So the question is why Shaft did so well in theaters. The simple answer would be because John Shaft is cool. He’s a private eye and a total badass. He’s a “sex machine” and a bit of a gangster. Shaft never loses his cool from beginning to end. He starts out walking down the street making traffic stop for him. The movie ends with him saving the day, and making Vic Androzzi clean up the rest. Not only can he beat up other gangsters and throw them out windows. He seems to have control over white men too, at least over Vic Androzzi. I think this idea that a black man could be himself, be gangster, and be successful in a white dominated law enforcement industry is why John Shaft has become such an icon.
John Shaft is definitely cool, but is he moral. As the theme song states, “he’s a complicated man.” I think the argument could go either way; there is plenty of evidence supporting both sides. Shaft did execute several mafia members and slept around with lots of prostitutes. His ventures in gangster life make us think that Shaft is an immoral man that’s motivated by money, sex, and his own ego. However, there are several small scenes throughout the movie where we see Shaft as a kind individual. He gives a young boy some money for food, and pays the woman whose door he breaks down. Most importantly, I believe that Shaft is willing to help Bumpy find his daughter because she is innocent. Bumpy is one of Shafts enemies and I don’t think Shaft would be willing to help him just for the money. Overall I think that Shaft is a moral person that is helpful to those who are innocent, but shows no mercy to the gangsters or mafia.