Coffee Rhetoric: Black women in Horror
Showing posts with label Black women in Horror. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Black women in Horror. Show all posts

October 23, 2017

From "Sugar Hill" to "Get Out": Celebrating Black Women in Horror Films

I'm a year-round horror movie fan but since Halloween is upon us, this macabre, candy-filled holiday wouldn't be complete without engaging in a marathon of 31 days of horror films. But when it comes to horror movies the Black guy being the first to die before we even get to delve into their characters is a common trope in a lot of movies. And even when there are strong Black male leads, we get taken on a perilous journey watching them fight to survive, only for viewers to have the rug snatched out from under them at the end. Though he cut an impressive lead character in George Romero’s seminal zombie flick Night of the Living Dead—the first time a Black actor was cast as the leading star in a horror film—who can forget what happened to Duane Jones’s character Ben at the end? And don’t get me started on the fate Eriq Ebouaney’s bad-guy character met towards the end of the French crooked cops-and-zombies flick La Horde.

The primary reason I enjoy watching horror films so much is that, despite the violence, blood, and gore saturating some flicks, horror is often imbued with social commentary on issues like race, immigration, misogyny, and even religious extremism. This year comedic actor and filmmaker Jordan Peele took the world on a tour de force with his timely race-based horror film Get Out, completely reinventing the genre’s wheel and offering up a no-frills approach to broaching the topic of casual liberal racism. In doing so, Peele also became the first Black filmmaker to helm the highest-grossing debut film based on an original screenplay. While Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya offered a compelling performance, one of the most unforgettable and complex characters was Georgina, played by actress Betty Gabriel. According to some Black film reviewers, Georgina symbolized many things and chief among them is the different intersections and mess Black women must navigate around for the sake of our livelihoods and survival, often at the cost of our well-being and lives.

In addition to Get Out's Georgina character, some of the most memorable horror movies I’ve ever seen featured strong Black female leads or supporting roles. In an industry that often pedestals white starlets and marginalizes and/or typecasts Black actresses, Black women have often found their niche in the horror genre, giving fans some of the most resourceful, unconventional, complex, badass, and even feminist characters. Black women aren’t always centered in horror movies and when they are, it’s to fill some tired Mystical Negress, sacrificial friend trope whose main function is to uphold the safety of white female protagonists at the risk of their own lives. So, I'm always delighted to watch a flick where one of the main characters is not only a Black woman but featured prominently and winning the fight to survive (in most of these cases, anyway) in the process.

Here is a list of films featuring Black women in horror films. Every character on this list may not have lasted until the end or played a primary role, but they left an indelible mark nonetheless…

[Content Warning: Clips and trailers contain strong language, adult situations, violence, and gore.]