8 Mile is a 2002 drama, telling the story of Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith Jr (played by Eminem) a working-class factory worker from Detroit. The viewer experiences the struggles in his daily life, working a low paid job, and getting into scraps with a rival rap gang, and trying to launch a career in hip-hop, where the viewer witnesses him fail spectacularly, choking his words in his first rap battle
It’s a really entertaining journey, seeing Jimmy battle through this setback, rebuilding his confidence, before cumulating in my absolute favourite scene, where he returns back to the stage to face his fears.
With it the audience is exposed to a powerful life lesson, and useful psychological trick commonly referred to as “Stealing Thunder.”
8 Mile – Stealing Thunder
Ever since choking on stage, he’s been harassed by the rap gang “Leaders of the Free World”, and as part of the films satisfying conclusion, we see B-Rabbit taking out members of the group one by one in a series of rap battles.
As a finale, this results in going against the leader of the group – Papa Doc (played by Anthony Mackie), where B-Rabbit twists the concept of a rap battle on it’s head, moving away from dissing the opponent, to turn his energy on himself talking about all his flaws, short comings and setbacks that the Free World have been taunting him about throughout the movie.
“This guy ain’t no mother-fucking MC,
I know everything he’s got to say against me,
I am white, I am a fucking bum, I do live in a trailer with my mom,
My boy Future is an Uncle Tom.
I do got a dumb friend named Cheddar Bob who shoots
himself in the leg with his own gun,
I did get jumped by all 6 of you chumps
And Wink did fuck my girl,
I’m still standing here screaming “FUCK THE FREE WORLD!”
Don’t ever try to judge me dude
You don’t know what the fuck I’ve been through…”
8 Mile Final Rap Battle Lyrics from Allthelyrics.com
By firing out this words, Jimmy demonstrates he no longer cares about the taunts of who he is, being prepared to put everything about him on the table for all to hear. It’s a genius move as he preempts all the negative insults he expects Papa Doc to throw at him when it’s his turn on the mic – by doing so he Stole Thunder from Papa Doc.
As the battle continues, he turns his venom to Papa Doc, and reveals things about him that he didn’t want people knowing as it would impact his street credibility:
“But I know something about you
You went to Cranbrook, that’s a private school
What’s the matter dawg? You embarrassed?
This guy’s a gangster? he’s real name’s Clarence
And Clarence lives at home with both parents
And Clarence’s parents have a real good marriage
This guy don’t wanna battle, He’s shook
‘Cause there no such things as half-way crooks
He’s scared to death
He’s scared to look in his fucking yearbook, fuck Cranbrook”
8 Mile Final Rap Battle Lyrcis from Allthelyrics.com
Finally as the music cuts out to signal the end of the battle B-Rabbit takes full control of the battle going acapella, bringing the assault back on himself, accepting who he is for all to hear
“I’m a piece of fucking white trash, I say it proudly”
Delivering a full-frontal assault, bookened with self-depreciating acceptance, Papa Doc is put in difficult position, his credibility as being from the streets is in tatters, and any all the ways he could insult B-Rabbit would just sound trite, clichéd and worthless.
Papa Doc chokes, speechless and humiliated, and the film ends as B-Rabbit wins emerging as a triumphant hero, leaving the viewer safe to assume that Jimmy goes away figuring his life out, and probably finds some sort of success in his rap career.
Take your rivals power away – Stealing thunder
Whether you want to refer to it as ‘putting it all on the table’, ‘saying it first’ or the psychological term ‘Stealing Thunder’, being open and honest about who are, and most importantly revealing your flaws before an enemy gets the opportunity to exploit is a powerful move.
In psychology Stealing Thunder is about utilising the power of revealing something negative about you first.
When you do this any rival who uses your weakness to gain advantages loses this power. This move is said to be so effective, because by saying it first you are taking control of the information, choosing how you wish to present it, building trust in others with your honesty and potentially adding any positive spin to it to reduce the damage it causes.
You can see the practical application of Stealing Thunder used in court cases where an attorney steals the thunder of an opposing counsel by revealing the worst bit of evidence about a client first.
You can read more about the concept of Stealing Thunder at psychology.iresearchnet.com
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Stealing your rival’s thunder
From both characters you see two opposite sides of the approach:
- B-Rabbit who is willing to be open and authentic about who he is, and willing to share his flaws on stage.
- And Papa Doc who has been living a lie, and will lose everything he valued by his privledged background being revealed.
B-Rabbit was able to use the secret of Papa Docs upbring to his advantage, exposing himself as an outsider to the bearpit crowd, firmly from ‘the 313’ of Detroit.
Jimmy stole thunder by sharing the negative information about himself, and was able to surprise Papa Doc exposing him in the most damaging way so that he would be seen in the most negative way possible to the crowd, his peers – he’s a phony, he’s not a real rapper from the streets.
Key lessons in stealing thunder
Stealing thunder is a useful tactic to protect your reputation, and you can learn some useful lessons from 8 Mile how to use stealing thunder to your advantage:
Always present as your authentic self.
Papa Docs biggest downfall was due to the lie he created – he presented himself as a tough street rapper, when in reality, he was from a life of privilege compared those he was trying to fit in with the most.
