Bitch, Are You For Real?: Thoughts On The Films Of Rudy Ray Moore

Blaxploitation films have been re-assessed and reconsidered countless times since Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown.  In most film literature on the subject however, one of the genre’s most crucial players is often overlooked, Rudy Ray Moore.  Moore’s most iconic character, Dolemite, made his debut on the party album Moore recorded in 1970, Eat Out More Often.  The character would be the star of Moore’s first film Dolemite (1975) directed by D’Urville Martin.

Dolemite lead to a string of follow up films like The Human Tornado and Petey Wheatstraw, all arriving late on the scene during the final days of the genre.  Though most blaxploitation films functioned as crime dramas with a pornographic edge and a comic self-awareness, only Moore’s films took that self-awareness as their primary purpose.  In Dolemite and The Human Tornado, the blaxploitation themes of kung fu, black power, and caricature are taken to highly plastic levels of lampooning.  With Petey Wheatstraw, Moore targeted films such as Abbey and Blacula with his iconic brand of parody.

The genre dissection and analysis that occurs in Moore’s films is subversive and difficult to read at first.  Partly it is due to the low budget of the pictures, and partly because of the drop in artistic quality among such films.  But upon careful viewing, it becomes clear just what exactly is going on.  Between spouts of rapping dialogue and soft-core sex scenes, Moore has found the time to mock and disassemble a genre that has proven more than controversial to the African American community.

By satirizing these films, Moore has succeeded in reminding his audience just how unimportant the depictions within these films are.  That blaxploitation films are films just like any other, with the comic potential of any film in any genre made by any race.  Therefore placing the determination of a film’s success and meaning back in the hands of the audience and the filmmakers and not in the hands of politicians and activists who would interpret any film in any way as to suit their own political agenda.

-Robert Curry

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Filed under Summer 2012

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