Mar 1, 2008

A Closer Look at Blaxploitation

Blaxploitation is one of the more colorful genres of films that instead of exploiting nuns or frequent sex, it exploits blacks. The genre of “Blaxploitation” was born in the early 70’s from with the urban youth in mind. Arguably, the very first Blaxploitation film was “Sweet Sweetback’s BAADASSSSS Song”. Many claim due to it being directed by a Negro, if refutes the whole purpose. If you notice, Whites & Jews directed many of the cult or more obscure blaxploitation films.

For instance, Note Williamson’s classic “Boss Nigger” being directed by Jack Arnold, the infamous director of Universal classic “Creature from the Black Lagoon”. This was a tactic picked up to make a mass amount of money by appealing to the urban kids. Upon the discovery of this, there was a “boom” in the market spawning Superfly, Black Caesar, and other classic titles. Bone from Larry Cohen is another film of this stature. The massive meaning of this film aims towards being an anti-white film and mainstreaming racism.

Aside from Bone, Cohen also directed the rebirth mash-up “Original Gangstas” with classic Blaxploitation stars such as Pam Grier, Fred Williamson, Richard Roundtree, and Jim Brown. The film is an interesting view on urbanization. If you view each of the characters, you can imagine them actually coming back to the “hood” to find it in flames. It seems like a loose ending to every Blaxploitation film they have starred in. They once were hood rats, now they have come back to clean up the streets.

The afore-mentioned Boss Nigger was one of the Blaxploitation films that showed its militant black character on a step above whites with the slogan “Black Man’s Law in a White Man’s Town” In this film, Fred Williamson and D’urville Marin play a duo of bounty hunters who force the role of sheriff and deputy among themselves. Through out their journey, Williamson beds up with a white teacher and Martin with an obese lady; exaggerating the fact that black men love a big woman.

The director of the cult-animated spoof “Coonskin” was born in what is now Israel. Coonskin was the main target for controversy due to the mass amounts of character models based off of Jolson’s immortalization of blackface. Coonskin was not the first animated feature to use the “coon” archetype. In fact, Disney was doing it long before. Many now banned clips feature blackface caricatures devouring watermelons in church then in turn, spitting them on the poor white folk in front of him.

The influence of Blaxploitation soon spread, generating Richard Roundtree’s classic SHAFT featuring a magnificent score from Isaac Hayes, thus paving the way for soul and funk soundtracks for these features. The formula for these films involves urban violence, explicit profanity, frequent drug use, and the famed “pimp” role. Rudy Ray Moore played the most notable role of a pimp in his hit “Dolemite” based off one of his stand-up characters. Dolemite was such a hit; it spawned countless sequels, records, and a new film due out later this year called “The Dolemite Explosion!”

The plot of Dolemite is simple and campy. Dolemite is released from prison to catch the man who framed him there in the first place, Willy Green. Along the way, he will train all his “bitches” in the art of Kung-Fu, come across crooked white cops, and manages to keep his wardrobe colorful and distinguished. Rudy R. Moore might have even created the look for a pimp with this series. Many of these Blaxploitation films have a political message, if you notice, either a major or minor villain is set against stereotype. I.E: The perfect white crooked cops in Dolemite who abuse their power and ultimately get their ass beat by Dolemite. Us genre-fans are not the only ones that Dolemite has entertained. More mainstream rap artists such as Snoop Dogg and Wu-Tang Clan have admitted their inspiration from Dolemite. To quote Snoop Dogg,

"Without Rudy Ray Moore, there would be no Snoop Dogg, and that's for real." - Snoop Dogg

Even after all this time, Blaxploitation is not dead, nor does it look like it will die in the near future. Films like “Black Devil Doll” ensure the snagging of new fans to the genre. This one sports the excessive nudity, frequent profanity, and the lost language of jive. Director Jonathan Lewis obviously wants the urban feel, hence his incorporating the funk group “Bamboo Gods” in the soundtrack. Blaxploitation has come a long way from being directed by white men to make blacks mainstream. It’s only very exciting to see what effects time will have on this genre.


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