Monday, March 30, 2009

Shaft breeds spoofs not followers

Shaft was the first of its kind, but the movement it started has spread into a multi-genre of film. And this genre is completely distinct from the mainstream of film. These films have developed away from normal films with all black casts and their own sort of film culture. Some of these films include Undercover Brother, Brown Sugar, and Baby Boy. The African American film genre is biased towards their own culture. From the hood to family trouble, the culture in the film is definite. It could be divided up in to movies about the inner city, family life and inter-racial strife. The inner city movies are those that try to capture the culture of what that life is like. Family life is more of a recent development, especially in comedy with actors such as Tyler Perry. Racial strife would be movies like Guess Who.

A film that reminded me of Shaft was Undercover Brother. It was a spoof of the Bond films, but the cool that he was trying to impersonate was defiantly that of Shaft. The "brother" as they would put it was a man that could woo any woman. Undercover Brother was a man that was ahead of all the rest. He was so smooth that criminals could not touch him. They exaggerate this also. Like I said, it was a play off of the Bond series, but it was still really funny. Hidden throughout the movie is African American cultural references: the “pick” of black power, the parachute pants, and the enormous gold chain.

Baby Boy is not a movie that reflects the cool of Shaft, but is one that reflects the iconic cool of the urban culture. The main character reflects a common contradiction to cool. He had two children, both were by different mothers, and he still lived with his mom. He could not be considered cool. When faced with the loss of his home and the little control he had over the women in his life, he found out that the power never really mattered. His personal journey leads him to what many would describe as him “becoming a man.” He had to kill a rival man that abused his kid and wife. He finally gets a home of his own and a job. Throughout the movie he is made out to seem cool but the movie is written to direct the attention to him taking responsibility for the people in his life.

In the African American film genre the definition of cool changes because of the difference in culture. What Shaft did was pave the way for black film to take on its own essence. If you look over the vast history of black film you can see it move more distant from the norms in predominantly white film.


  1. Your references to other "black" films was very interesting to read. I'd never heard of those movies. How did you find them?

  2. Good job, John. You found most of the answers to my questions about "blaxploitation" (whether you know it or not) before I could even ask. I think it's obvious that you believe the term "blaxploitation" is fair (if you disagree, please do so!). How do you think these films contribute to black culture as well as racial relations?

  3. Anna I have a tendency when going to the movie store to look for obscure things. Most of these films I found by just looking. I was very heavy into TLC, R.Kelly and Will Smith around the year 2000 so I was looking into the culture and these movies were sitting right next to the others on the rental shelf.

    I think these movies show the depth and complexity of the culture. The first time I watched a few of these films I was a little alienated but with more films I came better affiliated with the norms. There is a lot of social comentary that could go on about these films and the social world portayed in them. I think one of my favorite is the series Friday. It is filled with a lot of humor but you also get to see a lot of what is happeing in Urban America