The Black Kino Fist: Black life as depicted in film history

Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971)

This violent, hyper sexual action thriller film by Melvin Van Peebles received highly polarized reactions from cultural critics after its release. "Huey P. Newton, devoting an entire issue of The Black Panther to the film's revolutionary implications, celebrated and welcomed the film as "the first truly revolutionary Black film made [...] presented to us by a Black man. Newton wrote that Sweetback "presents the need for unity among all members and institutions within the community of victims," contending that this is evidenced by the opening credits which state the film stars "The Black Community," a collective protagonist engaged in various acts of community solidarity that aid Sweetback in escaping. Newton further argued that "the film demonstrates the importance of unity and love between Black men and women," as demonstrated "in the scene where the woman makes love to the young boy but in fact baptizes him into his true manhood." The film became required viewing for members of Black Panther Party.
A few months after the publication of Newton's article, Lerone Bennett responded with an essay on the film in Ebony, titled "The Emancipation Orgasm: Sweetback in Wonderland," in which he discussed the film's "black aesthetic". Bennett argued that the film romanticized the poverty and misery of the ghetto and that "some men foolishly identify the black aesthetic with empty bellies and big bottomed prostitutes." Bennett concluded that the film is "neither revolutionary nor black because it presents the spectator with sterile daydreams and a superhero who is ahistorical, selfishly individualist with no revolutionary program, who acts out of panic and desperation." Bennett described Sweetback's sexual initiation at ten years old as the "rape of a child by a 40-year-old prostitute." 
Bennett described instances when Sweetback saved himself through the use of his sexual prowess as "emancipation orgasms" and stated that "it is necessary to say frankly that nobody ever fucked his way to freedom. And it is mischievous and reactionary finally for anyone to suggest to black people in 1971 that they are going to be able to screw their way across the Red Sea. Fucking will not set you free. If fucking freed, black people would have celebrated the millennium 400 years ago."
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