Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Evoking the Spirit of Dolemite: A Paean to the Bad Nigga' Archetype

This post is dedicated to Aaron Beaste and the other young aspiring filmmakers out there. Just tell it like it ‘tis, and you’ll be alright.

Much has been written and said about the Blaxploitation genre, some of it negative and some of it positive. However, one thing is sure. This genre made an indelible mark on our culture. When there were no, or very few, positive African American role models in film, an intrepid group of writers and filmmakers provided them. To do so they seized upon one of the most enduring, omnipresent archetypes of American literature and culture and made it their own. For whatever this new class of heroes was or was not, no matter how imperfect they may have been, they were our heroes and heroines, and for a time, they were all we had.

These are just a few of my favorites. And I give you, my paean to the Bad Nigga' Archetype:


"Nobody talks that smack like Dolemite! He defines the big bad negro archetype! I want to be like him when I grow up!

[WARNING: Brief nudity, crass humor, shit-talking]


The baddest dude with the biggest gun! I’ve been looking all over for this one. Can someone tell me where I can find a copy of this film so that I might complete my collection?

Cleopatra Jones

Whatever happened to Tamara Dobson? Maybe I should send the search party out.

Boss Nigger

When I was very young, an irresponsible uncle took me to the drive-in to check this one out. I had to hide in the trunk of his car to get in. That uncle is now a minister.

Legend of Nigger Charley

The same uncle took me to see this one as well.

Black Belt Jones

An undeniable classic.

Foxy Brown

Who could forget Foxy Brown. That was one super bad lady. And have you seen Pam Grier lately? She is absolutely ageless. I it's true; black don't crack!


Kim said...

I must admit I'm a Dolemite fan...LOL My Mom, unbeknownst to her how explicit the themes of the movie would be, took my sister and I to see the Human Tornado when I was like 9yrs old...Afterwards all she kept saying was, I didn't know it was going to be that bad. We stayed for the whole movie, yet walked out on Star Wars..lol

Where is the Mack and Pretty Toney?

El Nuyorican said...

For me, the greatest film produced at that time was Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, an independent film, written, produced, scored, directed by, and starring Melvin Van Peebles, father of actor Mario Van Peebles (who was also in the movie). I always liked anti-authority figures and this film tells the story of a deprived African American challenging white authority.

Van Peebles developed the film after being offered a three-picture contract for Columbia Pictures. Because no studio would finance the film, Van Peebles funded the film himself, shooting it independently over a period of 19 days, performing all stunts and appearing in several REAL sex scenes.

Van Peebles was able to get additional funds from applying for worker's compensation after contracting gonorrhea during the shooting of these scenes (LOL!!).

van Peeble's innovative use of fast-paced montages and jump-cuts were new features in American cinema at the time. The film was censored in many markets, and received at best tepid reviews.

The musical score was by Earth, Wind & Fire and Van Peebles, short on funds for marketing, released the soundtrack album beforehand in hopes of building awareness of the film. Initially, the film was only screened in two theaters in the United States. It went on to gross $4,100,000 at the box office.

None other than Huey P. Newton praised the film's revolutionary undertones, and the film became required viewing for members of the Black Panther Party. The film is an important work in the history of African American cinema. It paved the way for the success of future independent black films. According to Variety, it demonstrated to Hollywood that films which portrayed "militant" blacks could be highly profitable, leading to the creation of the blaxploitation genre, although the film itself is not commonly considered to be an exploitation film."

Max Reddick said...

Alas, Kim, I forgot to include The Mack.

And El Nuy, I forgot to include Sweet Sweetback.

But then again if I attempted to include all of the Blaxploitation films, this would have been one long behind post.

Does anyone remember Truck Turner?

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