Coffy – The Superwoman and the Black Sexual Other in Blaxpolitation movies

We 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 and scenes from the film. I’m looking for everyone to post comments here by Monday evening and feel free to comment on each other’s post.

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here is a link to the film for those who missed the first half, please watch it is you missed it so you can refer to scenes: Coffy

 

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7 thoughts on “Coffy – The Superwoman and the Black Sexual Other in Blaxpolitation movies

  1. There can be several stereotypes that a character can attribute. In this film, Coffy, the female lead, is portrayed as the Jezebel and the Superwoman. Coffy is the jezebel due to her promiscuous relation to men throughout the film. She constantly flirts with different men in order to achieve her goals. Her promiscuous behavior is taken to an all time high towards the end of the film when she flirts with the man that is attempting to kill her. The superwoman stereotype falls heavy on her character as well due to her attempts to help her boyfriend. Her pursuit to aid others without regard to her own well being is a key attribute to the superwoman stereotype. Moreover, she is the superwoman as she is strong enough to do what is necessary to achieve her agenda. This includes flirting with several men and even shooting her boyfriend, Carter, in the groin despite being in love with him. According to the text, “within the black community. . . women are simultaneously impacted by film’s negative imagery” (p. 59). Due to stereotypical portrayals of black females in films such as this, black females are assumed to be oversexualized and sassy in attitude. This assumption can be dangerous as black women can be mistreated in real life due to the preconceived notions that are derived from such stereotypical films. The over-sexualization of black females could contribute to potential sexual assaults due to men believing that black women are sexual objects and are constantly seeking sex in nature.

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    • Good job Shimon, you hit a lot of key points in terms of how linking stereotypes to Coffy. I also like how you tied both the Superwoman and Jezbel stereotypes to the challenges of being the strong, take no stuff, overachieving image of the black woman with using her body and sacrifiing herself to achieve her goals. Also, good job on linking these ongoing bad images in film to how women are treated in real life. For the future, link specific scenes to your comments and quotes. For example, the scene where Coffy is in Superwoman mode as a nurse but still needs to be saved by Carter when in the parking lot and then has to save him and is almost raped in his apartment when they are attacked by goons from the mob.

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    • Hey Shimon – you made a lot of interesting points on Coffy in relation to how black women are continually portrayed in film. The negative imagery is definitely important to consider to how black and other WoC’s feel about themselves as well as how men and other view them. It’s extremely problematic and truly makes you consider what can be done to prevent these negative and oversexualized representations.

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  2. I agree with Shimon. I also pegged Coffy to fall under the Jezebel and superwoman stereotype. Coffy uses her sexuality to accomplish her feats. Another point I’d like to add was the aspect of love/romance, Coffy’s initial suitor (the cop) always seemed to offeel her his love and companionship which she rejected for her boyfriend Carter. Which can be interpreted as the perpetuation of the “loveless” black woman. Coffy does not attain love but she can clearly attain lust. According to Mamatu women’should sexual behaviors on screen can perpetuate the cultural attitudes held about black women. Although Coffy’s character could be considered a heroin, these negative connotations can impact the way society constructs their perceptions of black women. The blaxploitation movement was created to counter these negative depictions of black women, however Coffy actually reiterated them.

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    • Latoya, I like that you read Shimon’s comments. You are both right, Coffy is both the Superwoman and the Jezebel. But I disagree with you that Coffy doesn’t want love. She is pursued by Carter, the cop, but falls for Howard the politician. She was with Carter before and it didn’t work out, so she was dating Howard when we meet her in the film. You get the impression that she likes Carter, but wants to be with Howard. She wants love & affection but it eludes her.As the Superwoman and especially the Jezbel, they are not allowed to have any of the comforts of a non-stereotypical woman whether successful or not. As reflected in your quote by Manatu, black women are expected to be hyper sexual in media and in society. Good job!

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  3. As mentioned in Shimon and Latoya’s posts, Coffy (1973) definitely fits in the category of both the Superwoman and Jezebel stereotype. As a superwoman, Coffy was extremely concerned for the well-being of everyone around her. She is immediately presented as a superwoman by simply being a nurse. Her title as such shows that she does want to help others. One scene in particular (as well as the recurring theme of the film) involves her speaking to her sister in the hospital bed. Coffee visits her sister, along with Carter, and brings her candy. Coffy’s sister is almost unresponsive but Coffy insists on speaking to her. This frustrates Coffy and brings us back to her jezebel traits. In order to get back at the men who were involved in her sisters involvement with drugs, she joins a prostitution ring and uses her body and appearance to get to the men she needs. Throughout the film, Coffy is wearing clothing that shows off her bust and the director, of course, uses these as times to zoom in on her body. In the text, Manatu quotes Jones who says “The roles assigned to black women in film, she argues, “…represent the ambiguity between and the narrowness of…two categories…that of the bitch and that of the ‘ho’” (96). Coffy fits this because even as a superwoman she is still talked down to for being so assertive. When considering other ways Coffy is presented, one can consider the film posters. One of the posters for the film labels her as “The baddest One-Chick-Squad that ever hit town.” This, once again already presents Coffy as both someones capable of “superhero-ness” with her ability to fight other on her own. In using “baddest,” they intend to cater to both her sexual appearance/and attitude she uses to get with the men she needs to get close to. Coffy indeed is an interesting character and fits perfectly as both a superwoman and jezebel.

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    • Cindy, great observations and use of quotes. We see in film that its hard for filmmakers as well as mainstream media and sociey in general to see women of color, specifically Black women as fully realized woman or at least cinematic heroines. In both She’s Got Have it and Coffy, we are to believe these are independent and self sufficient women but as we see with Coffy, when she is the Superwoman she needs Carter to save her and cant manage her professional life as a nurse or her love life. She is only successful as the Jezebel where she can use her body and sexuality to accomplish her goals. In both Coffy and SGHI, the female leads seek power in the use of their bodies to either achieve sexual liberation as with Nola or revenge with Coffy. But as in every film where the black woman is the Jezebel, they fail no matter how hard they try to use sex, neither in the end achieve happiness or success in love. We never know if Coffy is satisfied or feels she has achieved vengence. Does Nola ever find love with Jamie or someone else who appreciates her for who she is. Where are the happy endings for these women. Manatu states in the introduction, “few film roles for black women are devoid of the comedic or the sexual, or feature black female characters as sensitive and intelligent.” We rarely get to see the Black female lead that wins at the end of the movie. She saves the day and gets her love interests. Hopefully, with the new tide of filmmakers, women of color in particular we will get to see those types of films.

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