(Welcome to Marathon Man: the monthly column where I examine a series of films and compare, contrast and analyze them until either your brain or mine explodes.)


The term "blaxploitation" conjures up some very specific images for many movie fans. Afros. Poor production values. Awesome soundtracks. Sweet clothes. Cool-as-ice black people kicking the stuffing out of evil white people who have been been up to all kinds of no good.

A genre so easily parodied, so incredibly undervalued and so under-watched by modern audiences, it is often easy to forget why "Black Exploitation" films are not only a fascinating cinematic time capsule, but a massive cultural leap forward: black actors, often working with black filmmakers (although almost always financed by rich white guys) making films for black audiences. Although it's been argued that these violent, explicit films, with their depictions of African Americans as gangsters, pimps and drug dealers, ultimately did more harm than good, it's the first instance of the African American voice making itself heard in Hollywood, paving the way for a new generation of black filmmakers. They are, for better or worse, a cultural milestone.

February is Black History Month. While it may be more politically correct to honor that by holding a marathon of Spike Lee or Sidney Poitier films, a marathon of eight blaxploitation classics sure sounds like a lot of fun.