Baad Bitches and Sassy Supermamas

Baad Bitches and Sassy Supermamas: Black Power Action Films

STEPHANE DUNN
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 192
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt2ttfnn
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    Baad Bitches and Sassy Supermamas
    Book Description:

    This lively study unpacks the intersecting racial, sexual, and gender politics underlying the representations of racialized bodies, masculinities, and femininities in early 1970s black action films, with particular focus on the representation of black femininity. Stephane Dunn explores the typical, sexualized, subordinate positioning of women in low-budget blaxploitation action narratives as well as more seriously radical films like Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song and The Spook Who Sat by the Door, in which black women are typically portrayed as trifling "bitches" compared to the supermacho black male heroes. The terms "baad bitches" and "sassy supermamas" signal the reversal of this positioning with the emergence of supermama heroines in the few black action films in the early 1970s that featured self-assured, empowered, and tough (or "baad") black women as protagonists: Cleopatra Jones, Coffy, and Foxy Brown._x000B__x000B_Dunn offers close examination of a distinct moment in the history of African American representation in popular cinema, tracing its emergence out of a radical political era, influenced especially by the Black Power movement and feminism. "Baad Bitches" and Sassy Supermamas also engages blaxploitation's impact and lingering aura in contemporary hip-hop culture as suggested by its disturbing gender politics and the "baad bitch daughters" of Foxy Brown and Cleopatra Jones, rappers Foxy Brown and Lil' Kim.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09104-9
    Subjects: Sociology, Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Race, Gender, and Black Action Fantasy
    (pp. 1-12)

    “Girl, my daddy used to take us over there—where was that place? Oh yeah, right. Anyways, girl, we went to see all of them. Seem like everybody and they mama was there. Sometimes you could see two or three of ’em at a time at the drive-in. Shaft, Super Fly, Coffy … girl, yeah. I can’t even remember the names of some of them, but we used to go to see those movies all the time.” I love to ask grown-up black folk about blaxploitation films, then sit back and listen as they start to smile and laugh and...

  6. 1 The Pleasure of Looking: Black Female Spectatorship and the Supermama Heroine
    (pp. 13-34)

    “The thing about Cleopatra is that she was sharp, you know?”

    “I liked the way she looked. And talked. Just the way she spoke was so sophisticated and cool.”

    “I like her look, the way she carried herself; her whole vibe is sharp to me. And she was a dark-skinned, strong, beautiful woman. That’s what I like.” That from my friend Zina B, a postmodern, Manolo Blahnik-wearing, majestic chocolate Cleopatra diva herself.

    I was in Atlanta at Zina B’s house with her mother and sister, my sister, and several other women between thirty and forty-five. We had gathered to watch...

  7. 2 Black Power and the New Baad Cinema
    (pp. 35-54)

    “Everybody knows that all the people don’t have liberty, all the people don’t have freedom, all the people don’t have justice, and all the people don’t have power. So that means none of us do. Take this country and change it! Turn it upside down and put the last first and the first last. Not only for black people but for all people.”¹

    “Right on, Sista Kathleen! Uh huh, preach girl.” My dear friend and colleague April and I were hanging like two excited teen girls who’d just bought the latest hot CD home. Only the sounds we were communing...

  8. 3 What’s Sex and Women Got to Do with It? Sexual Politics and Revolution in Sweetback and The Spook
    (pp. 55-84)

    “Girl, they ain’t lying about Sweetback. Now if I don’t remember nothing else about it, that movie had lines way down the block. And people went to see it two or three times, okay? I think about it now, I was just a child seeing that movie. Can you believe that?” As a lovely, ageless black California artist shared this with me, I listened like a kid voyeuristically experiencing Sweetback. I’d seen the movie many times before this conversation, but through her remembrances, I was feeling the magnetic aura of the film in its time.

    It seems as if I’ve...

  9. 4 Race, Gender, and Sexual Power in Cleopatra Jones
    (pp. 85-106)

    “You know, I wanted to be just like Cleopatra Jones. She had this cool vibe and she was tough. She didn’t get all abused like a lot of women in those movies. I had never seen a black woman like her on-screen before. Especially not in a movie built around her.” I can understand why a good friend of mine, as more than one black woman who experienced seeing Cleopatra Jones back in the day expressed to me, found it such compelling fantasy. I love looking at Tamara Dobson playing Cleopatra. She exudes this unapologetically majestic, cool, chocolate, regal, and...

  10. 5 Sexing the Supermama: Racial and Gender Power in Coffy and Foxy Brown
    (pp. 107-132)

    Growing up, without fail, all the men who I ever heard talk about Pam Grier did so reverently: “She so baad.” They meant “baad” as in “fine”—sexy and beautiful. It was that beauty and her on-screen persona of a sassy, surviving black woman that earned the affection of my mother and aunts. I have no recollection of my actually viewing Foxy Brown or Coffy in childhood, but I was very aware of whom Grier was, and I’d certainly seen her on-screen. Maybe I was half asleep in the backseat as my parents watched her films at the drive-in, or...

  11. AFTERWORD: Superbaad for the Twenty-First-Century Screen
    (pp. 133-136)

    Through spring and summer 2006, several occurrences dramatized the unique ways in which the social identities and bodies of black women can become spectacle in the public sphere and cultural imagination. Georgia Democratic representative Cynthia McKinney’s response toward a Capitol Hill security officer who failed to recognize her gave way to her hair and appearance becoming far more newsworthy than her politics. It became such a hot topic indeed that even some black radio and news shows devoted air space to debating how she should wear her hair and evaluating whether or not her cornrowed hairstyle or straight hairdo made...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 137-148)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 149-156)
  14. Index
    (pp. 157-166)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 167-173)