Monday, November 29, 2010

Blaxploitation & Misrepresentation

During the 1960's, 1970's, and the 1980's, Black women were more prevalent in mainstream movies the n they once were previous to this era. Black woman were often cast in supporting roles or even just as the stand-in's. White filmmakers only saw women of color as either the dark skin live-in housemaid or light skin sexualized characters. But once political change begin to occur during the 1960's the mammy  roles begin to dwindle and Black actresses were given a wider array of portrayal but this did not come without a price. Author of the article “The Black Experience and the Film Industry”, Roland S. Jefferson,

 “As the 60's approached, the black presence in films would take yet another turn towards distortion that would finally culminate in the reverse stereotyping of the 70's. The transition was subtle but received a great deal of assistance from the changing social conscious and attitudes the country was undergoing.” 

This was a slow moving transition for women of color, in general, to be represented in more ways than in servitude or as an exoticized female character. This progression was invoked by the fight for liberation and equal rights during the late 1960's, females played an important role in both the black power and civil rights movements. Women such as political activist like Assata Shakur, Angela Davis, Coretta Scott King, etc, played starring/supportive roles in real life to invoke political change in America. So it was only natural that these women would inspire new filmmakers but this inspiration was more like exploitation of the women and the movements. Author  of the article titled “Blaxploitation and the Misrepresentation of Liberation”, Cedric J. Robinson states, 

“The first Blaxploitation era, 1969-1975, appears precisely at that moment when Hollywood's 'liberal conscience' is at its apogee. In the years immediately preceding the emergence of the Black ghetto melodrama, intergrationism had become the reigning ideological drama...” 

Easing into the Blaxploitation era, black actresses such as Pam Grier, Tamara Dobson, Vonette McGee; these ladies are the most notably known for their roles in movies such as  "Coffy", "Foxy Brown", "Blacula", "Shaft In Africa", and "Cleopatra Jones". Women of color were becoming more sexually enticing to filmmakers and thus creating the notion that black women were not sexless and unappealing. This could be seen as a positive, in a sense, but instead of being seen for the talent and variety that black women are capable of, black women were being exploited. Black men played pimps and black women played the prostitutes, or they played the militant woman after revenge. Black women were representation for their bodies and still not their abilities, talent, and intellect. 

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