From 1971 until about 1979, Blaxploitation was enormous. At one time there was something like 3,000 movie theaters in the U.S. that played exclusively Blaxploitation films. Film movements like that just don’t exist anymore. Blaxploitation played off of white stereotypes of blacks, sometimes, unfortunately, reinforcing them. Film critic Ryan Diduck once explained Blaxploitation really well when he called it “empowerment through an overturned representation of long-established agency limitations for black men.”
I thought of revisiting Boss Nigger yesterday when Rendar mentioned how he was in the mood for westerns after seeing True Grit. I’m not a huge fan of the genre by any means – far too many of the “classics” are racist toward Native Americans and I don’t play that – but Blaxploitation I do know so this popped into my mind. Hit the jump to read more about a unique film that packs more than a controversial title!
Renaissance man Fred “The Hammer” Williamson plays Boss, the new sheriff in an all white town. Along with his deputy Amos (D’Urville Martin), the duo enfore new “Black Laws,” a forceful way to teach the citizens how to be nice to black people. The mayor begrudgingly allows Boss to act as sheriff, but a local outlaw named Jed has other plans. Jed and his gang of shitty outlaws has taken what they want from the town, untouched by the law, for years so this “black devil” is going to seriously retard their fun.
This is one of Williamson’s earliest roles after leaving pro-football in 1968. He had a brief stint as an architect before turning to acting. He also wrote and co-produced Boss Nigger. His character of Boss is almost a parody of the Man With No Name character immortalized by Clint Eastwood. But, unlike No Name, Boss is smooth as a velvet baby’s ass. So yeah, he pulls in the chicks – black and white. I sympathized with Boss, not just because he’s a black in a town of racist whites, but because he’s the outsider. Even if the town was half black he’d be an outsider. He’s that kind of western loner. A velvet loner.
The film forces its white audience to sympathize with a black outsider without being too preachy or heavy-handed. There’s no sense that this conflict wouldn’t exist if Boss was white. The villain Jed would still exist and he’d still be robbing the town blind under immunity. A counterforce has to exist to stop him and that’d be Boss, riding in all black, packing a sawed-off, Amos at his side.
Amos is hysterical. He dresses like a wild west pimp and has the best lines in the movie. When him and Boss first roll into town and Amos starts beefing with some locals Boss says,
“C’mon Amos. We just want to collect our bounty and ride through.”
Amos: “I know but I don’t like how they look. Plus, I love fat women.”
The film’s score is instrumental funk and soul. The theme song fucking rules. “Black bad and scared of nothing. Yeaaah.”
Until next time, my lovelies…