Blaxploitation Essays

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John Shaft is the protagonist of (1971), the most iconic of the Blaxploitation films, a genre that emerged and proliferated during a brief hiatus when US film industry was struggling to get people to actually go to the movie theaters, rather than staying at home in front of a TV.

Blaxploitation represents a unique moment in film history, in which Black people were not only seen as the target audience of the films – which in a certain way connected with the tradition of the race pictures [1] –, but as the sole protagonists.

His coolness allows him to navigate between the brothers and the white establishment, as well as operate independently from the mechanisms of power and control.

Both real and imagined, he’s a superhero made of flesh, bones and especially color – black.

There is no escaping the fact that in the same way that classical Hollywood portrayed Black people as subhuman or inhuman, Blaxploitation movies have shifted their stereotypes to other minorities, specially lesbians and gays [5].

My intent here is not to romanticize the genre, but rather to invite a deep look at the totality of the experience brought about by these films.Quite frequently, Blaxploitation explores a notion of blackness that represents solely the straight man.With the noble exception of (1974) comes to mind –, what we first learn and see from the character are her physical attributes – does anyone remember the boobs shot in the opening credits?To watch a Blaxploitation movie is to leave the theater or your home screen with the feeling that the world is absolutely black.Blaxploitation’s legacy of images and representations are not easily suitable for either structuring a revolutionary agenda or for pleasing the sensibility of the white liberal left’s search for the thematization of social problems.Entangled in contradictions, these productions have both left us images that can be the anteroom of the liberation or can hint at a troubling espousement of traditional conservatives perspectives.The performances of coolness that we enjoy from the main characters of (1974) can also be a source of pain, for it is sometimes equated with black virility, as if they were sex machines who couldn’t control their “natural” tendencies (a stereotype largely used to justify castrating the black man).In my research I tend to prioritize this time frame since I read , another one of favorites. The villain is an over the top, hysterical, greed-driven lesbian whose first line in the movie is screamed in full lungs: “Whaaaaat? We use cookies to make interactions with our website easy and meaningful, to better understand the use of our services, and to tailor advertising.For further information, including about cookie settings, please read our Cookie Policy .


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