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Posted by Patricia Zimmermann at 11:43AM   |  68 comments
Pam Grier

Blog posting written by Jan-Christopher Horak, Director, UCLA Film & Television Archive

Driving down the L.A. freeway to Westwood in a persistent drizzle, I was wondering whether audiences would melt away for our screening of Jack Hill’s COFFY (1973), starring Pam Grier. The Director-Screenwriter had agreed to participate in a Q & A between a double bill which was to end with CLEOPATRA JONES (1975), both films a part of a film series I was curating with my colleague Allyson Fields for the Billy Wilder Theater: “Paint It Black: Revisiting Blaxploitation and African American Cinema in the 1970s.”

 

COFFY was the mega hit that initiated the cycle of blaxploitation films featuring super strong African American women, a cycle primarily carried by Pam Grier, but also including Patricia Dobson (CLEO JONES), and Vonetta McGee (THOMASINE AND BUSHROD, 1974), while Haile Gerima (BUSH MAMA, 1975) and Jamaa Fanaka (EMMA MAE, 1976) provided self-conscious critiques of the subgenre from the independent fringes. Pam Grier’s gun-slinging, hard-loving, overly sexualized “mamas” offered an antidote to the pliant sex kittens of SUPER FLY (1972) and other films of that ilk. Yet, despite its liberal, anti-racist and proto-feminist intentions, COFFY was an AIP exploitation film and is consequently riddled with overt sexism (large doses of nudity) and unconscious racism, including a profuse use of racist epithets and visual stereotypes.     

 

Back when I was Director of the Munich Filmmuseum, which operated an art cinema seven days a week, I was interviewed by the largest Munich paper, which on the morning of the article’s publication plastered newsstand poster boards with my quote: “Kino ist ein Pokerspiel” (Film programming is like a poker game). You never know what is going to hit and what is going to miss… When I got to the theater, my worst fears proved substantiated. The audience was small. Nevertheless, I soldiered on and looked up Jack’s credits to prep for my intro.

 

Ten minutes before show time, my cinema manager, Tim, asked me to come into the lobby, where I found Pam Grier waiting. I’m too old to faint, but my faced betrayed such astonishment that her press agent had to take a picture of my befuddlement, as I stammered what a huge fan I had been for decades. So, about fifty lucky audience members got to see Pam Grier give an energetic and entertaining intro to the film and her recently published autobiography, Foxy: My Life in Three Acts. Far from being the ghetto child of her films, Pam grew up on a range in Wyoming, where she learned to hunt, fish and do a man’s job. She’s a cancer survivor, which she says has changed her whole outlook on life. She took a couple questions, in which she stressed the value of education, then disappeared into the misty night from which she had come.

 

After the screening of COFFY, Jack Hill’s opening remark on stage was that he wasn’t sure he had discovered Pam (which he did when he cast her in THE BIG DOLL HOUSE, 1971) or she had discovered him. He’s a UCLA man, a fellow student of Francis Ford Coppola and a Roger Corman alumnus.  Hill corrected an error in her supposedly “ghost written” autobiography, namely that COFFY was originally written for a white actress, which it wasn’t. Hill specifically wrote the role for Pam and characterized her as one of the hardest working actresses he knows, but also noted that there was still a large amount of racism around the studios and that producers resisted casting an African American woman in the lead. She was a professional from the moment she walked on the set as a novice.

 

So the bottom of the bill started horribly late, something you try to avoid in the cinema business, but a select audience had gotten a real show. Driving back to Pasadena on the freeway, as the drizzle started again, I decided that for me personally as a film historian-programmer, getting a hug from Pam Grier was a moment to remember, like the time Audrey Hepburn pecked me on the cheek or a nearly 100 year old Lilian Gish sat with me during a screening in a red velvet dress that could have been as old as she.

 

 

  

  


68 Comments

I had never heard the term blaxploitation until I read this blog entry, so I went and did some research. Blaxploitation emerged in the 70s, post-civil rights era, and it targeted black audiences. There are a lot of qualities to this genre that make it what it is: the use of soul and funk music, a crime infested setting, a portrayal of the black struggle, a use of white and black stereotypes. The usage of stereotypes were protested by many groups. The NAACP, the Urban League and the Southern Leadership Conference joined together to form the Coalition Against Blaxploitation. The group is blamed for quickening the death of the genre, which many say is negative. The argument in favor of blaxploitation is that it opened doors for African American screen presence and addressed the post civil rights world where racism still exists.

The debate over the benefits of Blaxploitation bring up an interesting argument: when are stereotypes acceptable in films? Is it a give and take type of system, where you sacrifice including stereotypes in order to gain awareness on issues of racism? Or is including those types of concepts never acceptable?

I am familiar with the blaxploitation film movement of the 1970's. It's goal was to target black audiences by using specific characteristics in order to relate to its audience and portray life as an African American. This movement originated from midnight screenings that targeted black audiences after a feature film was shown. Pam Grier, known to be a famous actress of the time period, played roles that captured the essence of this distinct genre of film. In the 60's and 70's racism was still prominent and having a black actress play a lead role was a confrontational matter in the film industry. Did blaxploitation films help integrate the black community into the film industry or did it segregate them even more?

Rachael:

You have correctly named the arguments before and against Blaxplotation. As we wrote in our program calendar for the series: "The explosion of hip-talking, eroticized and often-violent urban films that burst onto American screens in the early 1970s, gave rise to a new generation of black actors, writers and directors. The predominant trend was termed "Blaxploitation" by its most ardent critics who lamented its unhealthy focus on pimps, pushers and prostitutes. Yet African American film culture of the 1970s was far more varied than the term Blaxploitation suggests and spanned multiple genres, including comedy, horror, westerns, melodrama and contemporary drama. Whether embracing or rejecting Blaxploitation, writers and directors nonetheless had to grapple with the pervasiveness of the genre's popular image. In recent years, scholars, critics, and filmmakers have revisited the 1970s black film boom, investigating its inherent contradictions—films that featured strong African American heroes who actually won against their oppressors yet arguably perpetuated racial stereotypes. Despite the controversy, these films are marked by a distinct political and cultural force that remains relevant to this day."
I would add that Hollywood has always worked with stereotypes, but that of course organizations like the NAACP were particuarly sensitive to them.

I would also add that the participation of minority filmakers behind the camera in Hollywood is lower today then it was in 1973, which is an absolute candal. Hoywood not ony continues to dis filmmakrs of color, but also to promote racial steretypes.

