Friday, January 2, 2009

Black + Exploitation

There are many double standards held in our society; rock hard like granite and so infused into our everyday lifestyles that amending or even addressing them would mean uprooting mindsets and destroying foundations. It is quite obvious that many of the existing double standards are based on race. This is a topic that I will never shy away from, no matter how much people feel it is no longer relevant, or overdone. [Side Note: I had a girl in one of my classes say that she is tired of people always making things about race. To which I softly replied, "Well. You may have been blessed to live a life where race was never an issue...but many others are not so privileged. Therefore, your job is not to complain about the pain of others, but be to compassionate and empathetic...even though you will never truly understand."]

So, if you are looking for a more reader-friendly blog, I suggest you close this browser window now.

I've been considering cinema's role in race relations today. Thanks to my recent viewing of Spike Lee's Bamboozled, it really got me thinking. It makes me angry when I think of how African-Americans were/are portrayed in the entertainment industry: greedy ignoramuses good only for the audience's amusement. The "abolishment" of slavery only ended one portion of the struggle. We were still seen as lesser. Illegitimate. Inhuman. So, way before King Jr. had a dream, Blacks longed for an existence where they were not only free, but human. Truly equal.

Traditional blackface is no longer practiced. However, I cannot help but consider how black cinema, affectionately known as "Blaxploitation", is now become counter-productive. [Side Note #2: You may say to me, "Please. It is NOT that serious." Of course not. Whites didn't think it was that serious, either. I think it's slightly ironic that only blacks are allowed to use racial if we somehow earned the right to be racist. Acts of hate cannot truly be avenged through retribution...but by repentance and education.]

Things are not as bad as they used to be overall...but the "Blaxploitation" film genre is currently doing more harm than good within the black community. Movies that uplift us; with black directors (i.e. Denzel Washington's Antwoin Fisher) gets more nods nationwide than within the black race. Meanwhile films like Pootie Tang and Next Friday can be quoted by my 10 year old nephew from memory. Our kids have no idea who Dorthea Dandridge or Reuben "The Hurricane" Carter is, but they will spend $11.50 to go see Get Rich or Die Tryin'.

There are some shows/movies that are social commentary (i.e. The Boondocks)...this is not what I mean. I am speaking of continual, explicit (or covert), and deliberate disrespect of our culture. Taking our struggles, history, and ambitions, and turning them into a formula to entertain the masses. I won't get into BET's role in demolishing the African American's dignity to the rest of the free world...but here are a list of films that you may remember that I'm putting on my "Banned List". Meaning I will NOT be promoting or keeping these films in my house...

1. Pootie Tang
2. Soul Plane
3. Hustle & Flow
4. Shaft (2000)
5. Booty Call
6. Woo
7. Two Can Play That Game
8. Superfly
9. How High
10. High School High
11. Juwanna Mann
12. The Cookout
13. The Wash
14. Scary Movie
15. Next Friday
16. The Friday After Next
(Note: The First Friday isn't up here because it isn't as exploitative as the other two.)
17. The Mack
18. B.A.P.S (Classic...but still all wrong.)
19. Bringing Down the House (I love Queen Latifah...but they still didn't address how she was disrespected throughout the WHOLE FILM.)
20. Big Momma's House (I already cringe at Tyler Perry playing Madea...but he is starting to cut back on readily playing that character in his movies.)
21. Norbit (It's funny...but it's racial pokes have no point. It's offensive just for the sake of being offensive.)
22. BeBe's Kids
23. Monster's Ball (It should NOT have taken THAT to get sis an Oscar...I'm sorry.)

...there are more...but I'll leave the list relatively short.
I am just sick and tired of being portrayed in a one-dimensional light on screen. There are things that I will smile and confirm...but I don't want that to become my sole source of identity.

If I had to pick the 5 Most Important Black Films, they would be:
1. Malcolm X
2. Higher Learning
3. Do The Right Thing
4. The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman
5. The Color Purple


  1. y'know, i still haven't gotten a chance to hear what you thought of "bamboozled".

    there is a fine line between "making that money" and "making backward strides". like manchild said, i'd rather be washed up than watered down.

  2. i have mixed feelings on this one. every movie cant be deep and meaningful like the color purple. i love about 75% of the movies u listed, because i can relate to them in some kinda way. the problem is....we arent the only people viewing them.

    How do we produce cinema/entertainment we can relate to. that makes us laugh, cry, and talk back to the screen? i know the hairstyles in BAPS would only be seen n a detroit hairshow n the 90's but caucassions dont realize that.

    i think thats the real issue.

  3. i wasn't saying that all movies had to be deep and meaningful..but the movies i listed were, in my opinion, counter-productive.

    doing more harm than good.

    BAPS is a classic. I used to love that movie. But it doesn't sit right with me anymore because it took a rich white man to give these girls the break they needed. Its just flicks, I know. It kinda had a rags to riches feel...but there was too much ignorance for me.

  4. i love the exaggerations. dont know what that says about me. i just take these movies as they r. i saw two black women give an elderly white man a better quality of life in his last days....i saw two ghetto girls outsmart the uppity rich white folks....and i saw two chicks from the hood learn about themselves and transform into mature women.

    maybe i tend to look at the glass half full

  5. im glad you saw it in a more positive light. but the movie wasn't all positive to me...exaggerations are what made Blackface infamous.
    I'm aware of all this when i watch films. don't know what that says about me, either...

    the whole scenario of BAPS started from an accident/deception. that makes for great entertainment, but it doesn't make me feel any better about my situation. you know in real life those sistahs would have ended up serving some jail time.
    i'm just being a realist.

    Point blank: I care about how I'm being portrayed in media. You may see it as just harmless entertainment, but these are the kinds of things that stereotypes are built upon.

  6. i see it both ways. within black america it's harmless entertainment because we know the real deal. when mainstream media gets a hold of these types of films it fuels the stereotypes. there are simularities with black face, but thankfully many of these actors used these films to to a higher place in their careers.

    modern day black face is Flavor Flave's VH1 Roast. he aint give a damn tho cuz he got paid so he doesnt see it as such. it's a complicated subject black film makers deal with. i love Robert Townsend & Spike Lee (Clark Atlanta University Student....Morehouse Grad Shouts haha!).

    i think in recent years it's gotten much better though. no more hood classics have been produced and Blacks are starting to really get sum good mainstream roles. I think it's one of those things that just takes time.

  7. Although I am quite a bit late with reading this blog, I am overjoyed at the fact that it was written.

    I found this response, "Well. You may have been blessed to live a life where race was never an issue...but many others are not so privileged. Therefore, your job is not to complain about the pain of others, but be to compassionate and empathetic...even though you will never truly understand, to be eloquently stated; and would like to borrow it for my own response bag.

    Lastly, my goodness, I thought I was the only AA person that did not agree with the Academy Award selection for Monster's Ball.

    You have great insight and courage. Be well ...