Blaxploitation Films: What's Love Got to Do with It?

full name / name of organization: 
Cynthia J. Miller/Film & History
contact email: 

Call for Papers

"Blaxploitation Films:  What's Love Got to Do with It?"

2010 Film & History Conference: Representations of Love in Film and Television

November 11-14, 2010

Hyatt Regency Milwaukee

First Round Deadline: November 1, 2009 

AREA: Blaxploitation Films: What's Love Got to Do with It?


In 1971, a new film genre combining super-stud heroes and their drop-dead sexy female counterparts, with hard action and funky soundtracks, emerged from the midst of a turbo-charged era of social change.  Blaxploitation, with its primarily black casts, was introduced with Gordon Parks' Shaft, and followed soon after by Superfly (1972), directed by Gordon Parks, Jr.  Both films, and the genre they ushered in, were marked by extreme violence, criminality, sexual exploitation, and valorization of poetic justice.  They spoke to black audiences that, despite cresting a surge in racial pride, continued to feel frustrated by widespread legal corruption, social marginalization, and seeing themselves represented on the screen by the same old tired stereotypes.  "Blaxploitation Films: What's Love Got to Do with It?" seeks to explore the genre, its characters, and their passionate relationships, as artifacts of history, chronicles of culture, and stepping stones in the evolution of black images on screen, from the early stereotypes found in the 1915 Birth of a Nation, to the complex commentary of American Gangster (2007).


This area, comprised of multiple panels, welcomes individual papers as well as panel proposals that examine all forms of films and television fare that examine the steamy, hypersexual, emotional side of blaxploitation films, and its depictions of violence, corruption and criminality.  Possible questions to consider include:


  • What were the roles of sexuality and wish fulfillment in fueling the genre's continuing attraction for filmmakers as well as audiences?


  • Shaft (1971) sold as many records of the Issac Hayes soundtrack as movie tickets because audiences found my-way-or-hit-the-highway policeman John Shaft so compelling.  What do blaxploitation films tell us about portrayals of black masculinity and sexuality in the 21st century? 


  • How does romantic love play out in films that highlight black criminals, when the characters are driven essentially by economic gain or survival? 


  • How do strong black female characters, like those made famous by actors Tamara Dobson and Pam Grier, revise or confound the pre-civil rights stereotype of the overbearing black female (e.g. Sapphire, from Amos and Andy)?


  • How may we analyze and interpret the dualistic images of females, as compliant sex objects as well as self-assured characters of action?


  • What were the politics of black sexual allure in blaxploitation cinema?  How did homoerotic love complicate desire?  


  • How has the blaxploitation film evolved as a genre?  Are, for example, Training Day (2001), Monster's Ball (2001), or Hustle and Flow (2005) updated blaxploitation films?


Please send your 200-word proposal by e-mail to the area chair:


Norlisha F. Crawford, Chair

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

Department of English

800 Algoma Blvd

Oshkosh, Wisconsin  54901

Email: (email submissions preferred)


Panel proposals for up to four presenters are also welcome, but each presenter must submit his or her own paper proposal. For updates and registration information about the upcoming meeting, see the Film & History website (