“You know how the game goes, Baby”: Exploring Intersections of Power in Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song

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Abstract

Existing academic discourse surrounding pioneering Blaxploitation film, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (Melvin Van Peebles, 1971), regularly frames the titular character as the forerunner of an eventual collection of aggressive, hypersexual, and macho Black heroes. These texts accordingly examine Sweetback’s characterization with limited nuance, and therefore overlook the film’s more complex contentual and formal engagement with masculinity and power. Via close analysis of the film and marketing materials, I propose that Sweetback’s macho behavior can be re-contextualized via attention to his repeated displays of passivity, which jointly signal the film’s engagement with notions of “ideal” Black masculinity, generational oppression, and trauma.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-49
Number of pages13
JournalFilm Matters
Volume14
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023

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