Women of Blaxploitation

How the Black Action Film Heroine Changed American Popular Culture


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About the Book

With the Civil Rights movement of the sixties fresh in their perspective, movie producers of the early 1970s began to make films aimed toward the underserved African American audience. Over the next five years or so, a number of cheaply made, so-called blaxploitation movies featured African American actresses in roles which broke traditional molds. Typically long on flash and violence but lacking in character depth and development, this genre nonetheless did a great deal toward redefining the perception of African American actresses, breaking traditional African American female stereotypes and laying the groundwork for later feminine action heroines.

This critical study examines the ways in which the blaxploitation heroines of the early 1970s reshaped the presentation of African American actresses on screen and, to a certain degree, the perception of African American females in general. It discusses the social, political and cultural context in which blaxploitation films emerged. The work focuses on four African American actresses—Pam Grier, Tamara Dobson, Teresa Graves and Jeanne Belle—providing critical and audience response to their films as well as insight into the perspectives of the actresses themselves. The eventual demise of the blaxploitation genre due to formulaic plots and lack of character development is also discussed. Finally, the work addresses the mainstreaming of the action heroine in general and a recent resurgence of interest in black action movies. Relevant film stills and a selected filmography including cast list and plot synopsis are also included.

Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Yvonne D. Sims is an assistant professor of English at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, South Carolina.

Bibliographic Details

Yvonne D. Sims
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 232
Bibliographic Info: 28 photos, filmography, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2006
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2744-4
eISBN: 978-0-7864-5154-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      ix

Preface      1

Introduction      7

1. Reshaping African American Femininity: Mammy, Aunt Jemima, Sapphire and Action Heroine      25

2. Cultivating the Seed      51

3. Here Comes the Queen      71

4. Call Me Cleo      93

5. Love That Woman and Watch the Dynamite      111

6. The End of Blaxploitation      130

7. Aliens, Terminators and Outlaws: The Mainstreaming of the Action Heroine      147

8. Metamorphosis of the Black Action Heroine      169

Epilogue      191

Selected Filmography      193

Notes      201

Selected Bibliography      213

Index      217

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Solid…compelling…easily accessible”—Film and History
• “Long-overdue”—SirReadaLot.org