He’s Dynamite! So Dynamite!
I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the comedic and action-packed animated series Black Dynamite, mainly because it was the right dosage of entertainment, the right amount of absurdity and parody, all elements of what many know to be as ‘blaxploitation’.
In an article on the return, even reclamation, of “blaxploitation” cinema, Todd Boyd describes the increasing necessity for Black voices and media and the revival of popular flicks like Shaft. “Part of the enjoyment of watching these films lies in the fact that you were watching something raw, unpolished, unsophisticated and, in many cases, unfinished. But that’s what made it cool, this sense that what Hollywood considered trash, black culture considered treasure. It was not the power of Hollywood that made blaxploitation significant, it was the power of the audience, the power of the people that transformed the genre into a cultural force that continues to influence and inspire.”
Black Dynamite’s vivid colors, sleek ’80s back-drop, and dramatic inking of characters, transports viewers back to a time when Black culture was fragmented and seen primarily as a commodity to non-Black directors and producers. But what’s missing is sorrow. As a viewer I was eager to digest polarizing issues, like race relations or the war on drugs, because Black Dynamite did so in such an amusing manner that I hardly noticed discomfort from the underlying message.
I will say that after two seasons, twenty episodes total, I craved more of Black Dynamite’s funkadelic magic. Each episode was better than the last and those fantastically stylized action sequences, and gore, just can’t be replicated. My favorite part of of watching Black Dynamite isn’t just the captivating pleasure of seeing my Blackness personified on screen, it was the creative plot lines; from an alien Michael Jackson, to the IRS mafia, to Cardigan Kung-Fu, to influenza, to a literal race war (they really raced!).
“Spare me your shuck and spare me your jive!”
Then there’s the commentary on pop culture and mention (or animated guest appearance) of celebrities like Michael Jackson, Richard Pryor, OJ Simpson, Richard Nixon, Elvis Presley, Mr T., Muhammad Ali, Al Sharpton, Bob Marley, Thick James (aka Rick James), Rodney King, and Black Jaws (yep that shark!).
And if you enjoy the animated version of Black Dynamite, you’ll surely love the 2009 live-action film starring Michael Jai White (all actors reprise their roles in both the animated show and live-action movie).
Black Dynamite is a show that truly stands on its own; from the use of stylized violence and witty banter to create commentary on racism and discrimination, to confronting racial stereotypes and microaggressions head on, Black Dynamite is that show.
If you dig Black Dynamite, you may also enjoy: Afro Samurai, Yasuke, or Cowboy Bebop.
An emerging Black poet, NaBeela Washington works towards her Masters in Creative Writing and English at Southern New Hampshire University. She was invited to read her poetry by the Takoma Park Poetry Reading Series, and has been published in Juke Joint Magazine, perhappened mag, The Cincinnati Review, and is forthcoming in The Washington Writers’ Publishing House.