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Western Animation / Coonskin

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"Warning: This film offends EVERYBODY!"
— The blurb on the movie's VHS box

Coonskin is a 1975 live action/animated Blaxploitation Parody written and directed by Ralph Bakshi, and produced by Albert S. Ruddy (The Godfather). A Darker and Edgier take on the African-American Br'er note  Rabbit folk tales, as well as a satire of the racial controversy surrounding Disney's Song of the South, which is based on the folk tales, Coonskin has been described as a spiritual predecessor to The Boondocks. Bakshi once described it as his best film.

Al Sharpton and CORE held mass protests on the film (without seeing it; Sharpton famously said "I don't got to see shit; I can smell shit!") despite its support from the NAACP as "difficult satire". In spite of the firestorm of controversy it spurred, the film has since been Vindicated by History, lauded by the likes of Richard Pryor, Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee and the Wu Tang Clan as a transgressive masterpiece.

(It probably says something that Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino, who are overwise known for being bitter rivals with a long-running public feud, both agree that they like it. Good luck getting them to agree on much of anything else.)

Tropes used:

  • Adaptational Heroism: Fox and Bear are allies to Rabbit rather than trying to eat him; played with in that all three are ruthless criminals.
  • Advertised Extra: Miss America has heavy symbolical significance, but she's only in the film itself for 2-3 minutes.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Rabbit, in his impeccably tailored white suit.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: We get a glimpse of one of the Godfather's sons' penises during his introduction. It's hanging down past his knees.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: The film has a scathingly satirical portrayal of the Mafia, painting them as brutal thugs with monstrous delusions of grandeur. Its original distributor was the infamous Bryanston Distributing Company, which was run by Italian mobster Anthony "Big Tony" Peraino — they were the same guys who distributed The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
  • Blackface: A cop is given this treatment as part of a Humiliation Conga and Sonny uses it as a disguise when he attempts to assassinate Brother Rabbit.
  • Blackface-Style Caricature: "Darky" imagery is used throughout to ridicule racism in films of the 30's and 40's.
  • Blaxploitation Parody
  • Boom, Headshot!: Several, some as mundane as the woman who shot a rat right between the eyes, some as dramatic as Madigan losing the top of his skull from concentrated gunfire.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Rabbit gives Alucard a run for his money when he shoots up a heroin dealer's house, riddling everyone present with dozens of holes at an impossible pace, wielding what appears to be an M1911.
  • Camp Gay:
    • All of the Godfather's sons, except Sonny, are gay and dress in drag.
    • The bartender who comes on to Madigan is also flamboyant and dresses like a woman.
  • Color Me Black: In one scene, a racist, homophobic and corrupt cop on the mob's payroll known as Madigan is drugged by Rabbit in an attempt to take out the mafia. When he wakes up, he's covered in blackface and wearing a dress. Still tripping off acid, he freaks out believing he has actually become a gay black man and begins firing his pistol randomly until a pair of police officers gun him down because they're as racist and corrupt as he is and confuse him for an actual black man. Though they DO try to get him to stop shooting first, and only open fire when one of his stray bullets hits the negotiator.
  • Creator Cameo: Ralph Bakshi voices the cop on the megaphone who gets shot in the face by Madigan.
  • Dark Reprise: The song from the intro is repeated at the end of the second act where a poetic black man uses it to loudly refuse the destructive charms of Miss America. In response, she cries rape and he is summarily lynched.
  • Deconstructive Parody: Of Blaxploitation Genre. Also towards The Godfather, which Bakshi shows his dislike for by presenting Don Corleone's Expy as a grotesque monster.
  • Depraved Homosexual/All Gays are Promiscuous: It was 1975 and this can be easily seen as a parody of gay people.
  • The Dragon: The Clown seems to be this to The Godfather.
  • False Rape Accusation: At one point, Miss America accuses a black man of raping her, causing him to be lynched.
  • Fan Disservice: Just about every depiction of nudity and sex is intentionally repulsive. Except when Bakshi throws in his usual big-breasted women, of course. Though some of it can have a Misaimed Fandom in gay men who like chubs.
  • Femme Fatale: Miss America, who routinely uses her sexuality and feminine wiles to murder black men.
  • Framing Device: Samson and Preacher are trying to bust Randy out of prison in a Great Escape while Poppy tells Randy stories about Brother Rabbit.
  • "I Am" Song: Satirically done in the opening credits song "Ah'm a Nigger Man."
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Br'er Rabbit. He can be quite self-invested or not invested at all but he does have a sense of justice and does care about good peoples safety.
  • Leitmotif: Miss America, with a hideously off-key rendition of "America, the Beautiful".
  • Little Bit Beastly: Rabbit, Bear, and Fox are this with a dollop of black caricature.
  • The Mafia: the primary villains of the film. Bakshi did this as a reaction to The Godfather, feeling it glorifed the supposed honor of the Family.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Quite a lot of men are seen naked with visible penises.
  • Mooning: When Madigan rejects his advances, the bartender responds by turning around, hiking his skirt, and shouting "Eat this!"
