Pam Grier Will Always be the Baddest

A friend and I recently renewed the debate of Pam Grier vs. Halle Berry. My parents hadn’t even met when Foxy Brown came out but I’ve always had a thing for Grier because of what her image represents. Not just was she sexy but she had an aura that was unmistakably black.

Grier rocked an Afro and conveyed a Black Power image that now seems long lost in popular culture.

Natural hair on black women has been under attack forever and it’s almost crazy to think that someone like Grier was killing the game when we currently see sex symbols like Beyonce spend more on weaves than many have in their checking accounts.

While Foxy Brown was far from a perfect movie, its imagery was inherently rebellious towards the “traditional” standards of beauty and power in America.

Grier could be going undercover in a whore house but she was stunting on every girl in there and even had the most powerful males hypnotized with her curves. Her boyfriend, who worked as an informant, got murdered but when she worked with a group of black men called the Neighborhood Association, she was able to take out drug kingpins and powerful judges.

Even when Grier was trapped in a house with two hillbillies who drugged and raped her, she was able to flip the situation by lighting the men on fire and burning the house down. This image is especially symbolic because black women were raped like this during slavery and they didn’t get the opportunity to regain their womanhood, much less their freedom. The escape also made a dent in the kingpin’s drug business, which metaphorically burned down the 40 acres our ancestors never received.

Grier’s image in Foxy Brown was juxtaposed with the revolutionary George Jackson (his posters were displayed throughout the Neighborhood Association’s meeting house). Jackson was a Black Panther who became a revolutionary in prison after being sentenced to one year to life for an alleged $70 robbery. He was killed by a sniper in the prison yard and many believe it was because of his influential presence and ability to organize.

Jackson’s ironically patriotic “Give me liberty or give me death” attitude was infused in Grier’s character. She killed who she had to kill and permanently maimed others with the hopes that they would spend the rest of their life suffering. By the end of the film, she stood gun in hand with the drug kingpin begging for Grier to take her life and end her pain. Grier tells the woman that it would be too easy and she wants her to suffer so she can feel how she feels.

While Grier doesn’t have the accolades of a Halle Berry or the wealth of a Beyonce, she represents something far more powerful by making the revolution sexy. She is beautiful without having to conform to European standards of beauty and even when she does, she puts all her white contemporaries to shame. Long after the awards and the music videos have faded from memory, the image of an Afro clad black woman standing with power emanating from a smoking gun will remain.

Grier was bad and no one’s done it like her since.


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