We all know about films like “Cleopatra Jones,” “Foxy Brown” and “Shaft” that swamped the 1970s. Those films were supposed to reveal the truths of black urban life to white audiences. This period was labeled the “Blaxploitation Era” of films.
Instead of reflecting black urban life, it exploited blacks by continuously casting black actors as drug dealers, pimps and hit men.
Blaxploitation films were produced by whites, and reflected their view of black urban life. There were a few exceptions like Melvin Van Peebles, who produced “Watermelon Man,” about a white man who wakes up as a black man.
While black audiences seemed to gravitate towards the films, some blacks began to view the movies as another way of exploiting blacks on the big screen. Sure the films gave jobs to black thespians of the day, but it really didn’t help the image of blacks in America.
The films also provided work for artists like Aretha Franklin, Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield as they made musical hits for the films’ soundtracks.
It was not until the NAACP, the Southern Leadership Christian Conference and the Urban League joined together to form the Coalition Against Blaxploitation that ended the decade long era of a rundown black image.
History has a way of repeating itself or maybe it’s just us who repeat history.
Nowadays, we still have an image problem of blacks on TV. I call it the “21st Century Blaxploitation.”
Many blacks have expressed their discontent with Black Entertainment Television’s use of blacks on its network. One can even hear the discontent on “Boondocks,” a black cartoon which makes satirical jokes at some of the ridiculous images of blacks.
However, not enough people have spoken against what VH1 is doing with the image of blacks today.
Today, VH1 continues the exploitation of blacks by casting stereotypical angry and promiscuous black women, slick talking buffoons, and an outrageous coon dressed in a Viking helmet with a clock around his neck.
Yes, I’m talking about shows like “Flavor of Love,” “I Love New York” and “Real Chance of Love.”
Blacks in America have come too far in the entertainment industry to settle for embarrassing and questionable roles on reality TV, which is now a joke.
White producers will continue to make these types of shows because white audiences love it and blacks feed into it.
When will we as blacks say, “enough is enough,” and take our rightful stance on the displaying of black folks.
If we aren’t our own moral agents, who will be?
Marlon Williams is a senior public relations student from Tallahassee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org