival scene of Slim slapping a woman who falls to the ground is played repeatedly, and there is some discussion of beating women to "keep them in line" that seems unrepentant. Slim is a former heroin and cocaine addict and discusses this onscreen; viewers also hear that he spent all his ill-gotten gains this way. Interviewees also smoke onscreen. One hacks a smoker's cough as she lights up -- parents may want to point out the effects of smoking, if they allow older teens to watch this very iffy prospect at all.

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What's the story?

ICEBERG SLIM: PORTRAIT OF A PIMP peers into the life of reformed pimp Iceberg Slim, who commanded his "stable" of prostitutes in Chicago from the 1930s to 1960, when a lengthy stint of solitary in prison convinced him he had to go straight. He got married, had a couple of kids, and took up writing instead of pimping, producing a string of books that were a big hit in paperback in the 1960s and 1970s. Through archival footage and interviews with celebrities like Ice-T and Chris Rock, this documentary traces Slim's life from its difficult beginnings through his ultimate redemption, painting a picture of an outsized and fascinating, if criminal and despicable, American personality.

Is it any good?

Images of pimps as sharp-dressed, elegant strivers linger both in our culture and on-screen in this interesting, if troubling documentary. So that makes it easy to accept Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp as a harmless diversion that illuminates a little corner of our country's history. But parents may find this particular documentary more troubling than most historical looks back. Slim himself is presented more as an endearing oddball than a man who brutalized and subjugated women. Though he speaks candidly of drug abuse and beating women, far more time is spent rhapsodizing about fancy cars and the street cred a pimp enjoys. Thus parents may rightfully worry that this movie glamorizes prostitution and pimping.

Why are none of Slim's ex-prostitutes interviewed? What light would they have cast on this man and his past? Though interviews with Slim's ex-wife and three daughters, who seem to view their dad fondly and indulgently, do lighten things up somewhat, it's difficult to listen to Slim himself and celebrity interviewees glossing over the icky aspects of his ex-vocation. The movie becomes easier to watch when it turns to looking at Slim's later career as a writer; certainly an admirable turn for the man's life to take, even if he was writing books that romanticized and glamorized his ugly past -- hey, just like this movie!

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what a pimp does. Does his service seem worthy and important? Why or why not? Do you admire pimps?

  • Are viewers supposed to find Iceberg Slim a tragic figure? A glamorous one? An important one? What aspects of the way he is presented make you draw this conclusion?

  • Why didn't the film makers interview any of Slim's ex-prostitutes? Do you wish they had? What would their perspectives have brought to the movie?

Movie details

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