Seen in: Conan the Destroyer (1984)
Portrayed by: Grace Jones
Role: Savage warrior woman, token Negro, originally written to be a man, implicit eye candy
Zula's flaws have already been thoroughly discussed at the Bar. From White Man's Zula:
1) Zula is the token.
She's there to shut us up so that black women in particular can't complain about not being seen in Hollywood. After seeing the first film, her ass appears random as hell in the second (ironically, we see her actual ass very often in this movie).
Because she technically doesn't "belong", the writers don't know what the hell to do with her. They don't how to characterize her in a balanced, well-rounded, or even remotely interesting way. In other words, her dark skin makes her so "foreign" and "alien" they have no clue how to properly develop her character. So they make her a teeth-grinding Africanesque warrior who is conveniently the last of her tribe, so that the white audience members won't have to bother with seeing too many Negroes in the film.
2) Zula is the Black Amazon Trope.
Fuck...crack open the Trope dictionary and Zula is the goddamn definition. I mean, we've already got a warriors in the damn film - how come the only black woman in the entire movie has to be a snarling stick-wielder? You're telling Moi that in sword-and-sorcery 'verse, they didn't have room for say, a delectable siren? How about a sultry enchantress? A mysical ancient goddess? An enigmatic oracle? How about a spy/assassin masquerading as a sexy dancing girl?
Mind you, Grace Jones herself looked fabulous (left). But Zula does not. Zula is not meant to. We can't have her distracting the audience from the white leading ladies (one of which was then-15-year-old Olivia d'Abo, whom Zula eventually ends up taking orders from).
You may recall that Grace Jones was quite popular during the 70s and 80s for her music, but she was also known for her deliberately androgynous style. So naturally, one must wonder why she became the automatic choice.
4) Zula is asexual.
Zula wasn't designed because she's desperately needed or wanted in the story. She's not casted to be sexually alluring to the hetero male demographic which dominates this sword-and-sorcery audience. She's not written to be fascinating in any way. Only the least attractive, most annoying man in the film makes a move on her one time, and she immediately threatens to "spread [his] head."
So once more, the black woman is effectively rendered sexless and unworthy of pursuing. She's just there to pal around with and not be taken seriously.
In other words, she's just another one of the guys.