The Film Industry Misses Out When Black Women Are Excluded From The Horror Genre
Why is it that in the horror genre Black women are typically not the heroes?
December 28, 2020 at 2:01 pm
When you think of the horror genre, what comes to mind?
For some, it’s classics like The Exorcist or Scream, and for others it’s Halloween or The Silence of the Lambs. All great films that changed the game in horror, but you know what they all have in common — a sea of white faces.
Don’t get me wrong, they’re still cinematic masterpieces and the fact that they have white people as main characters doesn’t take away from these films’ merit, but let’s be real — Black people have been heavily excluded from this genre, especially Black women. Unless they serve as the “best friend,” “the first one to die” or “the magical negro,” they mostly don't exist. There are exceptions to this rule for Black people, such as Night of the Living Dead, Deep Blue Sea, Get Out and Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, to name a few. Even still, Black women are rarely at the focal point in horror films.
There are a handful of horror films that’ve had Black women as protagonists. Naomie Harris as Selena in the post-apocalyptic, zombie gore-fest 28 Days Later, Sanaa Lathan as Alexa in the sci-fi horror Alien v. Predator, Kyliegh Curran as Abra in The Shining sequel, Doctor Sleep, and as of recently, Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide in Jordan Peele’s psychological horror Us are examples that come to mind. All of these actresses were complete badasses and defeated the villains just like their white counterparts have been allowed to do throughout cinematic history. Thus, granting the above mentioned actresses the "final girl" title, or as I like to call them, scream queens. Equivalent to Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie in Halloween, Neve Campbell as Sidney in Scream and Marilyn Burns as Sally in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
But why is it that in the horror genre Black women are typically not afforded these opportunities? Societally speaking, Black girls and Black women are not perceived as vulnerable, for starters. Historically, Hollywood didn’t believe Black women leading films was profitable and that they were not relatable to white audiences. This idea has changed somewhat over time, but the horror genre is still dominated by white women as the heroes.
As a Black screenwriter, I’ve decided to tackle that notion with a short film that I’ve written entitled, The Forgotten Ones. This film tells the story of a late 20s, Black woman who’s working at a call center by herself during the COVID-19 pandemic and is targeted by an unknown man over the course of two days.
My friends and I decided to start a Kickstarter campaign (recently featured under their “Projects We Love” banner) to help us fund the film and bring this project into fruition. When it comes to filmmaking or any creative endeavor it’s important to come up with something fresh and original, but for me personally, I also want to reflect the times and I believe our film does that. This film has to do with the cyclical nature of the mass abductions of Black women and Black girls in the United States. With our film — and with your support — we’d like to redefine the narrative of who can and who can’t be at the center of horror films, while shining a light on a relevant issue.