Elevate Difference's Reviews > "Baad Bitches" and Sassy Supermamas: Black Power Action Films

"Baad Bitches" and Sassy Supermamas by Stephane Dunn
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Jan 10, 09

Read in January, 2009

Stephanie Dunn, an assistant English Professor at Morehouse College, deconstructs the representations of black women in blaxploitation films in "Baad Bitches" & Sassy Supermamas: Black Power Action Films, a fascinating cultural critique. Blaxploitation, a 1970s-era sensationalist film genre targeting an urban black audience, has been critiqued as patriarchal because of the way in which women are treated in many films. Dunn describes her interest in examining the representations of black women in blaxploitation films as an effort to expand on previous critical feminist commentaries, which she feels have been too dismissive of the importance of these characters. As she writes, “There has been little in-depth attention given to the myriad implications of the representational codes that structure the characters and action as well as the films’ importance as revealing cultural artifacts.”

Using several major black power films—including Foxy Brown, Coffy, and Cleopatra Jones—the author analyzes representations of black female sexuality and the way these films have influenced contemporary cultural ideas about what it means to be a powerful, black woman. Dunn tackles complicated concepts dealing with representation, oppression, and identity politics, yet has managed to create a book that flows well and is easily understandable. She mentions bell hooks as one of her influences, and Dunn’s inspiration and analytical background is readily apparent in the way that she seems to effortlessly illustrate the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality at the movies, and the social meaning of such representations.

"Baad Bitches" & Sassy Supermamas is a volume in The New Black Studies Series, edited by Darlene Clark Hine and Dwight A. McBride. This is a wonderfully critical contribution to the fields of film theory, cultural studies, black studies, and gender and sexuality studies. The book is sure to interest any critical consumer of pop culture who is interested in the way that power is expressed through film.

Review by Liz Simmons
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