Saturday, March 28, 2009

John Shaft > Chuck Norris

To me the film Shaft was one giant, COOL stereotype. From the way the main character, John Shaft, walked, talked, and dealt with his supposed fellow detectives to the way he laid down the law in the bedroom, it was clear that he was the embodiment of cool culture circa 1970. John Shaft was just interested in doing his jobs, and doing his jobs well. It seemed that no matter what it was, Shaft was good at it. From talking to his white detective friends and police without being a snitch to chatting up the local people, John Shaft made it look easy and made it seem cool. He also got Isaac Hayes to write him one of the most bad ass theme songs of all time.

Shaft is an interesting character because it seems as though he wants to be the good guy, but at the same time he wants to keep up a certain “I don’t give a damn” appeal. He pulls it off quite well, and that is probably one of the reasons the film was successful. It lends his character a certain duality because it allows him to be the private eye, detective John Shaft, while at the same time he is able to shove aside the stereotypical detective role and be just a really tough guy that you wouldn’t want to have pissed off at you.

Because of the middle ground shaft walks he is approached by Bumpy, a black gang leader that is looking to hire Shaft in order to retrieve his daughter from the Italian mob which has kidnapped her. He agrees to pay Shaft a significant amount of money and pay for Shaft’s hired men in order to get his daughter back. This is significant because as soon as Shaft takes on the job he has a passion to get her back. In my opinion this is his will to be good at everything taking over. Shaft transcends the abilities of normal private eyes because he is far enough into the culture that it is easy for him to maneuver around tight spots in such ways that other detectives could not. He is not afraid of the culture because to put it simply “he runs that bitch.” Shaft is the epitome is order. He controls situations and is willing to take risks. Sometimes, as seen in the movie, the risks can be painful, seeing as how Shaft did get shot. (which may have made his character even cooler) However this just proves to be further motivation for him to get back in there one more time and finish the job he started. John Shaft is a master of his own destiny. I’m pretty sure if there was a modern character Shaft could be compared to it’s Chuck Norris.


  1. Whenever I think about Chuck Norris, I can only imagine him as his role in Walker Texas Ranger, so I don't really see the connection between Shaft and him. Chuck Norris is just too nice of a guy to match Shaft.

  2. I also appreciate that you refer to Chuck Norris as a character in and of himself.

    Does this middle of the road aspect ever come off as kind of wishy-washy though? While Shaft pulls it off, are there characters that fail at this sort of thing? I am sure there are.