Monday, February 07, 2005

Things To Do For Black History Month Day 7

Things To Do For Black History Month Day 7: Watch A "Blaxploitation" Movie

Looking at them today, blaxploitation films don't look like they have any redeeming value. Many of them are full of sex, drugs, and violence. They had ultra-masculine black men and ultra-tough black women. Most of them featured a evil, racist white villain ("The Man") who wanted nothing more than to keep black people down. Yet, these films were the perfect voice of a generation of black people who grew up during the Civil Rights Movement and were frustrated by the racism that still existed.

My mom would always tell me about how she and my dad saw a lot of these films when they were younger. She told me how black people at the time felt empowered by them, how the audience would cheer when the main character beat up a white bad guy, and how they liked seeing black characters stick it to the system. Having grown up on degrading portrayals of blacks over their childhood years, it was great to see a black person that was cool and, more importantly, had strength and power.

Given that framework, I suggest you rent one or two of the better "blaxploitation" films. Many of them are out on DVD. The ones I reccommend include the original Shaft (which my mom doesn't really put in the blaxploitation category), Foxy Brown (with Pam Grier), Superfly (with the late Ron O' Neal) and Cleopatra Jones. I also reccommend you check out the film that made it possible for the others to exist, Melvin Van Peebles's Sweet Sweetback's Badasssssssssss Song.

Once you see those films, there are other, more contemporary, films to check out. Keenen Ivory Wayans's I'm Gonna Git You Sucka is a hilarious parody and homage to blaxploitation films. Mario Van Peebles's Badasssssssss! chronicles the making of his father's film in unflinching detail. Original Gangstaz is not a good movie, but it's mentioned here because it's a modern-day version of a blaxploitation film and stars Pam Grier, Fred Williamson, and Jim Brown among others. Lastly, there is Jackie Brown, Quentin Tarantino's blaxploitation-inspired version of Elmore Leonard's Rum Punch. Pam Grier is wonderful as the main character and proves that she is just as Foxy as ever.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:36 AM

    Another good movie to add to your list is 'Cornbread, Earl and Me', which falls in the same category as the others you have listed. The reason that this movie is a special on to watch is because it is the first movie that Laurence Fishburne performed in.