I don't know if i would say that hollywood continues to dis filmmakers of color. However i do agree that they still promote racial stereotypes. Even in todays films i have seen stereotypes become the center of a film. I have mostly seen this in comedies where they use the stereotypes as a formal element to produce laughter in an audience. But is this right? It is almost safe to say Blaxplotation is still occurring.

The idea of stereotypes is an interesting one, at least in terms of American Hollywood films. Many times, stereotypes are used to represent an entire race. An African-American in a classical Hollywood film is many times representative of all African-Americans at once. Yet when a white person steps in front of the camera, they have no worry about having to represent thier race.

I'm curious as to where this mentallity came from. Obviously this country has an unfortuante history of racism, segregation, and slavery, but why does one African-American become representative of his or her entire race? Why did many filmmakers see whites as extremely diverse in personality, beliefs, and culture while they ignored African-American's diverse personalities, beliefs, and culture? While I have never seen a blaplotation film, I can imagine that many characters in those movies were quite similar to one another.

I remember doing a lot of research for a high school paper on exploitation movies, and the conclusion I came to about these movies was for all of their perceived "black power" sloganeering, they essentially boiled down to being just thrillers that (as exploitation implies) gratuitously hinged upon the identity of their heroes as blacks. Although I will say that, as a person who has seen too many blaxploitation movies, the crime with most of these films is not that they are politically incorrect or prominently feature racist and sexist stereotypes but that they are horrendously bad, sloppy, low-budget exploitation films.

With everybody talking about stereotypes, I guess my question is that do these films promote stereotypes or archetypes? I suppose certainly at the time white producers were filtering content that had proven to appeal to black audiences (through black directed films such as "Sweet Sweetback," "Shaft," "Superfly," etc.) through the over-emphasized gaze of whites (and partially for white audiences wishing to see these things also), but part of the lasting power of these figures has been that, in spite of how racist or sexist their origins may be, they have endeared themselves to black audiences.

Try comparing the images promoted by artists like Snoop Dogg with Willie Dynamite. I know 2pac specifically was heavily influenced by blaxploitation iconography and images. Are these artists promoting stereotypes or willingly embodying an archetype that makes them feel stronger, more secure, and, more importantly, makes them a bunch of money (even or especially from white audiences)?

So to say that Hollywood is using stereotypes now that are negative (as opposed to the positive ones in the 70's?) is kind of non-sensical even if it is true that, to a large degree, it is motivated by a heavy sensibility of "the other." And the reason this is unfair is because these images have proven popular. A jive-talking, street-wise gangster in a Hollywood film nowadays is really just a direct descendent of Dolemite, and when we fail to grasp that stereotypes or archetypes do not always correlate to racism, we fail to recognize the more subtle forms of racism that occur in film anyway. For instance, the last time I was truly offended by the representation of black characters in a film was "Transformers 2."

I'm not about to say what happened to Pam Grier and other black filmmakers and actors in the wake of the decline of blaxploitation was fair, but are we really going to sit here and make the claim that representations of black people are actually more stereotypical now then in the 70's? Aren't archetypes different from stereotypes? And are all stereotypes negative? If something proves endearing to audiences (black and white), do we really have the incredulity to label them the ignorant victims of a harmful media? I remember in the documentary "Baadaasssss Cinema," Pam Grier (I think, it may have been another actress) claims that she never once felt exploited and that the audiences who went to see her movies were not exploited either. Is the viewer or actor always the victim just because we arbitrarily label some images negative?

The facts are clear as far as employment of African American minority filmmakers are concerned. According to studies by the Hollywood NAACP, 13% of Americans are African American, yet only 6.6% of all television writers, and only 6% of all film writers are black. Statistics for directors are even more discouraging, hovering around 5%. The number of roles for African Americans has certainly increased since the racist era before 1970, but is still low: Approximately 10% for all roles, including bit parts, only 8% for lead and second lead roles.

The issue of stereotypes is a complex one. Back in the blaxploitation era, middle class African Americans were upset by stereotypes of drug pushers, pimps, and prostitutes, even though Hollywood genre cinema has always worked with generic stereotypes, which is not necessarily the same thing as racial stereotypes. As noted above, gangsta rappers also utilized similar generic stereotypes.

Overt racist stereotypes, which were ever present before the Civil Rights era have practically disappeared, because it is socially and economically untenable for Hollywood to continue to propagate them. But unconscious racial stereotypes do continue to exist, for example, when producers ask African American actors to use black patois on camera, rather than standard English, because they think African Americans all use non standard English. I've heard this complaint from several black actors and directors and those of you who saw either Spike Lee's BAMBOOZLED or Paul Haggis' CRASH know what I'm talking about.

I think that the topic of blaxsploitation is just a specific example from the big picture of stereotypes in film, as has been mentioned by numerous people before myself. Now, I would have to agree with Chris in that overt stereotypes have basically disappeared, not because they were wrong, but because it wasn't lucrative to continue. Now, back to Ian's post, he asks a question about making people victims. I would like to attempt to answer it.

In film, almost everything is subjective in some manner. Here, it is subjective by both the viewers and the producers. So, really it is up to the individual to determine whether or not the images actually make you the victim. I believe that there should be a lot more personal responsibility in the media and we have to maintain our own beliefs and integrity instead of relying on what is determined by pop culture to be negative. Also, we shouldn't believe that what is considered negative by pop culture to even actually be negative, it could easily be just a highly biased statement against a specific piece of media. Basically, I don't think anyone should be a victim, but shouldn't it be their responsibility to keep tabs on whether or not they are being exploited or victimized?

The issue of stereotypes in film has been around as the articles states, and I believe, are still around today. As many have said in blogs before, those even though racist stereotypes may not be as prevalent as they were in the days of blaxsploiation, there are still stereotypes all over American Hollywood Films. However, stereotypes are not just in film, they are all over American in general. The discussion of stereotypes reminds me a lot of our discussion of ideologies in film from class. As Nichols states "ideology describes the lens through which individuals see and understand how they fit into the social world around them." Many directors and producers who are involved with American Hollywood film have the same ideologies, which mean they would conduct the same stereotypes. Without even meaning too or even actually realizing that they are, they are placing stereotypes in film left and right.

