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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Nerd cred and geek consumerism were created to fuel capitalism and make pop culture an exclusive club.Since I was a kid, pop culture has always been a huge part of my life. Not only has it been a source of entertainment and escapism, but it has also influenced how I view myself and the world around me. Until this year, I thought I had to compromise my personal values for nerd cred and geek consumerism in order to be seen as a "real nerd". While nerd cred is your credibility as a nerd, geek consumerism is the pressure to constantly spend money on pop products. Both nerd cred and geek consumerism are related to each other in that the more money you spend, the better your nerd cred is perceived to be. In order to spend money on pop culture, you have to have the money to do so. Depending on your financial situation, your exposure to pop culture might vary from being up-to-date on everything to being exposed to movies and comics later than everyone else. In article for The Mary Sue, writer Teresa Justino discusses what it was like to grow up Puerto Rican, female, and broke and how that impacted her exposure to geek culture. Justino writes, "Is it any wonder that many of the trappings of geek culture are only accessible to those who are predominantly white, male, and middle class? White women and people of color are often paid less, yet it feels like one has to constantly spend money in order to effectively participate in the geek community." Although one of my biggest fandoms is comic books, I can't afford to be as active in it as I would like. With comics, one of the few ways I own them is buying digitally with gift cards. I also use the site Humble Bundle and the digital library app Hoopla to either buy them cheap or borrow them.
I'm pleased to finally meet the flawed, yet whole Nola Darling, both through her and the women who love her.I remember when I first met Nola Darling in 2007 during a university film class. Yes, she was alluring and sexy and like other people who had seemingly wandered into her path, I desperately wanted to get to know her. But I only saw glimpses of Nola through the eyes of those who wished to possess her. Who was she as an artist? How did she regain a sense of herself whenever she experienced abuse or mistreatment? Hell, did she have any real friends who didn't wish to sleep with her, aside from Clorinda? Spike Lee's inaugural She's Gotta Have It is as much the mark of an immature filmmaker as it is a cinematic staple. While the 1986 film about a free-spirited, polyamorous woman may have cemented his career, its poor treatment of her left so much to be desired. One of Lee's more egregious missteps showed in the way Nola was denied any opportunity to process her varied moments of potential trauma — from her verbally abusive relationship with international playboy Greer Childs, to her own brutal rape by Jamie Overstreet. Even in the face of predatory behavior (from the only LGBTQIA character, mind you — another notable mistake) she is unflappable, the perfectly uncomplicated object of the vintage male gaze. Nola is mysterious, self-assured, sexy, and strong-willed, but she never feels whole. 31 years later, Spike Lee has revisited She's Gotta Have It for Netflix, and the episodic do-over is welcomed for a number of reasons. Nola (DeWanda Wise) and the men in her life — Childs (Cleo Anthony), seasoned, the now professional Overstreet (Lyriq Bent), and the iconic, charismatic Mars Blackmon (Anthony Ramos) — are fleshed out beyond their original caricatures. Nola is openly queer and involved with business owner and mother Opal Gilstrap (Ilfenesh Hadera). Best of all, Nola experiences trauma that isn't gratuitous, but relatable while allowing her to maintain her power. And when the time arrives for her to process her pain, she has a number of women to whom she can turn.
White female innocence is predicated upon violence against Black women in which white women are complicit–that is why Sofia Coppola erased a crucial character.By Sherronda J. Brown This essay contains spoilers and includes discussion of sexual violence. Sofia Coppola’s newest film and remake of The Beguiled sets itself apart from both the 1966 novel and the 1971 original film adaptation in terms of style and tenor, but carries the same themes of solitude and fear. Most significantly, it brazenly disrespects its original source material and the history that it drew from by removing an enslaved Black woman, Hallie, from a narrative about women in the Confederate South during the Civil War. Her reasoning for this erasure is less than convincing, citing a desire to “respect [the] history” and to spare young girls the image of a Black woman in such a degrading position on-screen. However, when looking at the original story, the vision of a resilient and assertive Hallie becomes clear. She has unapologetic disdain for whiteness and refuses a passive victimhood. Sofia Coppola deliberately chose not to show this – not to save us or Hallie from indignity – but to ease her own discomfort around the white subjects of her “girl power” western drama being slave-owning enactors of violent white supremacy. Her version of the tale relies on white female innocence, but white female innocence is predicated upon violence against Black women, in which white women are complicit. The Keeping Room, a 2014 film directed by Daniel Barber and written by Julia Hart, tells a story that is closely related to that of The Beguiled, but far more engrossing and compelling. While it isn't perfect, it gives us an enslaved woman whose character is fully visible in a similarly “revisionist western” that is not ahistorical and, frankly, has better writing, better direction, and better performances.