Blaxploitation films appeared in the 1970s at a time when many black actors struggled to receive top billing in movies. Combining the words ‘Black’ and ‘Exploitation’, the genre provided movies with an abundance of roles for black cast members, most importantly in lead roles. The films, usually set in crime ridden cities, demonstrated problems faced by people living in urban areas, including drug dealing, robbery and corrupt cops. Meanwhile more light-hearted films poked fun at the films aimed at white audiences, step forward Blacula and Blackenstein. Blaxploitation films dominated the decade, but more importantly, inspired a new generation of film makers for whom race became less of an issue.

The genre was incredibly influential, the graphics used in the posters define the 1970s for many people and have been copied countless times. Many directors have been inspired by the films, most notably Quentin Tarantino whose film Jackie Brown was essentially a Blaxploitation film in the 1990s. Pam Grier, the star of Jackie Brown was one of the most popular actresses of the Blaxploitation era. Blaxploitation made another return in 2000, when a remake of the 1971 classic, Shaft was released starring Samuel L Jackson. The film retains many of the features typical of 1970s Blaxploitation films.

Females in Blaxploitation films were different from other female movie characters at the time. These women were strong, honourable and sexy as hell. They would strut their stuff to attract the attention of a man, luring him into a false pretense before a swift high kick to the back of the head – KAPOW – he’s on the floor. Who can forget the classic scene from Coffy when she softly requests a man turns out the lights, but when he turns back towards Coffy and drops his pants, she’s holding a shotgun pointed at his face, “This is the end of your rotten life you mother fucking dope pusher” – BANG – the shotgun goes off.

When I grow up I wanna be Foxy Brown – she’s a chick with drive who don’t take no jive.

Published by WAH

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