I feel like even though some people might think that blaxploitation films were in fact exploiting African American stereotypes, they were actually a positive contribution towards breaking through racism in the media. The people involved in the blaxploitation films of the 70s were aware of their ideology and ran with it. The films created a new image of African Americans in Hollywood and opened doors for more African Americans to be featured and work in the film industry. Blaxploitation made it so that it was normal for blacks to star in feature films, something that was uncommon before. I wonder what the film industry would be like today if blaxploitation films hadn't been created and been part of the media.

Personally, I come to a dilemma when one finds blaxploitation films racist. The main problem I have is that usually the actors/actresses and sometimes the crew and director (Tyler Perry) are black. So in my mind I do not find these films racist because those working on the project are comfortable enough with their ethnicity that they are able to shed light and humor on the stereotypes surrounding their skin color. The racist point that I come across, is why is there no terminology for white films so as whiteplotiation? There are many films that characterize white people as a certain stereotype. That is where the racist aspect is located in my mind. There is a much more prominence of fully white casted movies so the racist component becomes blurred and the movies messages merge. There are significantly less movies with all black cast and so when they are released blackploitation is a primary mode of categorizing the film. Pam Grier is obviously inspirational and a great actress, one that should be remembered by Jan Christopher Horak. Yet what needs to be focused on is her acting skills above the terminology of the film type she acted in, blackploitation. It overshadows what she can really do and I feel like it diminishes her credibility and pure authenticity in the role. When if the same role was played by a white cast with a white leading actress, the main focus would not be "oh, this actress is white!" but more critique would revolve around the performance she delivered. Overall, I feel like categorizing something as blackploitation takes attention away from what is important in the movie and gives the audience preconceived notions on what to expect. Don't you feel that if films were characterized by Whiteploitation that it would diminish credibility and high standing in audiences eyes?

I agree with Alex that Hollywood does not diss African-American filmmakers, and they that they promote stereotypes. However, the filmmakers of color go along with these stereotypes. One filmmaker would be Tyler Perry. Every single one of his films promotes the stereotype of the African-American culture: the men cheat on their women, they are often angry, someone usually does drugs, etc. I am aware that it is extremely difficult for these filmmakers to break away from these stereotypes, but they should not give into them.

I agree with Cynamen that filmmakers of color shouldn't give into stereotypes, though it is often very hard to do so. I also agree that racism and stereotypes are often used in comedies in order to get laughs. In today's society, exploiting stereotypes in comedy has become almost an everyday occurrence. I think it'd be very hard to find someone in today's society who hasn't heard at least several comedians use stereotypes in their material, which is okay, to an extent. I think poking fun at different groups of people is fine, but there should be some point where the comedians realize that it's too far.

There is a white privilege in films where, as Caitlin pointed out, no one would notice and point out that the leading actress is white if she were to be playing the same role. Less focus would be placed onto her ethnicity, and she would be more prone to judgment solely on the basis of her acting performance. I believe that there is exploitation based on some actor's or character's race, especially when they are African-American, usually playing comedic roles.

Comedy of today sometimes relies on, for better or worse, the exploitation and mocking of stereotypes, often to the detriment of the viewer. Even if these stereotypes are being used as comic relief, sometimes people might have trouble distinguishing the two. I think that the use of stereotypes should be dwindled in films, but I also believe that sometimes an action in a film can viewed differently if the actor is African-American rather than white, through no intention of the filmmaker. Sometimes the narrative drives these characters to actions, and race has less to do with it than the individual's personality might.

Caitlin: Right, there is a white privilege that factors into judging an actresses performance. But the problems with "Foxy Brown" don't stop with racism, they continue on to misogyny. Even if the movie was called, I don't know, "Bunny Pearl" or something and was just about a white woman, I'd still take particular offense to her role necessitating becoming a hooker and being drugged and raped by two rednecks in a shack. The fact that Pam Grier is a woman just emphasizes for me why these cinematic tools are exploitative and unnecessary. Her being black reminds me why some of the stereotypes about African-American 70's culture in the film are racist.

Cynamen: I don't like Tyler Perry, either, but this is another interpretation that goes back to the privilege of white artists and also white viewers. How is "Meet the Browns" fundamentally any different from any crappy sitcom made by white people ("Everybody Loves Raymond" isn't anti-Italian, it just uses stereotypes as comedic foil). Spike Lee uses stereotypes all the time, even of blacks, specifically because he's trying to satire those kinds of perceptions but also because he's trying to reach black audiences in a way that is more accessible.

It's one of those things where I have no idea if black artists are "playing into stereotypes" or if they're just doing what they want to do. I mean, there probably are tons of black artists and actors within the industry that complain about playing into those stereotypes, but it kind of goes back to how I quoted the documentary with Grier: when you insist that an adult is "exploiting" themselves or "being exploited" you risk coming off as a pretentious, condescending white person.

I'm not really concerned when comedians use stereotypes because I don't really there's any way to actually make people racist with a joke. Ignorant white losers who watch Chris Rock's thing on when it's okay to say nigger and treat it as if he's really defending their right to use atrocious hate speech are the way they are regardless of whether or not Chris Rock said anything at all. At the same time, if a large white audience think it's okay to laugh at "Meet the Browns" in a consciously (if unintentionally) racist way just because "Well, a black guy made it, so it's okay with those people now," then there's really no way you can change that.

I guess what I'm asking is this: Is Tyler Perry really using racist stereotypes to make money? Or is the brother just trying to make money doing what tons of other white writers have already done? How can one realistically and honestly determine when black artists are playing into stereotypes and when we're just being condescending because we assume we know the language of iconography well enough to call what they do damaging or exploitative?

Blaxploitation refers to a specific era and style of film making from the 1970s and includes films that share similar qualities in terms of black stereotypes, plot, soundtrack and more.
Many people in this blog have been referring to recent films that contain black stereotypes as being blaxploitation films. A film whose main characters are black and makes use of stereotypes is not part of the genre.
Films such as Boyz N the Hood, Belly and Friday all make use of stereotypes but are not considered racist. the reason is that most stereotypes have some fact behind them and in order to relate to a target audience you must have plausible plot. How would Boyz N the hood be different if it was set in Bel Air? the movie would simply not work as a effective tail of life in the ghettos of LA.

