Impact of Blaxploitation in Female Lead Action Films
Blaxploitation is a film genre created in the 1970s. The Blaxploitation period is responsible for action films featuring black leads that were aimed towards black audiences. Following the influx of race movies and civil rights movement, there was a demand for black power films to empower the black community. That’s where Blaxploitation came in. Films in the Blaxploitation genre empowered the black community by giving African Americans a sense of representation that many films lacked.
The impact of the Blaxploitation era cannot be overlooked. Films created during the Blaxploitation era helped make African Americans visible and it publicized the experiences and culture of blacks in America. “From acting, directing, screenwriting, and composing, we were present in films like never before.” (Sims 2009) The films created during this time gave black people, men and women, a sense of self and a sense of pride. During this period, black women represented in film was also prominent like never before. Black women were given the same roles with transformative characters that broke the status quo. The women represented in films of the Blaxploitation era broke barriers for women in modern action movies and influenced the storylines of classic action movies with black female leads today.
Melvin Van Peebles ignited the fire of the Blaxploitation era by writing, directing, producing and starring in the 1971 film Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. This film is about a male prostitute who originally ‘helps’ two white police officers by allowing himself to be taken in for a crime. While on the way to the police station, the officers arrest a Black Panther, Mu-Mu, and beat him for insulting them. In retaliation, Sweetback defends Mu-Mu, brutally beating the two officers and putting them into comas. Aa a result of his crime, Sweetback is on the run and is denied help by his acquaintances. Seeking refuge, Sweetback successfully escapes to Mexico.
For the African American community, Sweetback was a community hero with a happy ending. The narrative Melvin Van Peebles created was one the black community had not seen before: a black man successfully escaping the police. Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song was a box office success; grossing $10 million with a $500,000 budget.
The Blaxploitation era changed the way black actresses were viewed as a whole. Prior to Blaxploitation, black women were often casted for the role of a “mammy”, “tragic mulatto” character, or a character with a servitude role. “1973 marked the first time that audiences saw African American women in non-servitude roles” (Sims 2009). Notable actresses of the Blaxploitation period include Pam Grier, Tamara Dobson and Vonetta McGee. Gri
It was in 1973 that Pam Grier starred in her first Blaxploitation film, Coffy. Coffy is about a nurse who seeks vengeance on the drug dealers who dealt her sister tainted...