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The Cat Who Won’t Cop Out: Shaft as the ‘70s Black Superhero

By Yasmina Tawil

By Jason Bailey

(The following essay is excerpt from Jason’s new book, It’s Okay With Me: Hollywood, the 1970s, and the Return of the Private Eye.)

The first thing John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) does in Gordon Parks’ Shaft, after emerging from a Times Square subway station below the grindhouse movie theaters that would eventually and enthusiastically screen his adventures, is walk into New York City traffic (Shaft can’t be stopped, even by Eighth Avenue) and flip off the driver who gets too close to him. Meet your new action hero, Middle America; here is his message to you.

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