Its so incredible to hear that as a film curator one can meet and even embrace such seminal figures in film. I imagine that receiving a kiss from Audrey Hepburn would be as powerful an experience as shaking hands with Pablo Picasso. It is not surprising however for Pam Grier or Audrey Hepburn or any other mega-star to appreciate the work of film curators for though they are the ones who are revered through history it is not without men and women like you Mr. Horak, who are instrumental in the perpetuation of their fame and influence. For this reason I'm sure that in meeting Ms. Grier you were both an awestruck fan as well as a proud professional aware of his own influence; and standing in the light of such a bright starlet I'm sure that the appreciation she felt for you truly validated the effort and time put into each screening you have coordinated, regardless of its attendance. I'm glad to hear that with careers in film, fandom is not compromised; it leads, on some occasions, to truly magical, fulfilling interactions with the people who are the reasons you do what is you do.

Theodore makes a very good point, and I just want to make the point that I was not calling modern uses of black stereotypes in film "blaxploitation," I was just asserting that the images as they are used in the modern day are not somehow MORE offensive than they were in the 70's, and that it's irresponsible to (especially for non-minority audiences) to label something as racist when (like in the case of Tyler Perry) it may more reflect an inability to correlate a "black product" with similarities to a "white product."

He also makes a good point about "Boyz N the Hood." Yes, the movie used stereotypes, but there really wasn't any other way to tell a story like that. More importantly, "Boyz N the Hood" was one of the first movies that embraced "black iconography" (instead of funk, though, we now have hip-hop and gangsta rap) but did not embellish these elements and portray them as intrinsically part of being black. A 70's blaxploitation movie makes a white audience member think that the images he sees are representative of all black people and, thus, the idea of a pimp or whore becomes inextricably connected to the idea of a black person. Such images are seen as COMING OUT of blackness rather than being IMPOSED ON blackness by white producers, which was the case.

With "Boyz N the Hood," the movie makes a very clear case that these images of "blackness" are forced on the characters by a society that does not care if they live or die. These images of the glock-carrying teenager are presented but are not so much shown as being emblematic and "coming out of blackness" but as a cycle of violence that is "imposed upon blackness."

The images in many modern, and I cringe every time I use this word, "black art" are used because there is literally no other way to tell that particular story. Theodore is right. "Boyz N the Hood" is a movie about the ghettos of L.A.

Blaxploitation movies, on the other hand, didn't even tend to be ABOUT black culture or black power. They were about making money. There are the subtle allusions here and there, but, for the most part, as Quentin Tarantino has pointed out, these movies really were just crime films that happened to have all black casts. Hell, "Shaft" was originally going to be just another movie about a white detective before it was decided that adapting the novel about a black detective would be more profitable.

Quentin Tarantino's a great reference point too. He's a white director and writer who uses the word "nigger" profusely in his dialog even between characters who aren't black. A lot of people have criticized him for this, but since so much of the imagery in his early films is influenced by blaxploitation movies (Jules in "Pulp Fiction" anyone?), I don't believe for a second that he's really the clueless white guy people make him out to be. Here's a director who grows up (half Italian-American, half Native American) watching cowboy movies and gangster films. He understands that images of certain races or ethnic groups have subtle connotations that are impossible to avoid. So rather than trying to force a stereotypical attitude onto his black characters, he instead extracts those images and words and forces them onto his white characters. His white characters are called "nigger" and refer to others as "niggers," and even when the term is being used as an insult (as in "True Romance"), Tarantino is highlighting how the things that offend us shouldn't offend us and the things that don't offend us should. In a Tarantino movie, with so many characters mixing with other groups or being born from multiethnic backgrounds, race doesn't even exist, and actual racists (Zed in "Pulp Fiction," the racist yakuza in "Kill Bill") get castrated or decapitated.

And that's what I was getting at with Tyler Perry or the way black people are portrayed in modern film. Racism does not simply boil down to the presence of a word or image. When something is racist it is shown as "coming out" of the race of the group being stereotyped and not as being "put upon them" by heavier external forces. Yes, many portrayals of blacks and minorities in film remain bigoted, but they are not worse than they were in the 70's.

Personally, I find the blaxploitation movement one of the most severe instances of the objectification of the African-American race, post-Civil Rights. Without a doubt, it has lead the entire race to be pushed by the wayside in film, leading to the majority of black actors restricted to criminal or secondary roles. While some may argue that this 1970s tradition empowered black people and finally put them in leading roles in movies, an examination of films of the era and later parodies thereof show how detrimental these films were to the race as a whole.

The language, first off, was heavily based in stereotype in most, if not all, blaxploitation films: ethnic slurs abound, and slang is more common than correct grammar and syntax. This leads the audience to regard the African-American people as a completely homogenous group with little to no difference from person to person. Bigotry stems from such generalizations, and the latter could arguably be called the most common source of the former. The highly stylized costumes worn by stars, while entertaining, also contributes in no small part to this perception. Most disturbing, in my opinion, would have to be the way that the black protagonist(s) form and maintain relationships with white people, who were antagonists in these films more often than not. Slurs against caucasians are thrown around casually. In the diegesis of the average blaxploitation movie, the most common interracial interactions are tumultuous at best, and outright hostile at their worst. This reinforces the "angry black man" stereotype; it leads the uneducated to believe blacks hate whites as a rule, and breeds more racism.

Personally, I find the blaxploitation movement one of the most severe instances of the objectification of the African-American race, post-Civil Rights. Without a doubt, it has lead the entire race to be pushed by the wayside in film, leading to the majority of black actors restricted to criminal or secondary roles. While some may argue that this 1970s tradition empowered black people and finally put them in leading roles in movies, an examination of films of the era and later parodies thereof show how detrimental these films were to the race as a whole.

The language, first off, was heavily based in stereotype in most, if not all, blaxploitation films: ethnic slurs abound, and slang is more common than correct grammar and syntax. This leads the audience to regard the African-American people as a completely homogenous group with little to no difference from person to person. Bigotry stems from such generalizations, and the latter could arguably be called the most common source of the former. The highly stylized costumes worn by stars, while entertaining, also contributes in no small part to this perception. Most disturbing, in my opinion, would have to be the way that the black protagonist(s) form and maintain relationships with white people, who were antagonists in these films more often than not. Slurs against caucasians are thrown around casually. In the diegesis of the average blaxploitation movie, the most common interracial interactions are tumultuous at best, and outright hostile at their worst. This reinforces the "angry black man" stereotype; it leads the uneducated to believe blacks hate whites as a rule, and breeds more racism.

