Sunday, October 12, 2008

Feminist Flashback #6

Foxy Brown, 1974
(Warning: There's some offensive language and imagery in this trailer, including the use of the "N" word. But it was the best overview of the film I could find. I apologize if it offends anyone.)

A quick caveat for this week's feminist flashback: not everyone would categorize blaxploitation as feminist since it is, by definition, about exploitation of certain racial and gendered tropes. Significantly, blaxploitation is a genre very-much based in the 1970s – urban crime, the war on drugs, post-civil rights. Gary Morris’s article on the genre in Bright Lights Film Journal defines it fairly well:
The plots of most of these films — and they are conventionalized enough to confidently treat them as a group — are pastiches of old Warner Bros. melodramas, with dashes of MGM fashion glamor — via the street — thrown in. Most are gangster melodramas with elements of social protest, dominated by a single (male or female) charismatic personality. They fall loosely into two overlapping categories. First are the stories of the pimp or pusher at a crisis point, caught between the needs of his people (black nationalism) and sellout pressure from The Man. […] The second is the straight-on revenge drama, in which a character — often female, more violent and less conflicted than her male counterpart — single-handedly destroys a white-based power structure that's harmed her, her family, and by extension the black community.

Many people -- particularily reviewers -- found (and find) blaxploitation films to be degrading and unrealistic. However, in a 1977 interview, Pam Grier (star of Foxy Brown, among other things) stated
I feel I portray all images of a woman on all levels because I am product of my environment. As far as people insisting that I have been cast in blaxploitation movies, I don't know what black exploit means. All the roles I have had were reflections of our society. Those were real people from real elements. The heroiness I portrayed always showed concern for the terrifying social conditions and it is only in this area that I feel I meld with the screen characters I depicted.

Even though it's violent, hyper-sexualized and gratuitous, I love Foxy Brown because Pam Grier's character is kick-ass. What do you all think? How do we define feminism in text when so many other factors--violence against women (and men), racist stereotypes, revenge, etc.--seem counter to that ideal?


Brianna J said...

I think that *ploitation movies are more like surrogate feminist movies, then actually feminist. The problem is, that there are so few movies that can be considered feminist (especially in genres like action, etc.), that we basically take what we can get.

In this case, I think that Foxy Brown herself is a feminist character, but the movie itself is overly exploitive.

Improvedliving said...

well i dont know why older literature use to have offensive languages

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