Candyman and the questionable calculation of horror with racism

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Foree, who was actually in the same civil rights activist and theater group in Harlem as Jones, says he brought his outrage at racial inequality to his performance as Peter, who takes on the zombie hordes with a calm authority. “All African Americans in those years were angry,” he told BBC Culture. “You couldn’t help but carry the anger during those years. It was a time for heroes and young men who wanted to go out and change the world.” When he was cast as the protagonist in his mid-twenties, he was keenly aware that this was unusual for a black actor in the 1970s. “[In films] there would be a black person here, the black token [person] there, and that was about it. So there wasn’t a lot of work for everyone. People just weren’t used to seeing black [actors] do a lot, or you were more of a curiosity than anything else. Foree reveals that he didn’t even expect the film to be released in the US due to its violence, but it turned out to be a huge hit and resonated with black viewers long afterward. “I later found out that so many African Americans were so happy and in awe that I survived. And they were proud of it; it was something of an accomplishment in their eyes… a lot of african-americans approached me and said, “hey man, you been through that. You are the first African American to experience a horror movie. ‘”

But while Dawn of the Dead should have been a turning point for racially enlightened horror, it turned out to be a false dawn – for years afterward, black actors continued to be invisible in the genre or to play disposable and stereotypical characters.

In the 1990s, a few other black actors began appearing in American horror films, one of which was Spike Lee’s 1995 anthology film Tales from the Hood, which featured a quartet of all-centric scary stories. on African Americans, and highlighted issues such as police corruption, institutional racism and gang warfare. But perhaps the most significant “dark horror” of the time, although directed by a white filmmaker, was the original Candyman. However, while by centering the dark trauma he did something new with the genre, it ultimately remained very regressive, with its central plot of a white woman being the victim of an African-American antagonist. “It’s a good example of a movie that really wanted to have a sophisticated take on racing,” says Due. “There are times he accomplishes this, but at the same time is a victim of racial tropes. It’s a story that visually presents itself almost as if it’s a dark story. But it’s really not a dark story. . “

An actress sidelined

Another 1990s Hollywood horror starring a black protagonist was The Craft (1996), the now cult teen movie about a high school witch clan, including rising mixed-race star Rachel True. However, as True attests, the portrayal of her character Rochelle was very problematic: the script did not give her a backstory, or a family, unlike her white peers, a sketchy characterization that was underscored by a particular scene, in which a man the character introduces the new girl Sarah to the coven and gives her a description of the other two witches, but doesn’t even mention Rochelle. “At the time, it was 1000% the norm that my black character [would be treated this way]”True told BBC Culture.


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