Super Fly (1972)

Super Fly a classic film that supposedly glorifies drug dealers and gun violence. That is despite the fact that nobody gets shot on screen, only one person dies, and every single character in the film is unlikable and faces a tragic ending. The film follows Priest, a drug addicted, martial arts practicing, drug dealer. That's right, Priest not only gets high on his own supply, he's useless without it. Despite his dependency on cocaine, Priest is determined to leave the drug game forever.

Priest sells cocaine in Harlem, and has a troubled mind. Recently one of his dealers Freddie has been coming up short. Priest and his partner Eddie tell Freddie that he needs to go on a robbery, or his wife will become a prostitute. Freddie is a non violent drug dealer, but does it because he loves his wife too much. (Seriously, she treats him terribly, spends all his money and causes him nothing but trouble. They aren't even pimps, they're just trying to get Freddie away from her.) Despite that, Freddie does the robbery.

Later Priest tells Eddie he wants to get out the game. At the moment, they have $300,000 together. Priest wants to use that so he can purchases 30 kilos of cocaine. Pimp C said nobody is really getting a kilo for $10,000 but Priest has a plan and a goal of $1,000,000. He contacts Scatter, his mentor, a former dealer who now runs a restaurant after getting out the game. Eddie shows up and Scatter points a gun at him, but eventually agrees to make the introduction to his connect.

Later police arrest Freddie because he was fighting a man (that had been with Freddie's wife earlier). Freddie isn't cut out for jail and tells police where Eddie and Priest will meet Scatter's connect. At this point, it becomes clear that the police are the connect. Freddie tries to run away, and runs into a car, dying outside the station. The police do indeed give Eddie and Priest a kilo of cocaine.

We see Priest post-coitus with his white side chick. When she learns he's getting out the game, she's disgusted, once again reminding him he doesn't even have a GED. Before Priest can respond Scatter is knocking at the door frantically. He explains that the connect wants to kill Scatter and force Priest and Eddie to sell drugs as they're more effective. He leaves Priest with information on the connect. Outside and around the corner, he's abducted to meet his demise. Leaving Pries to alter his plan of escape.

Super Fly doesn't shy away from how bad things are with drugs. When Priest chases a drug addict, he only catches him because all of the motion caused the man to begin vomiting. We witness entire families living in one bedroom apartments. Eddie is the only drug dealer we witness, that doesn't use drugs. Despite that, he's addicted to the lifestyle that drug dealing brings him because there are no other options; in that way, he's a drug addict too. It's funny how all the various covers display Priest with money and women, and he spends most of the movie being beaten, even if he knows martial arts. Despite depicting nothing but realities, it somehow became known for glorifying drug dealing.

We must insist that our children are not exposed to a steady diet of so called Black movies that glorify black males as pimps, dope pushers, gangsters and super males

Those were the words as stated by Junius Griffin who was the head of the Hollywood NAACP at the time. I'm not sure why nobody asked Junius why he was allowing his children to watch Rated R films in the first place. Nobody told their 7 year old to watch The Godfather

The reason I mention The Godfather is because both films came out in 1975. While the NAACP led a campaign against Super Fly, the opposite was true for The Godfather. It was not boycotted by Italian Americans. In fact, it was praised and awarded for bringing forth attention to the poverty and crime facing migrants. Not because that is what's chosen, but because those were the only options available. Did we not see the same thing with Super Fly. Nobody in this film wanted to deal drugs, but they didn't have options either. There was no glorification of drug dealers. Priest had a nice car, and Eddie has nice clothes, but all of that is flawed, fleeting and leaves them empty. Priest got out but has no education and not enough money to continue his lifestyle, Scatter is dead, Freddy is dead, Eddie is going to be forced to sell drugs for a meager profit until he's not useful. Nobody won.

I love W.E.B. DuBois, but The Talented 10th is the worst concept he ever presented. He knew that, and grew to recent it as he got older, but it's still stuck in the minds of some people as fact. For those of you who don't know, it is a concept that states ten percent of Black men have the talent to become educated and enter into white society, they should then sacrifice their own individuality to elevate other Black people. It is the grandfather of respectability politics which many so called Black leaders still play today. The NAACP offered a deal on the condition that Super Fly didn't release. They would get more Black people a seat at the table in Hollywood as crew members and writers. The thing is, that was an empty promise then, as even now we still struggle for Hollywood to accept Black and people of color into the world of film. The whole thing reminds me of a Jay Z verse in which he states: 

We moving dimes because we ain't doing fine. One out of three of us is locked up doing time, do you know what that type of shit can do to a nigga mind
I believe that's the disconnect between the NAACP and the creators of Super Fly. The disconnect they still have with many of the Black community. Most people outside of the NAACP don't realize you have to pay to be a member of the NAACP. While the child membership are cheap for most people, maxing at $15 yearly. Adult memberships can go up to $2,500 yearly. All of this while the NAACP struggles to maintain relevancy, with them admitting it is hard to recruit youth members. I can't help but think this is because since the 70s they've continued to ask many poor Black people for donations, and memberships, then turned around and kicked us with their respectability politics. I've seen a lot of Blaxploitation films, and seemingly the only one the NAACP found acceptable was Coonskin. The NAACP has been so concerned with getting a seat at the table of white elites, that they would try to burn any tables Black people built for ourselves. 

The NAACP could have funded Blaxploitation films, promoted their own idea of progress, instead they continuously chose to attack them. They did the same with Hip-Hop, and still do. Their idea of embracing the genre for the last forty years has been to stop it, launching their STOP Campaign in 2007. The only reason Hip Hop got a break from the NAACP was because Barack Obama kept hanging out with rappers. While the NAACP was decrying Super Fly for promoting drugs, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song for promoting violent revolutions, Foxy Brown and Coffy for promoting sex and violence among women, the movies kept selling. The reason being is they the NAACP didn't and still doesn't recognize Black people, enjoy about Black people. Not just well off Black people, but all Black people. That's rich, poor, magical, in space, undersea, toxic, nefarious, downtrodden, criminal, heroic, upstanding and so on, Black people. 

There was a reason that Super Fly resonated so deeply with Black Americans after The Civil Rights Movement. The reason being, there was nothing for them. The promise land that the Black youth had been told about never came. Many of them were forced to take part in the criminal element, not because they wanted to, but because they had to. Stevie Wonder and Grandmaster Flash weren't making music about the same poverty, and crime by coincidence. It's because no matter where Black people were in the country, they were facing the same issues. Films like Super Fly shed a light on those dark shadows of our society, that we don't like to talk about. That's why people were attracted to these films, not because of glorification, but because of representation.

I'm not saying Super Fly is as good as The Godfather, it just isn't. I am saying, that it's as important to the history of Black community as The Godfather is to the Italian community. It should be praised for bring light to things our so called leaders never wanted to see. It should be applauded for giving future filmmakers the courage to depict their own surroundings. This was not a tool of white oppression as some claimed, it was Black expression. Views and opinions that wouldn't make the news were brought straight to the big screen. As much as I would love for the entire Black diaspora to be healthy, free of violence, rich and beautiful that just isn't the case and pretending it is won't change a thing. That's why Super Fly is a classic film, a legendary film. Not because it was good, but because it was everything people tried to pretend we weren't.

You can check out some of my short stories at 12 AM Fiction or if you like vampires follow my web serial Exsanguinate and of course hear me on the Powerbomb Jutsu podcast if you enjoy pro wrestling.

Super Fly (1972) Super Fly (1972) Reviewed by Darrell S. on Tuesday, February 09, 2021 Rating: 5

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