Blaxploitation or blacksploitation is a film genre which emerged in the United States circa 1970. These exploitation films were made specifically for an urban black audience. The word itself is a portmanteau of the words "black" and "exploitation", and was coined in the early 1970s by the Los Angeles National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) head, and ex-film publicist Junius Griffin. Blaxploitation films were the first to feature soundtracks of funk and soul music and featured a primarily black cast. Variety magazine credited Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, released in 1971, with the invention of the blaxploitation genre while others argue that the Hollywood-financed film Shaft, also released in 1971, is closer to being a blaxploitation piece; and thus is more likely to have begun the trend. ( Blaxploitation ).
Famous Blaxploitation Films
See also List of blaxploitation films
When set in the Northeast or West Coast, blaxploitation films typically take place in Ghettos and feature plotlines which entail crime, hit men, drug dealers, and pimps. Ethnic slurs against whites (e.g., "honky"), and antagonistic white characters such as; corrupt cops, politicians, prostitutes, and gullible gangsters are common. Meanwhile, blaxploitation films set in the South often take place on a plantation dealing with slavery and miscegenation.
Blaxploitation includes several subtypes of films including; Crime (Foxy Brown), Action/Martial arts (Three the Hard Way), Westerns (Boss Nigger), Horror (Abby, Blacula), Comedy (Uptown Saturday Night), Nostalgia (Five on the Black Hand Side), Coming-of-Age/Courtroom Drama (Cooley High/Cornbread, Earl and Me), and Musical (Sparkle).
Following the example set by Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, many of these films featured funk and soul jazz soundtracks with heavy bass, funky beats, and wah-wah guitars. These soundtracks are notable for a degree of complexity which was not common to the radio-friendly funk tracks of the '70s, and a rich orchestration which included instruments rarely used in funk or soul; such as the flute and the violin.
Following the popularity of blaxploitation films in the 1970s, films within other genres began to feature black characters with stereotypical blaxploitation characteristics, such as the Harlem underworld characters in Live and Let Die (1973), Jim Kelly's character in Enter the Dragon (1973), and Fred Williamson's character in The Inglorious Bastards (1978).
While some held that the Blaxploitation trend was a token of black empowerment, these movies were accused by some of perpetuating common white stereotypes about black people and as a result, many called for the end of the Blaxploitation genre. The NAACP, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and National Urban League joined together to form the Coalition Against Blaxploitation. Supported by many black film professionals, this group received much media exposure and during the late 1970s, contributed to the demise of the genre.
Blaxploitation films such as Mandingo, provided the opportunity for future filmmakers to address racial controversies regarding inner city poverty. In the early 1990s, a new wave of acclaimed black filmmakers focused on black urban life in their movies, particularly Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing and John Singleton's Boyz n the Hood, among others.