After reading this article I wanted to more about the blaxploitation movement. I learned that it was a time to relate films to the African American population by showing what life is like as an African American nowadays, and by using actors that exemplify qualities that the African American population would relate to and admire. They would show films with lead actors who were African Americans after feature films, as racism was still at large and having lead black actors was not accepted by all of society. This movement that guided African Americans further into the film industry, led along by Pam Grier, who starred in many films during this movement, I believe, helped Americans get over some of their racial prejudices. If this movement never occurred, not only what would the film industry be like (without the amazing talent of many African Americans actors we love today) but would society be set back, stuck back in the mindset of the 1960s?

This movement originated from midnight screenings that targeted black audiences after a feature film was shown. Pam Grier, known to be a famous actress of the time period, played roles that captured the essence of this distinct genre of film. In the 60's and 70's racism was still prominent and having a black actress play a lead role was a confrontational matter in the film industry. Did blaxploitation films help integrate the black community into the film industry or did it segregate them even more?

It was interesting reading this post about blaxploitation and strong African American women's roles while learning about Feminist film in A&A. It seems to me that the "super strong African American woman" could be another stereotyped woman, in addition to others like the wife or the mother. This kind of film shares lots of features with the Feminist movement, too. This strong black woman certainly shows female agency, and while I don't know much about blaxploitation film, I can imagine these women are probably fetishized by men.

I along with others had no idea what blaxploitation was until reading this article. I now find it very interesting. It is also a good point made by others that it is true that in movies, most people would not even blink an eye if the actress was white. There was focus on the actress's ethnicity which is wrong. Comedy should not use jabs at racism or stereotyping, but unfortunately that stuff sells in Hollywood.

I just want to thanks Jon DeMaio for his ind and perceptive words.

I think the movie industry or any media form does not show a wide variety of positive representation of black people. The media loves to use negative imagery that is extreme like the overly sexual black woman or the overly unattractive angry black woman.
Furthermore, there is a constant debate even in today about whether Tyler Perry and Spike Lee use too much stereotyping and sexism in their movies. Even Spike Lee who is viewed more as a politically conscious director still has issues breaking away from stereotypes. What is even more fascinating is that the Tyler Perry's for Colored Girls movie about serious topics didn't do as well as the his Madea movies which uses more caricature/minstrel imagery. Now what does that tell you about the American population who are going to see movies?

After reading this article and the above comments, I am wondering if a film that uses stereotypes is thought of as less offensive if the crew shares the stereotyped ethnicity. During the blaxplotation film period, the crew was primarily black. So is it less offensive if the creators of films that exploit black stereotypes are black themselves? Regarding the reason for the development of the blaxplotation period, maybe that was the most effective method for getting black casts and issues on screen. Possibly, utilization of over-exaggerated, stylized personas was the best means of popularizing black films. These films grossed great market value based on their abilities to target specific audiences. Also, maybe these types of films were thought of as ways to introduce African-American actors and topics in cinema, and was intended to die out as time passed on. Today, although the stereotypes are usually less blatant, they still do exist in cinema.

Additionally, like Emily mentioned, the use of strong female characters is related to feminism in films. Though the blaxploitation films exaggerated black stereotypes, they emphasized strength and power in female personas. Thus, though these types of films emphasized stereotypical views of black culture, they refuted stereotypical ideas that females are passive or weak.

After reading this article and the above comments, I am wondering if a film that uses stereotypes is thought of as less offensive if the crew shares the stereotyped ethnicity. During the blaxplotation film period, the crew was primarily black. So is it less offensive if the creators of films that exploit black stereotypes are black themselves? Regarding the reason for the development of the blaxplotation period, maybe that was the most effective method for getting black casts and issues on screen. Possibly, utilization of over-exaggerated, stylized personas was the best means of popularizing black films. These films grossed great market value based on their abilities to target specific audiences. Also, maybe these types of films were thought of as ways to introduce African-American actors and topics in cinema, and was intended to die out as time passed on. Today, although the stereotypes are usually less blatant, they still do exist in cinema.

Additionally, like Emily mentioned, the use of strong female characters is related to feminism in films. Though the blaxploitation films exaggerated black stereotypes, they emphasized strength and power in female personas. Thus, though these types of films emphasized stereotypical views of black culture, they refuted stereotypical ideas that females are passive or weak.

I'd like to make on observation on Shaunice P.s statement "the movie industry or any media form does not show a wide variety of positive representation of black people".
I think the likely reason they're is a lack of positive representations of black people comes from a desire to portray blacks as different from whites.
Rarely do we see black actors portraying normal roles.
by normal i mean characters who's lives are easily relatable to our own and the majority of the US populations. they have a job, a family, relationship, routines and do not partake of any extraordinary behavior ( world-saving, crime, superstar entertainment, or existing in different universes or times).
When black actors are hired they typically portray more extraordinary characters.
Take Will Smith for example, the majority of his roles (and certainly the ones in films that grossed the most) are non normal. Bad Boys I & II, Independence Day, Men in Black I & II, I, Robot, etc. His more normal roles are much fewer and usually hinge in someway on his being black.
Rarely does the fact that another character is black go unnoticed in a film. At some point his "blackness" will be mentioned, or an action/opinion is explained by his being black.

As a response to J. Early's statement it doesn't matter if black people make films that use stereotypes because the movie still continues to belittle them. It doesn't challenge the systematic and individual racism in the country. I also doubt that the black film makers of the past expected the stereotypes to be used less in movies in the future. Even non-black actors get typed-cast so therefore black film makers probably wouldn't expect stereotypes to away. Racism in the media has just transformed but still exists but more importantly it still does the same exact damage as old forms of blatant racism.
Furthermore, stereotypes shouldn't be used to break a group of people into an industry. Industries should be based on talent and skills not someone's race. It is sad that many blacks are limited to stereotypical roles. Today it is rare that blacks have roles that break stereotypes. Overall, this says a lot about who has control over the industry and that racism is still alive.

Last year I took a class called Black Psychology at SF State, and we talked a lot about whether using the stereotypes in film comedies is a good or a bad thing. Some people (usually comedians) believe that accentuating stereotypes in films or using certain derogatory language "reclaims the stereotype" or the power of certain words. Some people believe reclaiming the stereotype doesn't exist, it just further entrenches us in the stereotype, and makes it okay to continue to assume these stereotypes. My teacher clearly sided with the people who believe reclaiming the stereotype doesn't exist, while I believe there is a time and place for each side of the debate. I think poking fun at stereotypes is good. Stereotypes can be made about every race and gender, and it is good to make fun of your race, and for once take a break from the seriousness that the stereotyping issue in the world usually carries. At the same time, making overt stereotypical/racist comments all the time, even if they are intended to be humorous, can be too much and be taken too far, where then we forget that it was meant for a laugh in the first place.

