After the civil rights victories of the previous decade, 70s America had realised how hip, happenin’ and marketable the black image was.
Hollywood saw major dollar signs, so a machine was quickly invented which churned out movies showcasing the style, rhythm and badness which Whitey could never hope to possess but could view from a distance at the local Multiplex
So-called ‘Blaxploitation’ movies were briefly very big business in the early 70s. Some film execs claimed that these movies were geared to appeal to black audiences, which were fast becoming a viable faction of the consumer market.
Starring predominantly black casts – usually with a token honky to play one of the bad guys or some hot chick that the black male star casts aside – and featuring soundtracks dripping with wah-wah pedal, a whole new genre of film was created.
The term ‘blaxploitation’ (short for ‘black exploitation’) rankled many of the black actors who made the movies. But crude as they usually were, blaxploitation flicks created jobs for some mighty fine black actors in an industry that provided them with few other opportunities.
Shaft (1971), Superfly (1972), Foxy Brown (1974), Car Wash (1976) and The Avenging Disco Godfather (1979) are some of the best known. Television was quick to follow suit with sitcoms such as Good Times, The Jeffersons and What’s Happening!
Blaxploitation movies eventually began to look as laughably outdated as the big Afros, bell-bottoms, platform shoes and gull-wing shirt collars they featured, and classics like Superfly, Black Caesar and Coffy were lampooned in send-ups like the 1988 comedy I’m Gonna Git You Sucka! directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans (who later created the TV comedy series In Living Color for Fox Television Network).