Coffy – Blaxploitation and the introduction of the Superwoman

imagesWe talked about Coffy being more than one sterotype, please discuss and explain why? Also, give examples of where this stereotype exist in current films/tv shows. In preparing your comments, think about some of the things we talked about in class as well as the non-verbal sexual behaviors overview I sent you. Again, please refer to the readings from previous classes.  Also read pp. 87-107 (chap 4) for next week.  I’m looking for everyone to post comments here by Tuesday and feel free to comment on each other’s post.

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21 thoughts on “Coffy – Blaxploitation and the introduction of the Superwoman

  1. In class we had discussed that Coffy portrayed a lot of different stereotypes thought the film. Some of those stereotypes where as follows: the superwoman(badass), the symbolic whore, Madonna/whore complex, good girl vs bad girl, and the liberated woman. We had discussed that Coffy had a little bit of everything in her character, is portrayed as the superwoman(badass) because she is on a mission to stop what she feels hurt her little sister and she wanted to prevent that from happening to other girls. She is seen as the symbolic whore because she does use her sexuality to help her accomplish her mission. She is seen as a Madonna/whore complex because in reality she isn’t a whore she is just wanting to bring justice for her little sister and girls all around. She is a liberated woman because she goes against everything to protect her own even if it is risking her own life. In films we see these stereotypes portrayed all around us. One example of a superwoman (badass) is in the movie “Deliver us from Eva”, in this film Eva is the superwoman because she is successful and determined to succeed at what ever she puts her heart into. One example of the symbolic whore is in the movie “She’s gotta have it”, in this movie Nola Darling is portrayed as the symbolic whore because all she is thinking about and she wants to do aside from her job is to be intimate with her 3 partners. One example of the Madonna/whore complex can be seen in the movie “Grease”, in this film Sandy is portrayed as the Madonna/ whore because she is sweet and innocent until she wants to capture the attention of Danny who is seen as the bad boy. At the end of this film she is dressed a different way even walks a different way and she in turns get the boy at the end. This film also portrays the good girl vs. bad girl. One example of a liberated woman is in the film “Brave”, in this film you have a princess named Merdia who is not the typical princess she like fighting and playing sports. she goes against everything that her parents are telling her to do to be exactly who she wants to be and who she is which in the end is what saves her whole family her just being her. Most of the relationships here with men are seen as romantic all except the movie Brave. Overall the movies I have listed I feel relate to the class in a whole as well as relate really well to the stereotypes we have discussed.

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    • Alexandra, you outlined a number of different characteristics of Coffy. The liberated woman, symbolic whore and good vs bad girl are not really stereotypes but more like elements or behavior of stereotypes but she does carry many of them. Your film examples are great, although Sandy from Grease is not a Black woman. Please remember to use examples of the reading as part of your argument.

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  2. In response to the film “Coffy”, she is presented to be a couple of negative stereotypes associated to black woman. Some which we discussed in class were “Madonna/whore”, since she used her sexuality as a mechanism to get what she desired. Which majority of the time the charcteristics of the “Madonna/whore”, being manipulative, sexual and aggressive, worked out in her favor. Also, the “superwoman. Her ultimate goal was to seek revenge for her sister that was exploited by these men. As the “superwoman” she felt what she was doing was taking care of her sister. She wanted to be her sisters hero. Almost as, “an eye for eye”. She wanted to these men to suffer just like her sister did. Hence, the stereotype of the “superwoman”, also traits her as being the angry black woman which for most part she was. An example that I thought of was the character Angela from “Why did I get married 1 and 2?” by Tyler Perry. Angela is aggressive, loud, rude, gets what she wants no matter what it takes, very outspoken. Although she is not as sexual as Coffy, her representation as a black woman of being extremely aggressive; almost angry and seeks to get what she wants, connects her to Coffy. As the audience continuously sees black woman as the “Madonna/whore”, or “superwoman”, they will forever be misrepresented as if all black woman are suppose to be this way. As it connects to the book, Manatu emphasis the misrepresentation on black woman in film and because of the roles they play, they are constantly getting judged. As the Kerner report states, people don’t socialize with black people. Because of the way black people are protrayed in film, many people based on their opinion through what they see. The public will forever place judgment on others if all they see are negative accepts of them.

