Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

History

First Advisor

Kent Germany

Abstract

The presentation of Black femininity in Blaxploitation spy and detective films like Cleopatra Jones (1973), Foxy Brown (1974), and Get Christie Love! (1974) – depicting powerful, independent, and multidimensional characters – was a sharp departure from the derogatory images of African American women in film prior. These films also included some of the first Black spy and detective film heroines – Foxy Brown, Cleo Jones, and Christie Love – that portrayed a “serious” female detective or government agent as the main protagonist and center of the film’s action. These Blaxploitation heroines were unique in how their characters departed from prior male spies and detectives in film, particularly James Bond. The significance of Blaxploitation spy and detective heroines was never based upon their relation to male characters and nor were Blaxploitation heroines simply “Black female James Bond” replicas; instead they exhibited themes of nurturing, motherly attention, and care for their communities. Moreover, Blaxploitation heroines were neither just sexually objectified for the male gaze nor were they devoid of it. Rather, these Blaxploitation spy and detective heroines displayed a complex combination of being sexualized while also being strong, independent, multidimensional characters. This work asserts that Blaxploitation spy and detective heroines were unique in both the intersection of their race and character portrayals as powerful, independent, main protagonists which has been mostly minimal after the fall of Blaxploitation in the 1970s. Ultimately, white rather than Black actresses became the main, serious, multidimensional spy and detective heroine.

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