Richard Roundtree’s signature role showcased a strong, sexy black man as its hero. That just wasn’t done back in the early 1970s. The country hadn’t fully processed the positive fallout from the civil rights movement.
Change takes time.
The movie became a classic, in part, because it defied pop culture norms. The Library of Congress honored the film, dubbing it “worthy of preservation for its cultural impact.”
The new “Shaft,” featuring Roundtree along with two other bad mother BLEEPer generations, is drawing heat from the usual suspects.
The Guardian savages the new film, which features Samuel L. Jackson again as John Shaft. The “Avengers” star played the character in a mildly successful 2000 feature. The update focuses on young John Shaft Jr. (Jessie T. Usher) coming to grips with his family’s legacy.
The outlet’s subhead gives the game away.
Samuel L Jackson returns as the younger incarnation of the 70s detective to unleash a toxic stream of bigotry in a misjudged attack on millennial masculinity
Yes, it turns out you cannot make Shaft Shaft in today’s climate.
Because it turns out that a 2019 version of Shaft probably shouldn’t turn into an unabashed celebration of regressively misogynistic and homophobic masculinity.
The Guardian isn’t alone. Syndicated film critic Katie Walsh piled on. (Imagine if she went back in time and reviewed the original?)
Yet this distracting material is far preferred to the film’s other brand of humor, which is wildly homophobic and misogynistic. Barris and Barnow have tried to glean some jokes from the generational differences between the young, woke, educated JJ and the street-smart Shaft, who cut his teeth in a different time. But every cheap jab at metrosexual millennials just comes off as mean-spirited, dripping in the kind of toxic masculinity JJ’s generation has been trying to throw off. The too-little too-late lessons in manhood from his father consist of sexually objectifying women, and even worse, sexually objectifying firepower.
The Austin Chronicle critic also clutches some pearls over Jackson’s Shaft-ian impulses.
John Shaft II is politically incorrect without shame, a character trait the movie uncomfortably uses for comic effect to create a constant source of friction between him and his more upright offspring. So what’s a little homophobic, sexist, and racist humor among friends?
The Arizona Republic critic tries desperately to judge the series in its proper context. He ultimately gives in to his inner Social Justice Warrior.
In the end, this may be a case of a pop-culture icon being dragged down by the weight of trying remain relevant past its prime. It’s not woke, but you can’t call it racist. Maybe racist-ish. Misogynistic-ish. Entertaining-ish.
The irony here, beyond the franchise’s rich history, is the people behind the scenes. Kenya Barris, who co-wrote the screenplay, is the driving force behind the hit ABC comedy “Black-ish.” That show, along with Barris’ recent rant at the “Laugh-In” reunion, reveal a woke mindset on steroids.
Yet his socially aware aura wasn’t enough to protect him against PC film critics, apparently.