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    • Tercy, I agree with some of your arguments. Coffy is definitely a “superwoman” stereotype. This stereotype was created by “the myth of the strong Black Woman”, to counter the stereotype of the Mammy. Coffy, goes above and beyond to avenge her sister’s drug addiction even risking her own life to bring down this criminal empire of drug dealers, crooked cops and politicians. She also risks her life to protect Carter when he is attacked. Her character does demonstrates elements of the “Madonna/Whore” but you only focused on the “whore” aspect. She becomes a prostitute in order to trap the various people that played a role in her sister’s addiction, using her sexuality as a tool to seduce weak men. But, she is also the Madonna, in that as a nurse and a big sister she is pure, nurturing and protective. I would challenge your media example from Tyler Perry’s film, “Why did I get married? Tasha’s character in the film is more of a Sapphire, a loud, angry and abusive black woman who constantly belittles her man. Olivia in Scandal is a more modern and sophicticated version of Coffy. She is an extremely overly ambitious and strong black woman. She over compenates in her professional life to cover for the mess her personal life is. In relations to your comment about Manatu, you are correct in terms of how she builds an argument that film is used to create a reality in how black women are viewed in the media as well as in culture. It helps to use a direct quote to for this pupose of this blog.

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  3. Coffy embodies the elements of the Jezebel and the superwoman. Throughout the film, she uses her sexual appeal to lure in male crooks and drug dealers, unfortunately to their destruction. In the opening scene, Coffy manipulates the local drug dealer, who she is planning to kill, into a car with the promise of sex. In fact, it is only after four minutes into the film the viewer is first introduced to Coffy with a scene emphasizing her sexual prowess. The first shot of Coffy shows her laying seductively in the backseat of a car awaiting the drug dealer. For the duration of the scene, Coffy strokes the drug dealer’s ego by calling him names like “Big Man” and boldly grabs his genitals. She uses the idea of sex to manipulate men just as the Jezebel does. This scene is followed by a sequence in which Coffy reveals her true mission to the drug dealer in bed and shoots him pointblank in the head before killing his driver. This sequence also highlights Coffy as the superwoman stereotype. Not only does Coffy have a strong sexual appeal she can also defend ideals of justice with her handling of shotguns and other weapons. The rest of the film only reinforces this superwoman stereotype by showing how Coffy can craftily kill the ‘bad’ drug dealers & pimps, work as a nurse, and watch over her recovering sister.

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    • Ariel, the “Jezebel” and the “Superwoman” are also accurate stereotypes depicted in the film Coffy. As you described in your overview of the film, Coffy uses her sexuallity to manipulate and deceive men. But, as the Superwoman, she is smart and resourceful, using her body as well as her mind to avenge her sister and friend, Carter. Your assessment is good but you haven’t used any of the readings to discuss how these stereotypes are used in this film. Also, you didn’t mention what current films or tv shows still demonstrate these stereotypes. What are the non-verbal messages that connect to the stereotypes you referred to in your analysis.

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  4. In the film Coffy, Coffy is depicted as a superwoman, symbolic whore, she plays the good girl and bad girl, the Madonna/whore, and a liberated woman (but not in reality). She is the superwoman in the film because she is on a mission to get revenge for what happened to her sister and Carter by taking down drug dealers and pimps. She is the symbolic whore because in almost every scene of the movie her cleavage are revealed in low cut shirts/dress and in other scenes her clothes are getting ripped off where her breasts are exposed completely. Mostly all of the men in the film (except Carter) sees her as a sexual object and want to use her for sex. During the fighting scene with Coffy and the prostitutes, Arturo Vitroni commented “She’s like a wild animal George. I have to have that girl tonight.” This goes back to the history of the symbolic whore which is the myth of black women being aggressive oversexed animals who doesn’t deserve love/romance. According to Bem (1993) Female polarization through the ethos of “symbolic whore” is merely another example of a “culturally significant social practice” (p. 141). But it is a tidy way of advancing the devaluation process, black women’s feminine inferiority emphasized through film’s one-up, one-down female positioning (African American Women and Sexuality in the Cinema, Manatu). Coffy uses her attractiveness to lure the men in so she can get what she wants. She plays the good girl and bad girl role because in the day time she is this caring good-hearted nurse but when it’s time for her to take down her targets she uses her sexiness, good fighting and weaponry skills to get the job done. In the film Coffy is supposed to be a liberated woman, but in actuality she is being passed around for sex by the men in the film. Even though Coffy was only using her sexuality to manipulate the men and wasn’t aggressively seeking it, it was still disheartening to watch because she had to get sexually degraded just to get justified vindication for her little sister. This film was definitely portrayed from the male gaze point of view. Every woman in the film was portrayed as either junkies or whores. And most were walking around half naked and fully naked.

