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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Why the World Needs More Diversity in Black Horror

English poet William Cowper coined the saying “variety’s the very spice of life” in the late 1700s. Knowing who he is isn’t as important as understanding what was correct in his time is still valid in ours. Especially when it comes to horror. A world with just slashers or just ghost stories or only monster movies isn’t a world any of us want to think about, much less live in. Seriously, just writing that sentence makes me sleepy. 

Solely relying on one type of movie hinders the genre and blows out any ember of creative fire. More importantly, it continuously reinforces one image while cementing a larger narrative that’s hard to diffuse. 

This is why Black trauma can’t be the only form Black horror movies exist in. At the moment, it’s tough to look at and continues an American tradition of profiting from Black pain. 

Get Out started a trend of filmmakers and studios mining America’s most pronounced sin—racism—for scary movie material. How couldn’t it? Jordan Peele’s rookie movie is a masterpiece that made money hand over fist and is now part of our country’s shared lexicon. We got content like Lovecraft Country, an exploration of systemic racism through pretty damn artful sci-fi and horror in its wake. Artists found creative ways to have conversations that some still view as “uncomfortable” while doing their very best to entertain. 

Through their eyes, we saw Black people beaten, berated, harassed by cops, and harassed by neighbors, all for the crime of being Black people in a white country. Yet they survived. Some of them even became superhuman and thrived. In short, it felt great. It’s cathartic seeing people who look like you triumph over true evil in ways our ancestors could only dream of. And even then, just dreaming about getting even was reason enough for them to lose their lives to a rope or a gun.

“Lovecraft Country”

But then 2021 kicked off with more Black men and women dying at the hands of cops. More families were crying on TV because their loved ones are no longer breathing. Which, of course, meant more continuous coverage of Rev. Al Sharpton, Benjamin Crump, and state press conferences. At one point, we heard from Daunte Wright’s grieving mother during the recess of the Derek Chauvin murder trial. Our pain—Black pain—was once again on display for the entire world. 

Whether on TV, social media, or movies, Black trauma is a staple of American pop culture. Struggling to survive and the will to overcome historically define an entire race partially because those images are fed to the world on a semi-regular basis. To George Floyd’s family, he was flesh and blood with hopes and dreams. But the world sees him as a symbol, another short film about our trials and tribulations, with another family’s tears as the soundtrack. We are more than physical and emotional punching bags for racists who claim there’s no prejudice bone in their bodies. 

Believe it or not, Black people also fear haunted houses and getting lost in unfamiliar territory with a group of friends. We, too, worry about falling asleep one night and not waking up the following day. And yeah, a boogeyman in a William Shatner mask gets our heart rate making wind sprints just as much as the next person’s. Zombies don’t scare us because we’re Black; they scare us because we’re human. Like all people on this planet who breathe oxygen, there is complexity in what keeps us up at night. But there’s a reason universal fears are precisely that. 

Putting too much focus on a particular fear that only afflicts one group of people is an easy way to dehumanize and “other” them rather than empathize. That’s why Antebellum, Them, and even Lovecraft Country are hard to reckon with. Their shared message of things changing only to stay the same is needed since there are still people who believe racism went the way of the do-do bird or the Model-T. Antebellum even goes so far as to point out Black bodies and Black pain are used to entertain. But all three perpetuate images we’re way too used to in this country. Also, it’s not like the market overflowed with Black horror films, even before the pandemic. We have minimal real estate to build on, so we need more than one type of horror flick with more than one message. 

‘Antebellum’

Black characters can occupy the same spaces usually dominated by white characters. I love the idea of a group of Black teenagers trying to outsmart Freddy Krueger or fleeing from Jason. No, not as the token diversity members of an ensemble, but as part of a cast of fully-realized Black characters who are easy to love, hate, and everything in between. Just like any white person in any horror movie ever made. 

This isn’t to say horror as graphic as Lovecraft Country doesn’t have merit in 2021. There is always a need for horror to say something important when the world feels like it’s falling off its axis. And unfortunately, some people don’t respond to subtlety. However, we need balance. Not just for multifaceted stories and scares, but also for the well-being of Black horror fans. Seeing the latest update on the most recent woman or man slaughtered in the street because of the melanin in their skin is depressing. Turning to horror for a brief respite only to relive that trauma is emotionally taxing. And I’m just tired

A little variety goes a long way. 



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3666010/world-needs-diversity-black-horror/

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