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PHOTO ESSAY

Blaxploitation Cinema

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Black Dynamite

Michael Jai White and Salli Richardson-Whitfield in 'Black Dynamite', 2009. Courtesy Apparition/Photofest.

The low budget, guerilla quality of many Blaxploitation films made them ripe for parody. Several aspects in particular made easy targets for those wishing to poke fun: the overly serious, virtually invincible, and sexually aggressive protagonists; the caricatured and often incompetent white villains; the hypersexualized love interests; and the poorly choreographed action scenes. Rudy Ray Moore's Dolemite (1975) and the controversial animated film Coonskin (1975) were among the first to spoof the genre, although Dolemite was the subject of parody itself on more than one occasion. About a decade after Blaxploitation had left the mainstream, filmmakers who were brought up on the movies began to make their own comedic versions. The first of these was the popular I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1988), directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans and starring several actors from the heyday of Blaxploitation, including Bernie Casey and Jim Brown. Other parodies and comedies followed, such as CB4 (1993), Leprechaun in the Hood (2000), Pootie Tang (2001), Undercover Brother (2003), and the critically acclaimed Black Dynamite (2009), which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. In another popular example, the opening credits to Beavis and Butthead Do America (1996) featured a distinctively Shaft-like theme performed by Isaac Hayes, who created similar parodies of his signature sound as the character Chef on the show South Park. Like the movies on which they were based, these films were criticized for perpetuating stereotypes of African Americans; but, in many ways, they were in a position to add more nuance to the subversive social commentary at the heart of the genre.

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