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Why Blaxploitation Cinema Was Not Necessarily Bad for the Black Community

Foxy Brown - Blaxploitation

When it comes to Blaxploitation cinema, most people either love it or hate it. I have always been a fan, particularly Blaxploitation horror. I love the ingenuity of the storylines and the fierce characters featured within. I watched Foxy Brown for the first time as a teen and I was intrigued by her awesome wardrobe and fighting skills. To me, she represented a strong, independent, empowered black female that I could look up to. That isn’t to say that the film doesn’t contain negative stereotypes, but it’s far from all bad.

With that said, I can understand why some people see Blaxploitation as bad for the black community. Many of the films are diluted with broken dialogue and outrageous lifestyles that involve either being a thug, selling drugs, or people struggling to keep a job because the man is keeping them down. With these features, the representation of black people was often stereotypical in a negative way. As such, Blaxploitation was the source of much controversy and a lot of it came from within the black community.

The birth of the sub-genre dates back to the early ’70s. Many people think that Shaft was the first entry in the Blaxploitation genre. However, that title actually belongs to Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song. Regardless, Shaft is a great example of why Blaxploitation was important. It was written, produced, and directed by black people. And in spite of being exploitative, it was progress.


As the sub-genre began to rise in popularity, members of the NAACP founded The Coalition Against Blaxploitation Movies because they believed that the genre misrepresented black people in inner cities. These concerns were definitely valid. But, in spite of that, the black experience cannot always be told in an honest way without showing both the positive and the negative aspects. One could argue that Blaxploitation films were necessary to tell the truth of the struggle, agony and strength required of black people in the ’70s.

If it weren’t for Blaxploitation, black cinema wouldn’t be where it is today. These films opened the door for features with primarily or all black casts, like Do the Right Thing, Belly, State Property, and Diary of a Mad Black Woman. It proved the viability of feature films made by black people, for black people.

Although, the sub-genre wasn’t perfect and didn’t always do the black community justice, it paved the way for modern black cinema and is enjoyable to revisit as a time capsule of its era.


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Written by Zena Dixon
In addition to contributing to Wicked Horror, Zena Dixon has been writing about all things creepy and horrific at Real Queen of Horror for over three years. She has also contributed to iHorror and Bloody Disgusting. She has always loved horror films and someday hopes to be known for writing and directing her own feature-length horror pictures.
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