The representation of African American women is an important issue in the overall study of how women are portrayed in film, and has received serious attention in recent years. Traditionally, "women of color," particularly African American women, have been at the margins of studies of women's on-screen depictions - or excluded altogether.
This work focuses exclusively on the sexual objectification of African American women in film from the 1980s to the early 2000s. Critics of the negative sexual imagery have long speculated that control by African American filmmakers would change how African American women are depicted. This work examines sixteen films made by males both white and black to see how the imagery might change with the race of the filmmaker.
Four dimensions are given special attention: the diversity of the women's roles and relationships with men, the sexual attitudes of the African American female characters, their attitudes towards men, and their nonverbal and verbal sexual behaviors. This work also examines the role culture has played in perpetuating the images, how film influences viewers' perception of African American women and their sexuality, and how the imagery polarizes women by functioning as a regulator of their sexual behaviors based on cultural definitions of the feminine.