I see the image of a "strong African American woman" as a breakaway of common stereotypes. As discussed by Nichols on feminism, women are usually seen as obedient, domestic characters who are meant to be stared at an fulfill 'womanly' roles. In a way, blaxploitation films moved away from feminist and racial stereotypes while creating new stereotypes in a new genre. I believe that every starts with innovation. Once that innovation catches on, it becomes common.

In some ways, I would have to agree with Gary's comment above, that a cycle exists within stereotyping - somebody attempts to break away from the norm, to break away from existing stereotypes only to create new ones. As these ones become more common, people attempt to break away from them one again, and so on. This makes me wonder quite simply, is it possible to have a film free of stereotypes? In film A&A we discussed how one of the many, major drives behind the feminist film movement was to be free from stereotypes, to give women agency and no longer stand in as a target of voyeurism. As examples of these works, we viewed three films in class during which the leading woman in each kills herself. We were told that suicide is a convention commonly used in feminist film theory. While I am aware that these films were making efforts to draw attention and make the world aware of common struggles, I have to as if it is necessary or even accurate to say that this is a part of feminist film. Do only women face these struggles? I think not. While my point may seem a bit clouded here, it seems as though it is impossible to have a film excluding stereotypes.

I have never seen, nor heard of the film COFFY prior to reading this blog post, but having read the comments above I feel that a similar argument can be made for this film - in an attempt to end stereotyping, new stereotypes are employed.

In some ways, I would have to agree with Gary's comment above, that a cycle exists within stereotyping - somebody attempts to break away from the norm, to break away from existing stereotypes only to create new ones. As these ones become more common, people attempt to break away from them one again, and so on. This makes me wonder quite simply, is it possible to have a film free of stereotypes? In film A&A we discussed how one of the many, major drives behind the feminist film movement was to be free from stereotypes, to give women agency and no longer stand in as a target of voyeurism. As examples of these works, we viewed three films in class during which the leading woman in each kills herself. We were told that suicide is a convention commonly used in feminist film theory. While I am aware that these films were making efforts to draw attention and make the world aware of common struggles, I have to as if it is necessary or even accurate to say that this is a part of feminist film. Do only women face these struggles? I think not. While my point may seem a bit clouded here, it seems as though it is impossible to have a film excluding stereotypes.

I have never seen, nor heard of the film COFFY prior to reading this blog post, but having read the comments above I feel that a similar argument can be made for this film - in an attempt to end stereotyping, new stereotypes are employed.

Pam Grier was a defining woman in the female action star/Blaxploitation movement beginning in the early 70's specifically Foxy Brown. I didn't even fully become acquainted with her until I saw Quentin Tarantino's blaxploitation revival and hidden 90's gem Jackie Brown. I've always been an avid fan of blaxploitation, but it seems that some consider it to enhance racial stereotypes. I believe that the directors of the films, who were indeed mostly African American, set out to create a social representation of the way blacks were being perceived at the time, mostly pimps and drug dealers. Some may argue that these filmmakers could be considered "masochistic," but the heroines were always black as well. These directors did something, they shattered the stereotype, with a black hero and a critique of American notions of racism.

I know very little about film programming or the work of a film programmer, but the idea that it is a "poker game" is intriguing. I feel that that concept could even be applied to the film industry as a whole. With very few exceptions, it seems to be extremely hard to predict what films will succeed (in terms of drawing a large audience, raising a great deal of revenue, etc.). When a film is made, it runs a risk of "tanking," even if the film is part of a well-established series, or made by a well-known and loved director. True, many franchises are built on the premise that what people like, they'll come back to see. However, even huge hits such as Shrek or the Twilight series eventually must end. The question from there is whether the filmmakers can go on and produce another successful film (or films).

For me, this raises the question of what defines success in the entertainment industry. To lean on a cliche, I believe that "it means different things to different people." Depending on your role in the industry, or your view of what cinema means, success can be very different. Is it making an incredible amount of money on a movie that is mediocre? Or is it making a film that doesn't necessarily do extremely well financially, but is culturally and historically important?

On a side note, I simply cannot imagine what it would be like to meet such incredible icons and legends as Audrey Hepburn and Lillian Gish. The fact that you are able to meet such interesting people in your line of work is amazing.

Indeed, the almost inevitable existence of stereotypes is clear in the film industry. Hollywood capitalizes on stereotypes (an act that can be seen as the menacing reflection of a somewhat 'sadistic' appetite on the part of the film viewer [or society]). But just as the one end of the spectrum- that is, the 'masochistic' African-American filmmakers- is explored, it is also key to take a skeptical look at another end- that is, the media conglomerates that exert great influence on what the audience is exposed to.

Stereotypes might be inevitable, some may even say, necessary- but whoever is either employing or perceiving them should be conscious of the different consequences that these stereotypes occasion. For one group, a stereotype merely goes as far as ridicule or sneer but for another it direly translates to socioeconomic inhibition, prosecution, and even death. Hence, in this case, it is paramount for both the African-American filmmakers and the different media conglomerates to put more mind to their social responsibility rather than the allure pecuniary gain (in a perfect world).

I am a believer that every choice made in making a film serves to enhance the meaning of the film wether those choices be conscious or not. Now we must ask ourselves what we can take out of the film makers use of racial stereotypes. When watching the film we should ask ourselves whats the meaning behind the filmmakers choices.

I have never seen Coffy before, but I find the themes in this film to be counterintuitive towards feminist goals of calling for a less stereotypical representations of woman. Not only is the use of nudity and sexuality calling attention to the female body through voyeuristic means, but also the character of Pam Grier follows the stereotypical actions and behavior of a black woman in film. The only hint of feminism is in the blunt idea of a strong female woman striking out on her own against organized crime and succeeding, as opposed to the patriarchal restoration and destruction of such a woman in most films.

I have never seen Coffy before, but I find the themes in this film to be counterintuitive towards feminist goals of calling for a less stereotypical representations of woman. Not only is the use of nudity and sexuality calling attention to the female body through voyeuristic means, but also the character of Pam Grier follows the stereotypical actions and behavior of a black woman in film. The only hint of feminism is in the blunt idea of a strong female woman striking out on her own against organized crime and succeeding, as opposed to the patriarchal restoration and destruction of such a woman in most films.

