Blaxploitation Essays

Blaxploitation Cinema


Who's the cat that won't cop out / When there's danger all about?


If you know the answer to that question (Shaft!), and probably even if you don't, then you know that Blaxploitation films represent an indisputably integral part of the history of American popular culture. From cool gangsters to deadly heroines to campy monsters, the characters portrayed in Blaxploitation movies were undeniable crowd-pleasers, and the films saw unprecedented success throughout the 1970s. Often produced independently from major Hollywood studios, Blaxploitation movies played well with urban audiences in search of familiar settings, action, grit, and humor. The best Blaxploitation films were accompanied by distinctive soundtracks, too, and the works that Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield composed for Shaft and Super Fly, respectively, have come to define the musicians' legacies.


The history of Blaxploitation, however, is fraught with controversy over the films' artistic merits and larger social role. While many African Americans found the stories and characters of Blaxploitation films to be empowering, critics felt that the films reinforced negative stereotypes of African Americans as violent, hypersexual, and criminal. Therein lay a major part of the "exploitation" in which these films were said to traffic. In this photo essay, the editors of the Oxford African American Studies Center explore the history and lasting influence of Blaxploitation, from the early 1970s through the present day.


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Popular Film - Blaxploitation an analysis of Shaft

2013 WordsNov 8th, 20049 Pages

Between 1970 and 1980 there was a cultural film explosion, there were over 200 films released by major and independent studios that hyped major black characters and themes. Prior to the Blaxploitation era black actors had been relinquished to playing small parts that usually presented stereotyped images of the black race with roles such as waitresses or shoeshine boys. This however all changed when in 1971 when the first successful black film "Sweetback's Baadasss Song" showed a black man coming out on top over the white establishment. The term blaxploitation both helped and destroyed the genre. While many blaxploitation films were box office successes, they also fueled the public's perception of blacks as cold-hearted heroes, gangsters,…show more content…

These movies didn't limit themselves to making style statements, or tracking ingenious petty crimes and big rip-offs. Similar to other movies in the same genre, the women portrayed in the movie were not well realized, or treated well. In one particular scene Shaft harshly tries to dismiss his one-night stand, the woman in question then criticizes him for his callousness (Washington, 2000). While now days the original "Shaft" wouldn't hold up as an action film, it is because most people are to young to be aware of the elation that charged movie houses of the 70's as cheering black audiences saw a dark-skinned hero -- iconic and masculine in his up-to-the-minute proto-fade haircut and collection of leathers -- in total control of his destiny. Richard Roundtree's on-screen relish, which was itself a kind of dynamism, connected to an audience hunger (Washington, 2000).

Perhaps even more successful than the original 'Shaft' movie was the accompanying soundtrack. The upbeat and funky blues score reached number one on the music charts while also securing Isaac Hayes a Grammy and Oscar for his efforts. The musical score managed to capture the spirit of John Shaft and his New York City turf, with its slick and soulful sounds. Hayes is credited with popularizing rap, which he employed in the "Theme From Shaft". Behind Shaft's opening credits, Hayes belts out a funky

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