    The superwoman stereotype currently exist in films/shows such as Kerry Washington in Scandal and Gabrielle Union in Being Mary Jane. I can’t think of anything else at the moment. The good girl/bad girl stereotypes can be seen in Empire with Cookie being depicted as the bad girl and Lucious wife/girlfriend Grace as the good girl.

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    • Great job Jasmine! Good connection of the reading to the film! It shows you understand the readings and using it to analyze the film. Also, good reference to current images in film and television. Olivia is a great example of a Superwoman and Mary Jane embodies the Superwoman and the Sapphire.

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  5. As others have mentioned Coffy embodies the Jezebel and the Superwomen. She goes recklessly out of her way to fight ‘evil’ and the injustice in her life. She is careless and even willingly puts her self in dangerous situations. She uses her resources (her body) to frame the interactions she has with the men she is looking for and she oozes sex appeal constantly. Even when she is fighting and standing up for what she believes is she is hypersexualized. She shifts back and forth from hypersexual to trying to “save” or “help” and to get revenge on these men. She’s constantly in tight clothes, moving very sensually and appealing to the male gaze. Even the camera angles and the way she’s framed facilitates this hypersexualizaiton. As Manatu discusses black women- specifically and sometimes other women of color don’t have “access” (for lack of a better word) to the innocent and softness that comes with femininity and that’s a huge part of why it’s so easy to frame a character such as Coffy in such a sexual way.
    In T.V I believe Grey’s Anatomy- Bailey is a superwomen. She goes around saving everyone and holding everything together to an extent that she’s not at all together but she’s still everyone’s glue.

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  6. Great points Monica! Coffy does go “recklessly out of her way to fight ‘evil’ and the injustice in her life.” The oozing of sex appeal, tight clothes and seductive mannerism are all part of the non-verbal sexual behaviors. Even the camera angels are all part of the extension of the male gaze. Grey’s Anatomy’s Bailey is a good example of a Superwoman, maybe a little bit of a Sapphire because her character can be a bit mean and bossy as well as the one holding everything together.

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  7. In the Film Coffy (Pam Grier) by Jack Hill, Coffy is stereotyped as a superwoman, symbolic whore, and a liberated woman. Coffy is stereotyped as a superwoman because she cares for her sister, is very aggressive with men who she tries to get revenge on, a bad ass in which she is seen as fragile but is much tougher than what she may look like and Coffy is also a career woman because she worked as a nurse. Coffy is stereotyped as a symbolic whore because in the film her clothes was constantly stripped from her body and her breast were always exposed to the camera. She is also stereotyped as a liberated woman because her liberty/freedom was severely restricted by the men around her in the film. Some current films/tv shows that this stereotype exist today may be Power by Courtney Kemp Agboh, and Empire by Lee Daniels.

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    • Good observations! There isn’t a liberated woman stereotype. One of the characters calls Coffy, a liberated woman and then objectifies her by commenting on her body. Which empowers her and then tears her down as being nothing byt a pretty face and ass. Using your examples, Pam Grier is both a Superwoman and a Symbolic Whore in her protrayal of Coffy. Empire and Power are good examples but try to be more specific in the future, which characters do you see as the Superwoman/Symbolic Whore in those shows. Also, include the readings in your posting, it makes for a better argument.

