PROUD MARY: Carefree Black Girls & the Foxy Sistas’ Blaxploitation
This week Sony released an extended trailer for their upcoming action film starring Taraji P. Hensen Proud Mary. Taraji’s character is Mary, a black female assassin for an “organized crime family” according to IMDB and though the trailer is too vague to grasp a full storyline there are aspects that are clear nods to the Blaxploitation films of the 70s. Once I saw the marketing posters for the film it made me think of Pam Grier posing with a pistol while rocking her flawless afro. Then it hit me, these bad ass women of the 70s embracing their bodies, basking in their sexiness, beating up bad guys for the greater good of the hood are spirit animals of our carefree black girls.
In its day Blaxploitation films were heavily criticized for their reiteration of the stereotypes and stigmas placed upon the black community including their depiction of black women. Though some depictions o four women weren’t flattering Blaxploitation really reinvented the way black women saw themselves onscreen. Actresses like Teresa Graves of Get Christie Love Tamara Dobson of Cleopatra Jones and of course Pam Grier who is best known for her roles in Coffy in Foxy Brown proclaimed that no one was going to regulate their sexuality, but them. These women were heavily criticized for doing what they pleased with their bodies. The critics would constantly focus on their clothes sending the wrong message but neglected all the positive attributes their characters possessed. These women were independent, thoughtful, witty, conscious, and yes they were sexy, but isn’t that a part of the magic of being a black girl?
I often find myself defending a woman I don’t even know against these misogynistic unwritten rules of society. The notion that a woman can’t possibly respect herself if her shorts are short, her hair is colored brightly, her nails are too long, or her makeup is too heavy is an inaccurate measurement of woman’s love and respect for herself. I thought we knew that the girl in the mini skirt could have just as much self-respect as the girl who makes sure her skirts are at knee-length. The millennial self-proclaimed Carefree Black Girls are rocking rainbow fros, 3 nose rings, dashikis with no pants, with fish net stocking sunder our high waist jeans, and did I mention that bras are out of style? Aside from embracing our sexuality and dressing as conservative or as sexy as we’d like, we’re starting companies and opening up offices with no dress codes, and redefining how young black professional look and behave. We have this thing called the internet, where you can start a business in minutes, and we have, in record numbers in the last decade. We are the leaders of our civil rights movement, yesBlack Lives Matter started with 3 black women, and black twitter will never let you forget it. We are educated, innovative, and we are creating spaces to celebrate each other because no one is going do that for us.
I find these characteristics strikingly similar to the women of Blaxploitation, could this be the perfect time for the comeback of black power cinema? These sistas’ were making real power moves on and off the screen and no one could focus on anything deeper than the surface. These were women fighting for their people and communities, often time’s female leads of Blaxploitation films are fighting against everyday injustices that we’re still fighting today. These films changed the narrative and told our side of the story. Though criticized for including drugs and violence into the storylines, and the relentless scripted lines that taunted “the white man” I find that those themes were necessary to accurately portray the state of our desperate communities, and who better to save the hood than the Black woman? The characters witness the injustice, and decide to do something about it, unapologetically. I’m interested in seeing which of these characteristics Taraji’s character will possess, all I know is I can dig it!