  • Ms. Fanservice: Miss America is very curvaceous and appears to be wearing either body paint or absolutely skin-tight clothing.
  • My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: Miss America reflects the institutional racism of the country, with her seduction of African Americans to their deaths representing the pitfalls that minorities face in their lives.
  • Old-Fashioned Fruit Stomping: When The Mafia is being introduced with the Don and Mario, while they're speaking, we see two elderly people dressed in rags around their waists stomping grapes. At the end of the dialogue between the Don and Mario, the Don throws a knife at one of them, killing him and prompting the other to stomp much faster.
  • Preacher Man / Badass Preacher: Preacher Fox holds his own against a lot and always stays by Brother Rabbit's side.
  • Precision F-Strike: Preacher's Establishing Character Moment is a fire-and-brimstone speech to a mostly-empty church with only a couple of small children as his audience, and it ends on a note more like the prayer to Crom in Conan the Barbarian
    I see ya Lord, I sees ya Lord, I see ya Lord and you'd better well, fucking well, see me!
  • The Promised Land: Subverted: Rabbit, Fox and Bear go to the last place they can keep hustling, Harlem. Turns out Harlem's a dump. Just to underline the fact that it's a dump we get a short story from a woman and her baby who were left by her cockroach husband (literally a cockroach) up to her shooting a (literal) rat in the face.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: Animated characters appear on live-action backgrounds and interact with some live-action humans.
  • R-Rated Opening: The film opens on a "Fuck You".
  • Rule of Symbolism: At one point near the end of the film, the white Miss America appears as gigantic in proportion to the other, black-coded characters, holding them in the palm of her hand, while laughing at them mockingly. This comes after a scene where she has literally pitted two black men against each other.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The entire story of "Coonskin" is a shout out to the Uncle Remus stories, made famous by the Disney film "Song Of The South", which also mixes animation with live-action. All three characters, Br'er Bear, Br'er Rabbit and Br'er Fox lend their names from these stories. The scene where Br'er Rabbit begs not to be thrown outside in a garbage can, only to come out and proudly boast "'Cause I was born and raised in a garbage can" references a similar scene in the Uncle Remus stories, only with a briar patch. Near the end the scene where Br'er Rabbit jumps past the criminals stuck inside a tar baby is also a wink to these stories.
    • The story about Malcolm the Cockroach pays tribute to George Herriman, noted African American cartoonist and Bakshi's favorite cartoonist. A cockroach named Malcolm also appears in Bakshi's later shorts Malcolm and Melvin and Babe, He Calls Me.
    • Another Herriman character, Ignatz the Mouse from Krazy Kat, also has a cameo during this scene.
  • Shown Their Work: Ralph Bakshi did his own research for the film by walking through New York City with a tape recorder and interviewing Black pedestrians by asking "What is it like to be Black in America?" Many African-American viewers later remarked that they couldn't believe that this was written and directed by a white guy, as much of it rang true for them in its portrayal of how blacks have been treated both in the United States and by the film industry.
  • Species Surname: The three leads, as the gravestones for Rabbits mother and father feature the surname of Rabbit, Fox is addressed as Preacher Fox, and Bear is announced in a boxing arena as "Brown Bear".
  • Stock Footage: Old newsreels are frequently played behind the animation.
  • Surreal Humor / Surreal Horror: The whole movie due to its lack of a consistent plot thread, but especially Madigan's death and the Tar Rabbit scene.
  • Take That!:
    • Ralph Bakshi hates The Mafia and the film The Godfather. There's a massive Take That! towards The Godfather in this movie, and the Mafia is generally portrayed negatively here and in Heavy Traffic. He grew up in a Jewish-Italian neighborhood in New York and personally witnessed, among other things, people getting murdered by the mob, so its romantic portrayal in The Godfather became a huge Berserk Button for him.
    • This entire film is a Take That! towards the Blaxploitation genre, Disney's Song of the South, and the history of racist portrayals of African Americans in Hollywood films.
    • Savior being a revolutionary who loudly proclaims the virtues of a black uprising solely so he can con believers out of their money while being firmly in the pockets of a white businessman is a double whammy for corrupt evangelists in general (who were all over TV in the late '70s/early '80s) and specifically for black community leaders who sold out the civil rights movement for their own personal gain.
  • The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter: The Sheriff and his daughter.
  • Uncle Tomfoolery: Several of the background characters. Though the portrayal of African Americans is not meant to hurt them but be a commentary on how they were viewed.
    • Lampshaded when a messenger is spreading the news of Savior's death in what he believes to be an inconspicuous manner by running around and showboating with a basketball.
  • Where da White Women At?:
    • The short man representing the general black community who's in an abusive relationship with Miss America.
    • There's also a scantily clad white woman in the office of Savior's nightclub.
  • White Dude, Black Dude: A variant joke in the opening:
    "350 of you white folks committed suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, and out of the 350 there was only two that was niggers."
    "And one of them was pushed!"