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  8. The character Coffy mainly depicts the stereotype of a superwoman however she fits other stereotypes such as the jezebel and impersonates a prostitute in the film. Mantau states, “Though black women now appear in film in greater numbers and with greater frequency, such appearances are excessively limited to portrayals of the amoral Jezebel, superwoman, prostitute and bitch.” She also further explains how white women are portrayed in many different stereotypes besides sexual and negative unlike black women. Coffy is an example of the stereotypes because although Coffy’s main objective is to kill the drug lords that contribute to the crime in the community and resulted in her little sister being treated for drug abuse, she is sexualized and uses her sexuality as a way of achieving her goal. In addition, although Coffy seems to have a good motive for her actions, taking matters into her own hands deems her immoral and rebellious. Mantau describes the jezebel as being sexually aggressive and Coffy uses her sexuality in order to attempt to be alone with the men. Coffy impersonates a prostitute and in attempts to escape in the end of the film she proposes to have sex with her capturer who believed she was drugged yet she was pretending to be and got away. Coffy is also sexualized by the way the movie was filmed and the way that the men perceived her in the film. Much of the film focused on her body particularly her breast, and the men seen her as sexually available. Coffy was sexualized yet she was also violent because she was able to kill with no remorse which makes her a superwoman because a feminine characteristic would not be violence or aggression. Even the men in the film could not believe that she was self-motivated and thought that there was a man who gave the orders.Therefore the superwoman stereotype others black women by illustrating her hyper sexuality and hyper aggressiveness. One example of a superwoman in television would be Danai Gurri’s character Michonne on The Walking Dead. Her character has to fight for her survival in a zombie apocalypse.

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    • Excellent analysis! Great use of the readings and quotes. I agree that Coffy is as much a Jezebel as she is a Superwoman. The filmmakers created this self actualized Superwoman who was able to bring down not only drug dealers but corrupt cops and politicians, but had to fall on the same tried and true stereotypes of the symbolic whore to counter Coffy’s indepenence and intelligence. Over a decade later, Spike Lee does a similiar stunt with Nola. She can’t just be this sexually liberated, self sufficient and intelligent woman, she has to be a whore and raped for experiencing her sexuality. Good job!

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  9. In Coffy, Coffy can portray many stereotypes. Coffy is a good girl and bad girl, symbolic whore, superwoman, the Madonna/whore, and a liberated woman. She plays the good girl and bad girl roles because in the day time she is a good-hearted nurse that is very caring with her patients but when it is time for her to bring down her enemies she plays the bad girl role by using her looks, good fighting and weapon skills to accomplish her goal of defeating the enemy. She is the symbolic whore because for majority of the film, her cleavage is shown either by wearing low cut shirts or some type of tight body dress. Also, in many of the scenes, Coffy’s tops are being ripped off where her breasts are entirely shown. Coffy (film) was portrayed from the male gaze point of view for a fact. Every female from the film was portrayed either as a junkie or as a whore. Many of the times, these women were walking around either half naked or completely naked. Majority of the men in the film (mainly the villains) see Coffy as a sexual object and want her for sex. After a massive brawl that involved Coffy and other women (prostitutes) that were a part of a party, mob boss Arturo Vitroni demanded that he had to have Coffy for the night due to her actions in her brawl with all the other women. This can be viewed as an example of the symbolic whore which is the belief of many that black women are aggressive oversexed animals that do not deserve love or romance. In the film, Coffy is the superwoman because she has a goal of getting revenge for what was done to her little sister and Carter by taking down all drug kingpins and pimps. In the book, Manatu says, “The point is that social practice of denigrating the essence of black womanhood is easily communicated through film’s visuals because the myths are “nonconsciously transferred to the consciousness” of viewers (Bem, 1993) through the culture’s two-valued ideology. Female polarization through the ethos of “symbolic whore” is merely another example of what Bem (1993) calls a “culturally significant social practice” (p. 141). But it is a tidy way of advancing the devaluation process, black women’s feminine inferiority emphasized through film’s one-up, one-down female positioning (Pg. 85). Coffy uses her looks to attract men so that she can get what she wants. Also, Coffy is believed to being a liberated woman but in reality, she is being passed around for sex by the men of the film. Although in the film Coffy only used her sexuality to control men, it was a bit overwhelming to see because she got sexually degraded just to get revenge for her younger sister.

    An example of the Superwoman character can be Queen Latifah in the movie “Bringing Down the House.” Charlene (Latifah) is a mistaken convicted felon accused of bank robbery claiming her innocence who wants Peter’s (Steve Martin) help in getting the charges dropped. Throughout the movie, Charlene becomes the nanny of the house and takes care of anyone who does wrong to Peter or his kids, Georgie and Sarah. An example could be when Charlene went to pick up Sarah from a friends house where she was not feeling comfortable because there was a boy that wanted to have sex with her but she refused and called Charlene. To teach the boy a lesson, Charlene hangs him by his ankles at a balcony and forces him to tell Sarah that he’s sorry and that he will never try to do it again.

