"Baad Bitches" and Sassy Supermamas

Black Power Action Films
Author: Stephane Dunn
When black women took it to The Man in classic blaxploitation films
Paper – $23
eBook – $19.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 01/01/2008
Cloth: 08/18/2008
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About the Book

Blaxploitation action narratives as well as politically radical films like Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song typically portrayed black women as trifling "bitches" compared to the supermacho black male heroes. But starting in 1973, the emergence of "baad bitches" and "sassy supermamas" reversed the trend as self-assured, empowered, and tough black women took the lead in the films Cleopatra Jones, Coffy, and Foxy Brown.

Stephane Dunn 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. Recognizing a distinct moment in the history of African American representation in popular cinema, Dunn analyzes how it emerged from a radical political era influenced by the Black Power movement and feminism. Dunn also engages blaxploitation's legacy in contemporary hip-hop culture, as suggested by the music’s disturbing gender politics and the "baad bitch daughters" of Foxy Brown and Cleopatra Jones, rappers Foxy Brown and Lil' Kim.

About the Author

Stephane Dunn is a professor and academic program director of the Cinema, Television, & Emerging Media Studies program at Morehouse College.


"Intellectually stimulating and immediately accessible."--Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Using a variety of informal polls, surveys, and friend-girl networks, Dunn reconstitutes the very nature of the female gaze for postmodern Black women.”--Multicultural Review

"An irreverent and well-intentioned appeal to rethink how we talk about black women in popular culture as capable of being both sexy blues women and erudite thinkers."--Journal of American Ethnic History

"With insightful perspectives and sharp analysis, "Baad Bitches" & Sassy Supermamas offers a critical reexamination of sexualized film representations of African American women, and sheds much-needed light on historical constructions of masculinity, femininity, and sexuality."--Journal of African American History

"An essential companion to the black film studies genre. Recommended."--Library Journal


"With trenchant intellect and sassiness that is only matched by the larger-than-life characters she examines throughout "Baad Bitches" and Sassy Supermamas: Black Power Action Films, Stephane Dunn provides a fresh perspective on intersections of gender and sexuality within blaxploitation-era black film. This is a very important addition to scholarship in African American cultural studies, gender and sexuality studies, and American studies."--Mark Anthony Neal, author of New Black Man: Rethinking Black Masculinity