Blaxploitation

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Can you dig it?

"He's black. He's brutal. He's Boss."
Trailer, Boss Nigger

The term Blaxploitation refers to a film genre, quite popular in the 1970s and early 1980s, in which the hero or heroes are black, and they have to fight some sort of battle, engage some enemy or otherwise solve some problem in ways involving violence, intimidation, or extreme action skills.

The pivotal point of this genre is that the main character's most significant attribute is the color of his (or her) skin, as well as stereotypical attributes associated with it at the time, such as intimidating appearance, being "naturally predisposed" towards independence, lack of respect for authority, utter disregard of manners and formalism, preference for violent solutions over diplomacy and unquestionable badassery.

Typically the main character was a good guy such as the title character in Shaft, but in some cases he was an Anti-Hero, such as Priest, the drug dealer in SuperFly who wants to do one more deal and retire.

Some of the tropes exposed include:

The Trope Maker/Ur-Example of this genre is either Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971) or The Black Klansman (1966). Note that unless indicated, if a movie is mentioned below, it's referring to the original 1970s/1980s version, and not to any subsequent remake under the same name. The Blaxploitation genre hasn't been as common since the 1980s, mainly due to concerns from African American civil rights groups, pushing it toward Deader Than Disco status.

See also Blaxploitation Parody.


Examples

film
  • The Hebrew Hammer lovingly borrows many of the tropes seen in these films and throws them in a pot with literally every Jewish stereotype ever to serve up the first ever "Jewsploitation" film. In it, our titular hero, a "Certified circumcised dick," is out to stop Santa Claus's evil, antisemitic son from destroying Hanukkah. Accompanying him is his Black Best Friend, Muhammed Ali Paula Abdul Raheem, of the Kwanzaa Liberation Front who more or less acts as an excuse to play blaxploitation tropes comically straight.
  • I'm Gonna Git You Sucka: A 1988 spoof.
  • Jackie Brown is Quentin Tarantino's homage to the genre.
  • J.D.'s Revenge: An African American law student in New Orleans attends a hypnotist's show and is posessed by the spirit of the titular deceased 1940s gangster J.D. Walker. He then gradually gains the mannerisms of the fallen one.
  • The Last Dragon: A hybrid with Martial Arts Movie genre released after the trend for both had faded. "Bruce Leroy" Green battles Sho'nuf, Shogun of Harlem in a quest to be the greatest fighter.
  • Live and Let Die: Even James Bond gets in on the craze, thwarting heroin dealers and Voodoo priests in Harlem, New Orleans, and the Caribbean.
  • Original Gangstas: Retired Outlaws (Fred Williamson, Jim Brown, Pam Grier, Richard Roundtree and Ron O'Neal!) decide to take down the violent new gang in their neighborhood.
  • Pootie Tang: An affectionate parody of the genre from 2001.
  • Possess My Soul, also having the alternate title Abby, but known affectionately among its fans as "The Blaxorcist."
  • Shaft: A black private detective in New York City has to find the kidnappers of the daughter of a negro crime boss. Spawned two little-remembered sequels and a TV series shortly thereafter, and a similarly forgettable 2000 sequel starring Samuel L. Jackson as the original Shaft's nephew. Mostly known nowadays for its theme song.
  • Space Is the Place: A 1974 movie starring Sun Ra. This film was made during the early 1970s with a majority of Afro-American actors, deals with themes of black self awareness and salvation and features a cool soundtrack.
  • Sugar Hill - After her fiance is killed by racist gangsters, Diana "Sugar" Hill enlists the help of her local Voodoo priestess, Baron Samedi, and a gang of Zombie Mooks in getting revenge.
  • Super Fly: A drug dealer wants to set up one more deal in order to retire. (Since there were several sequels, apparently his attempts at retirement were not successful.) Mostly remembered nowadays for its soundtrack, written and produced by Curtis Mayfield.
  • Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song: A bordello's show-stud is framed for murder by crooked cops, flees and takes the opportunity to pay back the Man for multiple injustices. Not quite an exploitation film, but it's often considered the Ur-Example, so it's certainly relevant to the discussion.
  • Three the Hard Way: Three men (black, of course) have to stop a white supremacist who has developed a chemical which, when added to the water supply, kills only negroes. Note that he's going to hit three heavily black cities (Los Angeles, Detroit and Washington, D.C.) so each of the heroes must take on an entire army of mooks single handed.
  • TNT Jackson: Former Playboy Playmate Jeannie Bell stars as a karate expert tracking down her brother's murderer in Hong Kong. Similar to Black Belt Jones, except with Bell losing her clothes before each fight scene.
  • Truck Turner: Isaac Hayes soundtracks and stars in this movie, where he plays a bounty hunter who kills a notorious fugitive pimp and subsequently gets a bounty put on his head by the Los Angeles pimp community. Co-stars Nichelle "Uhura" Nichols as an extremely bad-tempered and foul-mouthed madam who acts as the Big Bad of the picture.
  • Undercover Brother is basically an Austin Powers-esque parody of the genre, with the main character being a 70's blaxsploitation protagonist in modern times trying to stop The Man from mind controlling black America with a chain of fried chicken restaurants.
  • Vampire in Brooklyn: Basically Blacula in mid-90s New York. Stars Eddie Murphy and was advertised as a comedy, but the movie switches to a straight horror film about halfway through.

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