Friday, March 20, 2009

Somewhere In-Between

I really enjoyed the movie, Shaft. It was exciting, smart, in-your-face, and striding a few lines, just like the main character, John Shaft.

The audience follows John Shaft, a Black private eye who is the catalyst between the Whites and Blacks, the Gangs and the Mob, the law-abiding citizens and the criminals. The movie starts with Shaft being hired on the side to solve the kidnapping of Bumpy’s daughter. Shaft is also being tailed and always seems to get out of a tight spot by the skin of his teeth. The end is a fight between the Black gang and the White Mafia.

To me, it seemed as if this movie was all about being in the middle. First of all, there was the style of the movie. Picture the 70’s: groovy music, slick cats, screaming psychedelic decoration, Discos. Shaft features the 70’s big hair, big fashion, and big attitudes. As we see Shaft’s house, there are brightly patterned walls but also that very neat and tidy feel, as was something promoted in the suburbs. Just look at the house in “That 70’s Show;” it’s not brightly colored, but very clean and tidy. There was also the typical 70’s lingo being used along with modern music and ideas such as more adult content and White women being with Black men. All of these descriptions seem to really make this movie up to date in relation to when it was filmed; however, Shaft also has one foot in the past. The Mafia are fashioned as if they were back in the 30’s, Tommy guns and everything.

This leads to the other example of what this movie is in between: races. Shaft is a movie from blaxploitation, a style of movie created for Black audiences. All of the protagonist and majority of the main characters are Black. Back to the example above between the Mafia and the Gang, making the “Black side” modern while keeping the “White side” out of date could represent a tension between Blacks moving forward while Whites remain stuck to the ideals of the past. This movie also seems to explore how the two “sides” can mix: Shaft is a man with a Black face but a White job; his name is John, a very common White name, but his speech is like his “brothers”. All in all, the movie raises some intriguing ideas about where the line is and how far being between the two sides is possible and cool.


  1. I am sure that we can probably both agree that Shaft is really cool, but how does this being in the middle affect his coolness?

  2. What do you think about the term "blaxploitation" itself? Do you think the implication - that these films exploit the black population - is fair? If films that target a certain audience are exploitation, then where does this leave many other movies?

    It's socially and academically acceptable to spell race "colors" with lower-case letters, while spelling actual races (i.e. African-American) with capital letters.