From a character perspective, maybe he thought the lie was needed to get himself ahead as a rapper, where traditionally it’s seen as an art form for someone from the streets. By hiding this truth, he doomed himself, as inevitably the fact of who he was would eventually come out.
Alternatively, he could have presented as his authentic self, establishing himself as an educated man, using his intelligence to make him stand out in his rhymes.
We often put on these fake personas more than we realise – on social media we like to pretend we’re living the best life, tell others we are happy when we are not, and pretend to be interesting and have wisdom, when we’re really just scared.
When creating a life of smoke and mirrors, you are in a constantly state of worry that this facade will be revealed, killing the illusion presented. It’s better to present as your authentic self and build your life around who you are (and all the flaws which come with it).
Be the first to admit and own up when you make a mistake
When you make an error, it’s an easy way out to try and cover up what you’ve done. By doing this you’re creating more fuel that can lead to your downfall.
By not admitting mistakes, you risk never growing, living in a childish state of denial being unable to take responsibility. Take Jimmy in 8 Mile for example, having his girl cheat on him must have been pretty damaging on his ego, especially when other rappers were using it as fuel to taunt him in rap battles.
But by throwing it out on stage, it then lost all it’s power because Jimmy was simply saying “Yeah, and so what?…”
You can cover up mistakes, or deny an error ever happened, but this means you’ll continue to be targeted by the malicious, willing to throw these in your face at every opportunity.
The alternative is to own your mistake, you steal the thunder of someone who wants to expose you. When it’s you who are in the wrong, bringing it onto the table for all to see makes it easier for the people you’ve wronged to be more sympathetic to your cause, reducing damage to your reputation, even forgiving you.
When you suspect there is some news which may damage your reputation, reveal it first
My dad used to be a human resources director, he shared a story about an employee who had a criminal record, but never declared it when they applied for the job.
After a year, the employee racked with guilt that he was about to be found out, confessed all to his manager. He explained his reasons for lying – he’d been struggling to get a job and felt knowledge of his conviction would mean being passed up for interview.
As a next step the manager went to human resources for advice. Because the man had revealed his dishonesty, the manager put faith in his integrity, defended him and acknowledge that he had a record of good performance. The matter was delt with without punishing the employee.
This is a good example of Stealing Thunder before someone else can reveal it. If the man had held it off the exposed secret might have humiliated his manager, and possibility even lost his job for the deceit.
When bullied – steal the bullies thunder and steal their fun
A big point of mockery in 8 Mile was the fact Jimmy was seen as “white trash”, this was used to bully and belittle him until he stood up on stage to own it and say he was proud of who he was. By making this declaration the insult lost all it’s power.
Bullies are everywhere in life – a friend of mine recently started a new job, working in a tough, all male, blue collar role.
It was common culture for the lads to engage in cutting banter, making sardonic jokes to expose who could hang, and fit in with the group.
One of them decided to start calling my friend Gary Glitter, as during lockdown his hair had become unkempt, giving it a look of the 70’s glam rock icon (and now better known as a convicted paedophile).
He responded to this in the worst way, showing hostility, which did nothing but demonstrate to the bully that he’d managed to get under his skin. This resulted in the comparison continuing, even when he shaved all his hair off, and soon the rest of his colleagues got in on the joke simply calling him “Gary”. He left a month later.
Bullies who like to give out verbal insults thrive on seeing how it impacts the victim. My friend could have laughed it off, made self-depreciating jokes how often people made that comparison.
This would help to establish the lack of originality in the comment, stealing his thunder, and making the jibe boring to repeat by the bully.
I often go back to YouTube just to watch that final rap battle. It fires me up, and inspires me to stay true to myself and recognise the power owning my flaws.
The Stealing Thunder tactic is an effective tactic to use when you experience people doubting you, by bring all your flaws to the table you are delivering an effective counter punch.
As you go and live your daily lives, look back and reflect on that battle rap. Think how Eminem delivers those lines with no shame, he looks at the audience, the Free World, and his rival. Feel no shame in who you are, or let those taunt your background, own it as you please.
Take care of yourself,
James @Perfect Manifesto
7 thoughts on “8 Mile: The Powerful Psychological Trick Of Stealing Thunder”
Movie sounds good but I love how you relate this to human qualities.
Being your authentic self, admitting mistakes. It’s what I’m striving for at the moment. To create a happy family life and to finally be free of my anxiety (well the kind that rules you life anyway).
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Good luck being anxiety free!
Ownership of your past and who you are is useful so others can’t use it against you.
Thank you for commenting!
great post, James. I just happenedd to mention this movie earlier today in one of my comments on another blog. Even though I am not a fan of rap (I do appreciate the skill), I enjoyed 8 Mile quite a bit. I love the idea of Stealing Thunder, and how it can turn a negative into a positive.
I think I’ve used this technique a few times; I’m glad to know that it has a name and that it is effective…
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Thanks Jim I like this movie and particularly love this final rap battle. I’ve often put it on to motivate and make me feel good about owning my own background.
Stealing thunder is a great technique by a funny coincidence when I was finishing off writing this post someone went ahead and ‘stole my thunder’ with a bit of personal news I was holding off to reveal!
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that is quite a coincidence – I hope it was good news!
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It was thank you, I’ve recently achieved a promotion and was only going to tell colleagues when I got the paperwork- oh well! 😅
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congratulations on the promotion – that is great news! best of luck with the new role…