"Baad Bitches" and Sassy Supermamas
Black Power Action Films
An incisive analysis of gender and race in classic blaxploitation films
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.
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.
"Dunn puts the whole blaxploitation experience into logical context, explaining the social conditions of the era relating to race and gender that affected how the black community observed these films. . . . An essential companion to the black film studies genre. Recommended."--Library Journal
"Sharply observed, well-written survey of African American action films of the 1970s. . . . Dunn goes much further into these films than scholars of previous studies have. . . . Highly recommended."--Choice
"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."--The Journal of African American History
"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
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