‘Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song’ – Blaxploitation’s Most Seminal Film

'Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song

This film is dedicated to all the Brothers and Sisters who had enough of the Man.

Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss SongSweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song

Directed by Mario Van Peebles
Written by Mario Van Peebles
1971, USA

Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song is not wholly Blaxploitation. It’s a revolution. It’s a work of art. It’s a portrait on a reluctantly changing America. It’s a captivating piece on culture and society that harms itself as much as it attempts to blossom.

Melvin Van Peebles wrote, directed, starred, produced, edited, and co-scored this surreal political tale of Sweetback, a gigolo on the run after attacking two abusive white cops. A fever-dream of an odyssey, Sweetback’s voyage from the city to the desert is a portrait of black civil rights as well as the struggle through out the history of black America. Gospel hymns and funk reverberate through the film as Sweetback regresses from a modern man to the symbol of an escaped slave on the run. Van Peebles’ statement is simple but bold: slavery may be over, but with economic poverty and oppression from white authority, progress has stalled. Sweetback’s character is mostly silent, representing black bystanders that go along with corrupt white authority. The film illustrates appalling actions are needed to shake people out of empathy. The film opens with a credit stating: “starring the Black Community” and Van Peebles never abandons the notion that the community’s progress will not painless.

The film was released in 1971 with an X rating from the MPAA. Van Peebles advertised this rating, proudly proclaiming “Rated X by an all-white jury.” The film’s depiction of actual sex is no doubt a comment on the sexual revolution, and Van Peebles as a performer is not shy about full-frontal nudity: a major American taboo. Several scenes in the film also depict gender-reversal. The film features a man stripping, becoming a woman in a bra and panties, then, removing those, becoming a man. In a pivotal scene, Sweetback is confronted by an all-white biker gang. They discuss how to deal with him trespassing on their territory. He has to fight or fuck the large male leader. He chooses to fuck. When the leader disrobes, a woman is revealed, and Sweetback and the leader make love instead of war. But Sweetback made the decision to have sex with a man. Both anti-war and gay-rights are lauded in a single scene.

'Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song

As a film, Sweet Sweetback is surrealist cinema at it’s grandest, sitting along side the works of Bunuel, Fellini, and Jodorowsky. Religious icons, sexual desires, and claustrophobic urban living run parallel to its political themes. Its prime surreal moment occurs in the film’s opening – a reflection of Sweetback’s childhood and how he loses his virginity. Raised in a whorehouse, a young Sweetback is lured by a prostitute into having sex. He’s frigid and motionless. Cut to the same prostitute in bed with an adult Sweetback. He’s grown up in a terrible environment and retains his child-like mentality about sex and the social struggles of his community.

Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song is a wholly original American film, mixing surrealism with a strong social message. Van Peebles revolutionized the American film industry, making a film with out Hollywood backing, commanding an artistic fire like that of Orson Welles. It may not be as accessible as Shaft or Coffy, but Sweetback sparked a generation of films to come and inspired generations of black artists and independent filmmakers.

– Gregory Day

Add Comment

50 CEOs Who Never Went to College (and how they managed to succeed)
10 Different Types of Financial Aid
Top 10 Richest American Idols
V-Moda Crossfade Wireless
The 5 Most Expensive Wireless Headphones: Ultimate Auditory Clarity
25 Bachelor Party Movie Ideas
People playing the clarinet
10 Different Types of Clarinets
11 Different Types of Drums
7 Different Types of Roller Coasters
A bowl of oatmeal porridge
7 Different Types of Porridge
Shots of tequila
5 Different Types of Tequila (Plus Tequila Cocktails)
Fresh kale in a bowl
10 Different Types of Kale
8 Different Types of Cantaloupes
A Man in a Suit Opening a Car’s Door
9 Different Types of Car Doors
Headlights of a black car
9 Different Types of Headlights
19 Different Types of Construction Vehicles
Fire Truck with Warm Yellow Lights
9 Different Types of Fire Trucks
54 Different Types of Sports Played (Individual and Team Sports)
15 Different Types of Goggles
13 Different Types of Dumbbells
15 Awesome Alternatives to Skateboards (Plus Interesting Facts)
16 Different Types of Technology
man holding smartphone with vintage case
11 Types of Cell Phone Cases and Covers to Protect Your Expensive Smartphone
Black and Red Tablet Covers
8 Types of Tablet Cases for Kids, Protection, and Convenience
Camera, lenses and other photography equipments.
45 of the Best Online Camera Stores for the Perfect Pics