I want so much more than seemingly unrelenting reminders of how anti-Black this world is.As a horror aficionado, I am constantly caught between appreciation for the few Black horror stories that we have and the desire for them to explore so much more. Blackness in horror doesn't always have to be about racial injustice and anti-Black violence, and yet it so often is. In a pre-”Get Out” (2017) world, the most premier example of a horror film that used white violence as its foundation and impetus was Bernard Rose's “Candyman” (1992), and I don't doubt that many horror fans see it as fitting and appropriate that Jordan Peele is the one who is currently in talks to remake this horror classic. [caption id="attachment_50045" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Tony Todd in Bernard Rose's "Candyman" (1992)[/caption] Though the film is and always will be iconic, a critical reading of “Candyman” makes clear that this tale of hook-handed vengeance is principally about the haunting of Helen Lyle, who remains ever at the center. It is ultimately about a monstrous Black male figure obsessed with and terrorizing a white woman who becomes the story's hero in the end. Relationships between Black men and white women have long been the focus of various types of horror narratives, with the white women within them able to capitalize on the socially accepted truth of their delicacy, purity, and innocence. Peele smartly recasts white womanhood as villainous in "Get Out", as being wholly capable of and adept at enacting white supremacist violences, but he ultimately does nothing with the opportunity to interrogate our already prominent image of Black men who lust after white women. This gives me pause for the possibility of Peele resurrecting both Candyman and Helen to reassert this overall narrative, even if some details are changed. Nevertheless, “Get Out” and the way it relays its story of zombification and drapetomania remains absolutely refreshing for me, and I believe that it has opened up new possibilities for Blackness in the horror genre. Peele's “Us” will arrive next year. He once noted that “Get Out” would be the first of at least five social horror thrillers from his mind, so “Us” is likely the second of this line of projects. He has also recently signed on to produce HBO’s “Lovecraft Country”, a series adaptation of a novel about the horrors of the Jim Crow era with a Lovecraftian spin. Peele will also bring his talents to the role of showrunner, rebooting “The Twilight Zone”—a show full of mystery and suspense and known for its social commentary. It seems that “Get Out” has made Jordan Peele the go-to guy for social horror thrillers in Hollywood, and I know that he will bring more Black creatives with him. While I have concerns about how Peele will treat “Candyman” and whether or not he will do anything to improve upon it with his interpretation, I have a much larger concern that this remake, coupled the immense success of “Get Out”, might also help to send us down a road where it will become harder and harder to make other types of Black horror stories legible to audiences in a predominantly white industry. [caption id="attachment_50046" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Betty Gabriel in Jordan Peele's "Get Out" (2017)[/caption] “The First Purge” (2018) delves into organized white supremacy, its hold in U.S. politics, and how we sometimes get recruited to participate in our own subjugation. The events of “The Skeleton Key” (2005) are propelled by the demonization of Black religion and the punishing of Black people who invade white spaces. “The People Under the Stairs” (1991) tackles gentrification, capitalism, and the exploitation of poor Black communities. The most recent season of “Black Mirror” ventured into this realm with its “Black Museum” (2018) episode, a satisfying revenge narrative which I interpret as an exploration of many things, including enslavement in the prison industrial complex. The upcoming “Body Cam” is a feature in which a supernatural event occurs after a Black person is murdered by police who attempt to cover it up. We are already afraid of these things in real life. White people watch “Get Out” and “The First Purge” and think that they are fantastical over-exaggerations, but Black audiences understand that they are not so far removed from the truth, and that's what makes them so terrifying for us on a deeper level. Black people really die these kinds of deaths. We really resist in these kinds of ways, even if we aren't always as successful as the films’ heroes. Many of our real-life stories play out like horror films because they are horrific. We are already haunted by ghosts of historical anti-Blackness. When I watch horror, I’m trying to escape all this shit—trying to allow my anxiety and fear to be about something else for a while, something unlike my reality, and I still want to see my Blackness represented. Give me a Black ghost story that's not about the lynching, raping, and oppression of my people. Let me just imagine a world without white people taking up so much space, especially space in which white supremacist violences continually get rearticulated to produce stories for our entertainment. Before white colonialism and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, what did we fear? The earth, the stars, the wilderness, the gods, our own mortality. I think of these things and dream about what pre-colonial Black horror films might look like—exploring African mythology, legends, and folklore about trickster gods, ancient relics, and fantastical figures. There are tales of African vampires, which terrify people even to this day, and the lore can be traced all the way back to the ancient Egyptian blood-sucking cat goddess, Sekhmet. The adze vampire takes the form of a firefly, only becoming human when it is captured, and its victims become witches possessed by its spirit. The Impundulu is a human-sized vampire bird that is also rumored to be a witch’s familiar. It can summon lightning storms and its eggs have medicinal powers. Many more legends like these exist. I want to see and experience them, but they never seem to make it to the screen. I want to see Black traditions, cultures, and religions incorporated into horror in ways that do not demonize them, and I want Black characters who can be more than just tokens because they are among an entire cast of Black performers. Imagine Black-coded creature features with both ancient beasts and neo-monsters. Black punks going up against the undead, the occult, and the macabre. Shamans and demon-slayers fighting otherworldly evil alongside Black celestials and prehistoric beings. Imagine Afrofuturist horror. Black innocents in dark fantasies and sci-fi techno-horror. Invasions, outbreaks, and cosmic abductions. Found footage and catastrophic post-apocalyptic survival narratives.
