In the early 1970s, an ethnic sub-genre of movies emerged known as "Blaxploitation". The films featured largely stereotypical black characters, and for this reason received considerable backlash, but despite this, Blaxploitation movies were the first in which black characters, their homes, communities and families were the central characters and the heroes or heroines of the film. Originally these films were aimed at a black, urban audience, but the appeal broadened quickly, giving Hollywood executives their own "come to Jesus" moment; they realized that they were able to expand the audience of Blaxploitation movies across traditional racial and societal lines.
Pam Grier, Foxy Brown's star, actually appeared in six Blaxploitation movies, but this was undoubtably the film for which she is best known. Foxy Brown is a dangerously sexy protagonist who is seeking revenge on a drug syndicate after they murder her boyfriend on the front step of her house. She links the murders to a modeling agency, the nineteen seventies Board of Censors approved term for a brothel. Foxy is a bold, feisty heroine and one that the audience can both sympathize with and get behind; her body-hugging outfits that remain both recognizable and iconic today also helped the film's success exponentially.
The film was a critical success, but not everybody loved it. Sociologists were particularly scathing; it was criticized for its "disturbing" picture of black women, and for making gang violence the main focus of the black community it featured. Foxy is a paradoxical hero. She is obviously the heroine and we root for her strongly, but critics declared us ethically lacking for doing so; after all, she is vengeful, apt to put herself in dangerous situations and willing to pose as a prostitute in order to achieve her aim. This is not a typical Hollywood heroine. However, feminists liked the movie, and Grier's portrayal of an atypical heroine because they felt that she was not only beautiful, but fearless, intelligent and willing to avenge the wrongs done to her by men, thereby creating a far more multi-faceted view of the movie heroine than had previously been offered.
As well as being one of the first Blaxploitation movies to show women as strong and influential, rather than as sidebars to the men, it was also the first to show pimps, gang members and drug dealers as the bad guys. Previously they had been somewhat revered within Blaxploitation movie culture; this is the first to present them as enemies within the urban black community.
Financially, Foxy Brown was a success; having been produced for a measly five hundred thousand dollars, and raking in over two and a half million. It has also become influential; many other movies contain tacit references to the film, and Austin Powers : Goldmember references several scenes, costumes and musical soundtrack. It was also influential upon Pam Grier's own career, becoming the movie she was best known for. Grier released her memoir in 2010, and called it Foxy Brown : My Life In Three Acts.