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Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song

by Yessica Garcia Hernandez

The film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song directed by Melvin Van Peebles (1971) Sweetback, a Black man who works as a sex performer is faced with racial injustice where he must rely on himself to escape the police hunting him. Van Peebles explores the representation of Black male sexuality and sexual freedom in a way that complicates the oversimplified way Black men are hypersexualized and criminalized especially in the context of interracial sex. This scene begins with a mixed crowd sitting in a open living room clapping and cheering for the performance as it is starting. A Black woman walks into the room walks into the room carrying a flower and begins her performance by walking in circles in the middle of the crowd smiling and humming while looking down at the flower. Then she lays down as a tall man with a thick beard wearing a hat and walking with a crane comes out from behind a white silk curtain separating the two rooms following the woman onto the performance floor. No words are spoken but the two begin making hand gestures and facial expressions towards each other simulating a conversation then walks around in circles on a date as the crowd laughs. The lights go out and the emcee twirls a sparkler around Sweetback like a wand telling him to take off the item he points the wand on. He and the woman begin having sex and once they are done the emcee offers women in the crowd a chance to experience Sweetback and a white woman begins taking off her clothes when the owner shakes his head no. The emcee then says he will only have sex with Black women. This scene is critical both in analyzing how Black male sexuality is constructed in this moment and also the interaction between sexuality and race difference. Van Peebles is reimagining the reality of a Black man dealing with police and racial violence but also bringing attention to the lesser acknowledged side of sexuality and sexual expression for Black men in this scene. By Eniyah Johnson

Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song

by Yessica Garcia Hernandez

The film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song directed by Melvin Van Peebles (1971) Sweetback, a Black man who works as a sex performer is faced with racial injustice where he must rely on himself to escape the police hunting him. Van Peebles explores the representation of Black male sexuality and sexual freedom in a way that complicates the oversimplified way Black men are hypersexualized and criminalized especially in the context of interracial sex. This scene begins with a mixed crowd sitting in a open living room clapping and cheering for the performance as it is starting. A Black woman walks into the room walks into the room carrying a flower and begins her performance by walking in circles in the middle of the crowd smiling and humming while looking down at the flower. Then she lays down as a tall man with a thick beard wearing a hat and walking with a crane comes out from behind a white silk curtain separating the two rooms following the woman onto the performance floor. No words are spoken but the two begin making hand gestures and facial expressions towards each other simulating a conversation then walks around in circles on a date as the crowd laughs. The lights go out and the emcee twirls a sparkler around Sweetback like a wand telling him to take off the item he points the wand on. He and the woman begin having sex and once they are done the emcee offers women in the crowd a chance to experience Sweetback and a white woman begins taking off her clothes when the owner shakes his head no. The emcee then says he will only have sex with Black women. This scene is critical both in analyzing how Black male sexuality is constructed in this moment and also the interaction between sexuality and race difference. Van Peebles is reimagining the reality of a Black man dealing with police and racial violence but also bringing attention to the lesser acknowledged side of sexuality and sexual expression for Black men in this scene. By Eniyah Johnson

Sweetback sex performance

Golden Age Blaxploitation sex scene

from Sweet Sweetback's Badasssss Song (1971)
Creator: Director and Producer: Melvin Van Peebles
Distributor: Xenon Pictures
Posted by Yessica Garcia Hernandez
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