There have always been Black people who love the horror genre. Ever since Jordan Peele’s social thriller Get Out took the world by storm in 2017, however, the interest in the horror genre and Black horror specifically, has skyrocketed into the mainstream. Award-winning author, UCLA professor and longtime horror-lover and writer Tananarive Due teaches a class at UCLA (and online) on Black horror called “The Sunken Place: Racism, Survival And The Black Horror Aesthetic,” hinging on Peele’s Get Out. The first course she taught went viral, with Peele even stopping by her class to surprise her students. Now, Professor Due can be seen in the Shudder documentary Horror Noire, which explores the history of Black Horror on screen. She’s even helped to assemble the Horror Noire Syllabus for horror-lovers to go more in-depth after watching the documentary.
Professor Due stopped by Shadow And Act to explain what exactly Black Horror is.
“Horror as a genre is one of those interesting genres where it’s more about the emotions you feel while experiencing a book or a film,” Due told Shadow And Act. “Horror can be everything from Toni Morrison’s Beloved to a movie like The First Purge.”
“When I say the ‘Black Horror Aesthetic,’ it means everything from, just, we’re in it, there’s no racial context to it…and that’s still revolutionary today to have a horror movie with a primary protagonist or a strong secondary protagonist who just happens to be Black.”
She went on to describe why it’s so revolutionary to have this kind of Black character in horror:
“If you have an entire genre of film where we’re just not in the movie, it’s a kind of visual genocide. Where did we go?” she says. “So, just having a Black character who survives the movie, who isn’t there as sassy comic relief or just there to impart wisdom to the other characters and have no other life except that, that is huge.”