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    • Good job Ralph! Where was this guy all semester??? You made excellent points and did a great job connecting the readings, especially with good examples from the film!

      I’m not sure the Queen Latifah’s character in Bringing Down the House is a strong enough example of a Superwoman. Usually a Superwoman character is a career woman, who tries to balance the demands of life with her career and is not successful in one or both of those areas, like Olivia Pope in Scandal. Or is struggling to fighting an injustice against a big machine like the gov’t, corporation or crime like Coffy. But you are definitely heading in the right direction.

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  10. “The Blaxploitation era of this decade brought with it the “Supermama/Macho-Goddess” genre of films (Coffy, 1973; Foxy Brown, 1974), many of which exploited black women’s sexuality. Drug-taking, street-walking prostitutes were ubiquitous uitous in many of these films. What were presented as their opposites fared little better, for the “macho-goddesses” were not your average women; these were fictionalized superwomen who tackled with exceptional tional ease endless ludicrous situations that would have killed the average age ten women”.
    This quote from Manatu’s book shows that black women of this era in film was being portrayed in multipled stereotypes. One black female actress we see playing these multiple stereotypes and not just one was Coffy. Coffy can be seen as a sapphire, the superwomen, & the Madonna/ Whore. Coffy basically introduces this stereotype of the superwomen who can balance many things at once.
    Coffy also displays many non-sexual behaviors which can be seen in the way she dresses. Showing cleavage, leg etc. The way she walks as well and looks at men can also be seen as a non-sexual behavior. Coffy is seen as a superwomen because she works, is very aggressive and takes control of everything. Claudine as discussed in class is seen as a superwomen because she takes care of all her kids on her own without a man, and also works two jobs.

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  11. Although Coffy does demonstrate elements of the Sapphire stereotype, she more strongly represents the Jezebel or any sexual stereotype like the symobolic whore. Great use of the reading and overview of non-verbal sexual behaviors.

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  12. While watching Coffy i have come to the conclusion that she plays many stereotypes. She is a superwoman, jezebel, sapphire mix. Coffy uses her sexuality and toughness to take down the villians in her life while using her verbal ninjitsu to insult the people she encounters. Her sex appeal in the movie, helps her to strategize her plot to over throw the criminals. In most films with in that era black women were very much seen as sexualized superwomen that kicked ass while ogling their goodies. Coffy is different in the way she goes about demonstrating her sexuality to compliment her ass kicking mentality. She portrays herself as a jezebel not based on her sexual prowess but as a way to shroud her true intentions.

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    • Well Angel, you gave a decent summary of what a lot of your classmates already said without using any quotes from the readings. Providing a slightly deeper analysis of the post would have been more appreciated at this late stage of the game. Even a brief discussion of the various stereotypes Coffy embodies would have been nice.

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  13. In my opinion, i believe that Coffy demonstrate in the film that she is more of a “jezebel” more than a “superwomen”. I feel like she shows her ability to fight for justice and all that to brag on her sex. What i mean about bragging her sex is making her self look like a sex symbol. For example, she wear these outfits that makes her look like a whore. This only shows that before she is looked as a superwomen, she is seen as a jezebel. I relate this to a show i watched in my previous trip to the Dominican Republic called in English, “Why Men Prefer Them Stupid.” The main protagonist “Paula” is always having a hard time doing things right. When she tries to do things her own way it always has an effect in her life. If she is doing something for the better she is always being miss interpreted. The problem with her is that she always uses her “goodies” to get what she wants. I relate this with Coffy because i beleive they are similar due to them wanting to make things right but instead of being seen as a “superwomen” they are being categorized as a “jezebel.” For example, in the Coffy film one of the scenes shows how Coffy uses her body to get what she wants. She wanted to escape from the gang bangers that wanted to kill her in the end of the film. She offers to have sex with him so she ca escape. This demonstrates how she as a “jezebel” uses herself as a sex object to get what she wants.

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