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Shaft Redefining Black Hollywood

Throughout the late 1960s and into the 1970s, many American films were becoming radically different in their approach. These new Hollywood films were beginning to explore darker subjects in more character driven films. During this cinematic renaissance of the 1970s, many mainstream American audiences began to develop a thirst for crime films that featured masculine heroes taking matters into their own hands. Of these new masculine, violent films were The French Connection and Dirty Harry. The white heroes that were in those films were strictly intended to satisfy the white audiences; however, the craving for these types of heroes was not limited to white audiences.

Richard Roundtree as John Shaft

Richard Roundtree as John Shaft

 

African American audiences of this time also wanted masculine heroes in their movies: “After years of watching elegant, well-spoken Sidney Poitier endure insults from racist white cops in films like In The Heat of the Night (1967), African Americans were ready to see someone respond to the cinematic police brutality and racial profiling of Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle and “Dirty” Harry Callahan” (Friedman 57). The need for such black heroes led to the emergence of a new film genre called Blaxploitation.

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