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Instead of viewing Black Panther’s success as an opportunity to complain about something that is lacking in our communities, non-Black people of color should appreciate the work it took to create something of its caliber.By Sanjana Lakshmi It’s been a few weeks since “Black Panther” came out, and its reception has been deservedly overwhelmingly positive. Ryan Coogler’s film is more than just another superhero movie: it is a blockbuster film that centers the experiences, cultures, and strength of Black folks in a way we have rarely, if ever, seen before. However, one particular response to the film by non-Black people of color has bothered me: the idea that we need to react by saying “where’s our Asian-American superhero movie,” or “where’s our Latinx superhero movie” (note that the latter doesn’t usually imply that they are looking for afro-latinx representation). All people of color deserve media representation, but this is not a constructive critique of ”Black Panther”; these concerns were rarely, if ever, raised during the decades of primarily white superhero movies. The fact that these questions are being posted in reaction to a successful Black superhero movie that is breaking the box office is no more than thinly veiled anti-Black racism. “Black Panther” was not simply handed to the Black community. Black folks fought for this movie. Media representation of the Black community has been historically stereotypical, if not offensive and racist, from caricatures to hyper-sexualization. Wakanda’s portrayal as a technologically advanced and successful African nation untouched by the devastation of colonialism and imperialism is groundbreaking in itself, and the movie’s depiction of Black women stands in contrast to the stereotypes that have been pervasive in our media. These long-awaited portrayals, and their positive reception, need to be celebrated. This is not the time for non-Black people of color to be saying, “what about us?” Black directors, producers, writers, and actors have been fighting for this kind of representation for decades. Black Panther’s success was not an easy feat. It is important to note, too, that there is an extraordinary amount of anti-Blackness in non-Black communities of color. In the South Asian American community, anti-Blackness comes in many forms: the billion-dollar skin-whitening industry, the attacks on African immigrants within the South Asian subcontinent, the model minority myth, and overt as well as subtle colorism. This only scratches the surface of entrenched racism within one non-Black community of color—all of this while Black communities have historically not only supported, but actively fought for the rights of non-Black people of color.
White supremacy is insidious and pervasive everywhere, including at The New York Times and other liberal media.By Jordan Valerie In recent months, liberal news publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post have come under increased scrutiny for their coverage of race. From refusing to describe the president as racist to an obsession with racist “white working class” voters to Nazi-sympathizing profile pieces, the liberal media outlets that proclaim to be the saviors of truth in the era of “fake news” have proven woefully unprepared to cover the normalization of open white nationalism under Donald Trump. This glaring problem goes beyond a few poor editorial decisions; it speaks to the fundamental worldview of these liberal publications – white supremacy. “White supremacist” isn’t a term you usually hear ascribed to the prestigious New York Times. No, white supremacy is a descriptor reserved for Breitbart, and if we’re really brave, Fox News. The liberal New York Times? The same New York Times that Donald Trump wants to sue out of existence? There’s no way they can be described as white supremacist, let alone racist, right? Wrong. White supremacy isn’t limited to websites that feature a “Black Crime” section, like Breitbart. It’s not even limited to conservative publications whose editorial pages are littered with racist op-eds, like The Wall Street Journal and National Review. White supremacy is insidious and pervasive everywhere, including liberal media. Because white supremacy is not just neo-Nazis marching down the streets of Charlottesville, it is the belief that whiteness is supreme; that it must be treasured, cherished, defended, and centered at all times. And that ideology is absolutely reflected in liberal news media such as The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Dear non-Black Asian-Americans (and other non-Black folks), we have a real issue with appropriating AAVE, and it needs to stop. AAVE stands for African American Vernacular English, and it refers to a distinct language—consisting of words, phrases, intonations, gestures, but also,