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 An Essay On Blaxploitation, by 3OAM

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3OAM



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PostSubject: An Essay On Blaxploitation, by 3OAM   Fri May 02, 2008 11:41 pm

The 1970’s were an awkward time for African American society. The 1960’s were a torrential storm of civil rights activism and the seventies were that period of dampness directly after the storm. The turmoil had ended for the most part, but the residue from the previous decade was still present. It was a very touchy time in all facets of society. Cinema had been a place of expression for many decades and now with all of these new freedoms the African American society had procured, what better place to start the healing (and in some cases, venting) process? They created films that would make incredible strides of progress and they created films that would depict them as immoral and stifle progress, but the important thing was that they created something that would express their mind no matter how racist or open-minded. Thusly, the short-lived era of blaxploitation began.

While films like Rocky and Dog Day Afternoon were playing uptown, racaially-charged films like Dolemite and Black Caesar played in urban downtown. Just a few years out of the turbulent era of civil rights, black people began asserting their thoughts on to film. “Blaxploitation” films usually portrayed a strong, black man fighting against a corrupt and evil white man. They were often set to a soul music soundtrack. The movie thought to have had started this phenomenon also known as “black cinema,” was 1971’s, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, directed by Melvin Van Peebles. The film was about a black man named Sweetback. He was at the right place at the right time and saw a black man named Mu-Mu getting beaten up by white cops and decided to step in. He killed the racist policemen and was on the lam for the rest of the film. Rife with sex and racial epithets, SSBS, held no pretense that it would attract much of a white audience. Melvin Van Peebles played “Sweetback,” as well as directed this film. He said he made it to “get the Man’s foot out of all our black asses.” This film’s premise went on to be used as the basic formula of blaxploitation film to come.

Another controversial blaxploitation film released in this era was known as Superfly. This film came under a barrage of fire on account of its positive portrayal of a drug dealer. It proliferated the rationale (or lack thereof) that black people were drug-addled menaces to society. Youngblood Priest, the “protagonist” of Superfly, snorted cocaine and abused women. The film glorified everything that the NAACP was vehemently against. However, though the critics raked it over the coals, the black audience loved it. It was so widely enjoyed, that many black men copied Priest in attire and attitude afterward. Even in other later blaxploitation films such as Dolemite, Youngblood Priest’s style and wardrobe was an obvious influence. Though Superfly and SSBS shone a negative light on the African American population, not all blaxploitation films were so detrimental.

Released the same year as SSBS, was a film called Shaft. Shaft was about a private eye who worked, often grudgingly, alongside the New York Police Department. He was up against the Italian Mafia rather than the institution of police as was the case in SSBS. It began as a novel by a white man named Ernest Tidyman. Tidyman went on to enormous success. He won an Oscar for his screenplay for The French Connection and won an NAACP image award for Shaft. Shaft was the Martin Luther King Jr. to SSBS’s Malcolm X; it was much less virulent in its stance on white people than Sweetback and the NAACP deemed this more progressive. John Shaft was against crime more than “the Man.” Some even argue that it isn’t blaxploitation at all. Director, Gordon Parks said of his film, “what Shaft was about was providing work for black people that they never had before, letting them into films. That’s not exploitation…Cagney could have been in Shaft.” The film spawned two sequels that were less successful than the original, but still achieved some marginal acclaim. Richard Roundtree portrayed John Shaft in all three installments. After the blaxploitation genre faded, most of the blaxploitation stars did as well, but Richard Roundtree held on and made supporting appearances in films such as Maniac Cop, Seven, Brick and the upcoming film, Speed Racer.

Though the strong, savvy, black man was the dominant presence in blaxploitation film, there existed female leads. Most notably, an actress named Pam Grier who played femme fatale in many blaxploitation films, often getting the lead role. Discovered by director Jack Hill when Grier had a minor walk on role in one of Russ Meyers’ sexploitation films (films with heavy emphasis on sex and nudity), Beyond the Valley of The Dolls. Hill said of Grier, “…I was immediately struck when I interviewed her and had her read for me. I thought she could do it and she was great…she was really easy to work with.”
Many of the films Grier starred in were a mix of sexploitation and blaxploitation in the respect that she used her body to get closer to her usually-male targets and appeared nude in her films frequently. One example is the 1973 Jack Hill film, Coffy. In the titular role, she sleeps with men and when they feel comfortable enough around her, she pulls out her signature sawn-off shotgun and gets what she wants from them, which is usually their life. Her films are also known for their outrageous cat-fights; many of the vicious fights involve some sort of food. Grier proved in a mainly male-driven genre that a female could hold her own. So many titles in the blaxploitation have sunken into obscurity, but Grier’s films are some of the most renowned and prolific committed to celluloid.

Though the hey-day of blaxploitation only lasted for a few years in the early seventies, traces of it live on through such directors as Quentin Tarantino and Spike Lee. Quentin Tarantino’s direct homage to blaxploitation, Jackie Brown, starred none other than Pam Grier as- you guessed it, Jackie Brown, a cool, calculating flight attendant. It featured a gun-running drug dealer (played by Samuel L. Jackson) and a swinging soul soundtrack.
Not unlike Shaft in 1971, many of Spike Lee’s films show black people oppressed by some force (not always “the Man”) and their struggle to overcome the adversity. Other blaxploitation nods come from the Wayans Brothers’ I’m Gonna Git You, Sucka! and Malcolm Lee’s 2002 comedy, Undercover Brother.

Though considered trash by many critics, the blaxploitation genre had a lot to do with black people coming into their own after the civil rights movement. The African American population was hardly represented well in cinema and they felt that it was time they got some recognition. They wanted to see some of their trials and tribulations on the screen. Some of these films were detrimental and some were progressive, but they all acted as magnifying glass to the unique time that black people have had here in America. The seventies were a significant era in both cinema and black history and blaxploitation film made left an indelible mark on both.
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I did it in a day and a half...and it shows, yet I still got a 96% on it. king
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PostSubject: Re: An Essay On Blaxploitation, by 3OAM   Sat May 03, 2008 7:04 am

96%? Alright! afro

What did you use for reference?

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3OAM



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PostSubject: Re: An Essay On Blaxploitation, by 3OAM   Sun May 04, 2008 9:49 am

I used a bunch of stuff off of the academic databases of my college and WIU's academic databases.

...the stuff about Pam, I got from an interview with Jack Hill. That's all I remember though.

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