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Baad Bitches and Sassy Supermamas

Black Power Action Films

Stephane Dunn

Publication Year: 2008

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 black femininity. While low-budget blaxploitation films typically portrayed black women as trifling "bitches" compared to the supermacho black male heroes, the terms "baad bitches" and "sassy supermamas" signal the emergence of films featuring self-assured, empowered, and tough (or "baad") black female protagonists: Cleopatra Jones, Coffy, and Foxy Brown. Stephane Dunn closely examines a distinct moment in the history of African American representation in popular cinema, tracing its influences from the Black Power movement and feminism.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: The New Black Studies Series

Title Page, Copyright

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Word Revolution vs. World

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pp. xi-xv

In 1973, when I was seven years old, Get Christy Love premiered on television. It lasted only one brief season, but I never forgot Christy, played by pretty Teresa Graves. I was an avid television watcher who, like a lot of other kids, knew the theme song ...

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pp. xvii-xxi

I give thanks to the Creator for strength and grace. In the course of working on this book, I was blessed to receive grants from Ohio State University (Mansfield) and to engage in invaluable research in archives at Indiana University, Berkeley University, and UCLA. I thank Joan Catapano and the University of Illinois Press community, including Darlene Clark Hine, ...

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Introduction: Race, Gender, and Black Action Fantasy

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pp. 1-11

“Girl, my daddy used to take us over there—where was that place? Oh yeah, right. Anyways, girl, we went to see all of them. Seem like everybody and they mama was there. Sometimes you could see two or three of ’em at a time at the drive-in. Shaft, Super Fly, Coffy . . . girl, yeah. I can’t even remember the ...

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1. The Pleasure of Looking: Black Female Spectatorship and the Supermama Heroine

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pp. 13-34

“The thing about Cleopatra is that she was sharp, you ...

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2 Black Power and the New Baad Cinema

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pp. 35-54

“Everybody knows that all the people don’t have liberty, all the people don’t have freedom, all the people don’t have justice, and all the people don’t have power. So that means none of us do. Take this country and change it! Turn it upside down and put the last first and the first last. Not only for black ...

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3 What’s Sex and Women Got to Do with It?: Sexual Politics and Revolution in Sweetback and The Spook

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pp. 55-84

“Girl, they ain’t lying about Sweetback. Now if I don’t remember nothing else about it, that movie had lines way down the block. And people went to see it two or three times, okay? I think about it now, I was just a child seeing that movie. Can you believe that?” As a lovely, ageless black California ...

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4 Race, Gender,and Sexual Power in Cleopatra Jones

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pp. 85-106

“You know, I wanted to be just like Cleopatra Jones. She had this cool vibe and she was tough. She didn’t get all abused like a lot of women in those movies. I had never seen a black woman like her on-screen before. Especially not in a movie built around her.” I can understand why a good ...

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5 Sexing the Supermama: Racial and Gender Power in Coffy and Foxy Brown

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pp. 107-132

Growing up, without fail, all the men who I ever heard talk about Pam Grier did so reverently: “She so baad.” They meant “baad” as in “fine”— sexy and beautiful. It was that beauty and her on-screen persona of a sassy, surviving black woman that earned the affection of my mother and aunts. I have no recollection of my actually ...

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Afterword: Superbaad for theTwenty-First-Century Screen

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pp. 133-136

Through spring and summer 2006, several occurrences dramatized the unique ways in which the social identities and bodies of black women can become spectacle in the public sphere and cultural imagination. Georgia Democratic representative Cynthia McKinney’s response toward a Capitol ...


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pp. 137-148

Works Cited

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pp. 149-156


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pp. 157-166

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About the Author

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pp. 188-194

Stephane Dunn is an assistant professor of English ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780252091049
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252033407

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: The New Black Studies Series