I'm going to take this in a bit of a different direction, but still stay on the "stereotypes in Hollywood" topic. Blaxploitation movies gave us blacks in leading roles. Simple? Yes, but think about it. How many black leading actors do you see in Hollywood? Off the top of my head: Denzel Washington and Will Smith. Now I'm sure I've missed some, but what if I were to count up some white leading actors? Anyone could rattle off ten easily. Simply put, race IS a way of identifying with a character. It is a part of the mise-en-scene whether we like it or not, and therefore, effects our viewing experience.

Even though as an international student,i might not be familiar with these stereotypes, i am well aware of them because of the film industry's influence. These kind of 'blaxplotation' films in which the main character is black, living in the ghetto and surrounded by drug dealers, using nudity to call the attention of the spectators, are known not only by american society, but now also by the international cinema. The question is, what are the repercussions of these stereotyped films on the perspective of spectators not familiar with the real way of life of african american people?

The issue is not with the filmmakers presenting characters who carry certain traits of a stereotype but the viewers who interpret the film. The makers of the film most likely made the characters a certain way to prove a point or to represent aspects of a culture. Unfortunately, they are sometimes over embellished and it comes across in a way that was not intended. If this is so, it is the viewer's responsibility to be smart enough not to take these characters as stereotypes. Another issue is the fact that viewers might think that shady characters such as pimps, pushers, and prostitutes are in fact characters to look up to and to emulate. But this can not be the concern of a filmmaker; it is for this exact reason there are ratings and restrictions placed on films so younger audiences are not influenced the wrong way.

In regard to Brian Chick's remark, it is, however, a sad reality that advancement in age has not shown itself as warranting growth in the discernment faculty. When it comes to 'conditioning', it is not just the young who are impressionable; which makes me then wonder how far filmmakers (or artists) can and should go.

Is the expression in this case not a freedom, or does it fall out of the bounds of political correctness? Affirmative responses seem to follow both musings, making the ambiguity that surrounds the frames of art [and modern society] prominent. It seems the ‘freer’ we are, the more constricted we become, and this creates a conducive gray area for those who actually employ stereotypes in films for their true ‘harmful’ capacities.

Violet-
I understand that older people also have trouble discerning these stereotypes as well. But the young audience is the only one that should be censored. It would be demeaning to coddle an adult audience in such a way. And you are right this a sad reality; unfortunately there is nothing that can be done.

The part of this post that i found particularly interesting, was that the director Jack Hill intentionally wrote Pam Grier's part for an African-American woman. I wonder whether or not this became a more common occurrence following the success of COFFY, or if director's were still hesitant to cast African-American women specifically in leading roles

in regard of Violet's and Brian's comments, i think the stereotyping issue is not a matter of age because as Violet said, adults can also fall into stereotyping people; it is more a matter of knowledge. People who are not familiar with the world depicted in a film can fall into stereotyping if that world becomes a pattern for other films.
I do think there is something to do about it: change the pattern.

In response to Brian, I agree with Violet. Most of today's adults were raised at a time when these stereotypes were prevalent (and they still are) and therefore many of them still believe in said stereotypes. As Mariana said, we must change the pattern. Todays children should be drawn away from stereotyping and the pattern should be reversed. If we don't make this impression on the adults first, however, then these children will just learn the stereotypes fro their own parents. Everyone needs to change their views, not just some people.

I concur with Mariana; changing the stereotype pattern is something that can [and should] be done. Many filmmakers have already begun to ‘dilute’ stereotypes by presenting people of different races and ethnicities in a wide array of roles, rather than solely their ‘stereotypical’ ones; hence, offering a more authentic reflection of the represented society’s reality. This in itself has a constructive influence on the way members of certain groups perceive and interact with those of other groups; but more importantly, it has a far-reaching impact one on the way members of the projected group see themselves.

Blaxpoitation may not have been the most enlightened era of African American filmmaking, but at the same time, notice that only a few people attended the cinema. Obviously, nowadays blaxpoitation is something we would all perceive as degrading and extremely racist, feminist, etc.

But I wonder what about the context? Is this how people perceived it back then? I can't know, I wasn't there, but I imagine it had a different meaning in the people back then as the film Coffy was clearly a hit and still has lingering fans.

- Mariana
I have to agree with Mariana when she notes that these stereotypes are not only known by American society, but also known in international cinema. This becomes problematic because people around the world will link a specific group to negative things and another group to positive things. Stereotypes in the media do not challenge the common ideology nor does it show the historical/systematic ways of oppression. Instead stereotypes in the media just shows it as a "dysfunctional culture" leaving all the blame on the individuals without putting some on the system. Sadly, people in America and around the world will take in what they see without questioning it.

I have always struggled with the topic of Blaxpolation and films like that from the 70s and 80s, but I think that it is unfair to simply condone them as racist. They are a product of a time where there was a different culture and it needs to be taken into context. When you look back through history, not everything is so black and white. There was even a time in Lincoln's presidency when he believed the best solution was to send all the slaves back to Africa and most certainly never considered the notion of them having equal civil rights. Of course as time went on he evolved his notion of how to solve a problem and eventually came to an understanding that more echos the sentiments of today, as demonstrated by the emancipation proclamation. I think that films such as COFFY should be viewed in such a light. That they are films which, for their age, were progressive and a step in the right direction. Just as lying is a slippery slope, so is the path to change, small changes grow to become big ones. You may at least look at the fact that COFFY gave a BLACK WOMAN agency and despite the remaining rasist sterotypes and overt sexism, it was a vehicle for change, just as despite the flaws in Al Gore's argument in AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, it still brought the climate change issue to the table and into peoples minds as something that exists (though some still deny it...)

I love the fact that people can still be enthusiastic about what they do and can still be passionate about their occupation. I'm usually hard pressed to find someone who will say they thoroughly enjoy getting out of bed in the morning to go to "work". This is a prime example of how i want to feel about my career in the future -- being happy, having great experiences, and truly loving what i do.

The fact about media is that, like it or not, it is based on stereotypes, as others have already said. And I believe it is one of the dangers of media, especially as someone has already stated, in how a culture is viewed internationally. As viewers, we constantly try to see ourselves portrayed in media, but it usually isn't the case. There have been many forward-thinking filmmakers who have tried to reverse and fight this stigma of media, but these filmmakers usually operate outside of the mainstream industry. This situation is the same idea put forth by feminist film theory of the 60's and 70's, where certain filmmaker's attempted to end the stereotypical roles of women in film. Stereotyping comes naturally to people, and it is a way to streamline characters, but that's not saying it's right. I don't think it's a secret that films, especially newer films, use minorities to land a joke.

