Who Owns Blaxploitation?

When I was watching Foxy Brown, I hated the villains. I hated them. They were pantomime baddies gone wild; incredibly sadistic, ruthless, and bigoted. While watching, I could tell the screenwriters had taken special care to make them loathsome; there was Katherine’s Southern accent (telling us that she’s privileged and haughty, as well as evoking an uncomfortable connection with slavery), her line about how “those people don’t value family loyalty,” and so on.

In a sense, Katherine and Steve are fascinating solely because of the pains the film takes to make them as hateful. From a cultural standpoint it’s interesting to investigate what would be needed to create truly horrible villains in a film for a mostly black audience in 1974. On the other hand, since Katherine and Steve were the creations of Jack Hill (a white man), is it possible that they’re a cynical calculation rather than a genuine expression of cultural anger?

In a larger sense- who owns blaxploitation? If a white filmmaker (Hill directed as well as wrote the film) is the one creating film for a black audience, is he pandering or making a brave statement by adding a previously marginalized voice to cinema?

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One thought on “Who Owns Blaxploitation?

  1. I’ve been thinking about Jack Hill a lot too because Foxy Brown is not the only Blaxploitation (or exploitation) film he wrote and it obviously feels weird to consider that he, as a white man, provided a place for women (of color) like Pam Grier to have the agency to kind of formulate their own characters like Professor Parham was telling us last week. I think asking who owns Blaxploitation films is a really complex question because it often feels like all media is still owned by straight, white men, but this genre did provide for a lot of major roles for Black actors. Not to discount the work of Black filmmakers like Oscar Micheaux, but Jack Hill was able to distribute on a much larger scale–even if his films were pandering to certain audiences using (offensive) stereotypes.

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