Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It's Blaxploitation Week on Pop-o-matic Deluxe!

The week before last, Pam from Go Retro! awarded me with the One Lovely Blog Award. Thanks so much, Pam! I have to pass it on to other winners, and that's going to be tough, because she and I like a lot of the same blogs. Stay tuned for that list.

February is Black History Month. A lot of people don't like this--why just one month? Black history is American history--but it seems like a good time to indulge one of my guilty pleasures: blaxploitation movies. In my senior year, I made blaxploitation films the subject of my U.S. History term paper. I got a B/B-, because my teacher felt the paper too much of an art paper and not rooted enough in the racial politics of the time. This one's for you, Ms. Foster.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines blaxploitation as "a genre of American film of the 1970s featuring African-American actors in lead roles and often having antiestablishment plots, frequently criticized for stereotypical characterization and glorification of violence." A neologism created from the words black and exploitation, blaxploitation has gotten a nasty reputation for, well, exploiting stereotypes about black people. But if Dr. Harvard Sitkoff, professor of history at the University of New Hampshire and author of The Struggle for Black Equality is right, then the Civil Rights movement and the subsequent Black Power movement are at their core a fight to control images. With blaxploitation movies being almost solely the product of black directors, producers and actors (usually, only the studios were white-owned), what better medium than film to try to control these images? Film theorists and historians have argued that, while there is more to the black experience that guns and drugs, you can't really blame the directors of trotting scores of black outlaws standing up against a larger system across the screen. Mainstream Hollywood had been doing it for years with white actors; they call them Westerns.

Check back for more movies and backstories during Blaxploitation Week.

1 comment:

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