I had no idea that Pam Grier was such a famous actress with all of these connotations attributed to her. I only know of her from a certain television show that ended in 2009 where she basically a stereotypical black woman. So again, I think that stereotyping is just a standard feature of a lot of media.

I think that in the attempt to hone in and portray certain socioeconomic classes in a film its going to be natural to portray themes that may seem explicit or racist, because racism exists and the ultimate goal of a rounded movie is to capture that realness. However, there are many different ways one can do this without pertaining ti racist themes, and the fact that it is a blacksploitation film makes it have to rely on stereotyping to get its message across.

Blaxplotation is one of the most unique film genres. Like Jazz is to Classical, Blaxplotation created a sense of style for the African Americans. It may be sterotype, but it was a culture. The 70s was the end of a large segregation and racism in America. It may still exist today, but not as bad as it was in the 60s.

The idea of stereotypes in films made me think of a people who have dealt with this problem for a long time: Native Americans. From John Wayne to Pocahontas, American Indians have either been portrayed as the savage with a tomahawk or the earth loving soul. Natives have been stereotyped for a long time giving Americans the impression that Natives are very different from themselves. A film like "Thunderheart" with Val Kilmer shows a good representation of Natives not being nor villains and I think films like these are important to change pre-existing mindsets.

I think this article brings up an interesting discussion. It is difficult to tell where lines are being crossed in regards to stereotypes. The movement of blaxploitation definitely steps on some toes but as a cinematic genre, film wouldn't be the same without it. Stereotypes will exist in the media no matter what. If we can take these stereotypes as only judgements then I don't think these films should be a race issue.

i think the use of stereotypes in movies can have very damaging consequences in society. When stereotypes are perpetuated in film, it engrains the idea of difference between different groups of people. By being portrayed negatively in films, stereotyped characters are seen by the viewer as an actuality and begin to associate the fictional character they see with the real world. this can cause ignorance and lead to an intolerant society.

I cannot deny that I am a fan of blaxpoitation films. Anyone else who considers themselves one should check out a relatively recent release called Black Dynamite, which is awesome. I also happen to be a big fan of Pam Grier and her work. In response to the post above mine, I do not see any "damaging consequences in society" that originate from film. Do you believe that racism came first, or the movies? Do blaxpoitation movies invent stereotypes? No, they are just as guilty of portraying a "racist" environment as Vertigo did, (ie there are no black people in San Francicso). They appeal to certain audiences who are aware these are not just racist jokes, but reality.

It is unfortunate that in this day and age that stereotyping is still prevalent in the film industry. There are very talented actors from different backgrounds and they should be chosen for roles based on their talent and not on the color of their skin. They are sending the wrong message to the next generation if they continue such practices.

To me as an Asian, I just think that COFFY is a crime drama and Pam Grier is very cool to play a hard-core woman. It is very invasive to say that it is a blaxploitation film just because she is a black woman. Indeed, European and Americans have dominated the film industry since long time ago. However, that does not mean that it is their own world. African American have started to emerge the film market for quite a period of time, implying that this is the industry shared by the whole world not dominated by Hollywood as much as it did in the beginning of 20th century. This is a race discrimination. Similarly, it is quite unpleasant when there is a film genre called "Woman's film" in the era of French Cinema.

As a fan of blaxploitation I personally don't think a fuss should be made about them being somehow detrimental to society. They were movies that purposely appealed to a black audience just as every other movie purposely appeals to a white audience. Most of the blaxploitation films I don't find racist and personally think it's wrong to suggest that black people in movies should have limits on how they act. There's a lot to appreciate in blaxploitation, some of my favorites are the so-bad-it's-good Dolemite and the legitimately good The Mack.

As Otis states, there shouldn't be such a fuss over "blaxploitation" films, at least as long as "white-exploitation" films aren't examined. A movie that perpetuates white stereotypes (trust me, there are many) doesn't create such a commotion as a movie that instead perpetuates black stereotypes. I think that people are too eager to seek out and expose racism. When we, as a people, can watch a film like COFFY and not be offended if the main character is black, we have finally reached a positive place in our society.

Being a big fan of Blaxploitation films myself, I am always questioning whether or not this love is misplaced due to their problematically racist nature.
I don't think that it is.
Although many of these films do deal in stereotypes and excess, I've found that many of these films are beautifully (and cleverly) constructed.
Especially a film like Coffy, which goes to great lengths to humanize its main character, played by the beautifully badass Pam Grier. Furthermore, these films tell stories, stories that are expounded though (often excellent) dialogue and character: two features that are often missing from modern Hollywood films (despite their big budgets and institutionally trained creators (two features that were often missing from Blaxploitation films ; ) ))

Jackie Brown anyone?

Despite how far we have come in setting aside racial differences, we are clearly still years away from having a truly egalitarian society. These racial divides remain evident in many films that are put out each year. Racial stereotypes - whether hurtful, harmful, or beneficial - still persist strongly in films. The sassy, loud, obnoxious, no bullshit woman is rarely ever depicted by anyone but a black woman. In a similar vein, a soft-spoken, petite, bashful woman can be counted on to be played by a white woman. These examples barely begin to span the racial epithets and stereotypes that litter our culture.

I only have a limited amount of Blaxploitation in my repertoire but I am curious as to how large amounts of nudity translates into overt sexism. Nudity can go both ways, and having a movie that doesn't attempt to hide the importance of the free sexuality movement of that era may not necessarily be sexist as much as it is a rebellion against conservative cinema and practices of the past.

it is always difficult to address stereotypes in film. The depiction of stereotypes walks a thin line between racism and social commentary and is a delicate subject because of the social and historical implications of racist stereotyping. It is important to address these stereotypes in a critical way, but one must be careful to be delicate with their interpretation and commentary on stereotypes.

I like Williams point about nudity in Blaxploitation films. I often find myself wondering the same thing with regard to Blaxploitation (and other counter-cultural films from the 1960s and 70s). Does nudity always form the core of misogynist spectacle - another example of the dominance of Laura Mulvey's "male gaze"? Or, can nudity be an expression of a liberated sexuality, an unbound beauty - essentially a politically progressive device?



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